On a chilly October Monday, Assembly candidate David Casavis was handling out homemade leaflets on the corner of East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, reminding voters that they can find him on the ballot this Nov. 4.
“When you get to the bottom, think of me,” Casavis said of his ballot line.
Casavis, a Republican, is running an admittedly quixotic campaign for Assembly against incumbent Jonathan Bing. Casavis even shies away from using the word “campaign,” as he decided to put his name on the ballot when others deferred. Unlike other placeholders on the ballot, he did open a campaign committee with the New York State Board of Elections and loaned himself $500.
“The candidacy was thrust upon me. Nobody is interested,” Casavis said, referring to other would-be Republican office holders. “I’m the only Silk Stocking member who will put up a fight.”
The Silk Stocking district to which he referred is now an anachronistic term that once described the Upper East Side, the Republican Party’s only stronghold in Manhattan. That ended in 2002, when Bing and State Sen. Liz Krueger flipped the last two GOP seats in the borough.
Today, Republicans rarely make a concerted effort in this area with a large concentration of Manhattan GOP voters. Bing’s district has the largest number of registered Republicans out of any Democratic seat in the city, though Democrats outnumber GOP voters two to one.
Casavis’ main goal, he said, is to have a respectable showing at the polls.
“I’ll at least restore a little dignity,” Casavis said. “What I’d like to do is break 30 percent. Gosh if I could break 40 percent, that’d be a dream.”
Casavis has been a campaign manager for several Republicans in the past decade. While never able to claim victory, he said he was able to “pull campaigns out of the brink,” earning him the nickname “David Can-Save-Us.”
Unlike Casavis, many of the Republican candidates who voters will find on the ballot next month are essentially just that: names on a ballot. They did not file with the state Board of Elections or create a campaign website. The ones who do run tend to be party stalwarts who want to have a presence on the ballot to offer the voters a choice.
Jason Weingartner, executive director of the Manhattan GOP, said that recruiting people to put in a modicum of effort is difficult when there are few willing and able bodies.
“It’s about rebuilding,” Weingartner said. “These are the guys that are passionate and committed about running for office.”
Across town, there is an even slimmer chance for a Republican upset, as the neighborhood has a long history of being a reform-minded Democratic stronghold. Saul Farber, 22, is running against veteran legislator Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, who has been in Albany for 38 years.
“I’m very ambitious and very excited when it comes to politics,” said Farber, a native of Miami, Fla.
Farber has to overcome a Democratic enrollment advantage of almost five-to-one in the district, which covers much of Chelsea, Clinton, Midtown, parts of the Upper West Side and Murray Hill.
“If they just put aside the stigma of what the GOP means to the country or the state in this era,” Farber said, “they’ll get to know what I want to do.”
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