Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.
The political odd couple of former New York Mayor Ed Koch and Rep. Peter King showed up together in a television ad campaign last week touting a candidate in a highly unusual way -- citing his position on the Election Day ballot, B-10.
While it might sound like electoral bingo, what B-10 officially signifies is Row B, the horizontal Republican ballot line. The number 10 means that the candidate -- who is running for State Supreme Court in Nassau and Suffolk -- has the 10th and final spot at the end of the GOP judicial slate, an unenviable position.
The 30-second spot focuses on Murphy's ballot position, with the point reinforced by print superimposed on the screen. "I'm a Democrat," says Koch. "I'm a Republican," King chimes in. Koch continues: "We don't always agree, but one thing we agree on," and then King winds up: "Please join us and vote for Jerome Murphy on line B-10."
Despite his poor ballot position, Murphy has the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines. "It's still hard to beat someone with those three lines," said Frank MacKay, state Independence Party chairman.
But a spokesman for D'Amato said: "Anyone not worried about turnout and placement has obviously never been in politics."
Such concerns are not without foundation.
Former Suffolk County Executive Peter Fox Cohalan, now a State Supreme Court justice, lost his first bid for judge in 1978 because he was placed fifth on a ballot where voters could only select four candidates.
"It was a fluke," said Cohalan, a Republican who was Islip Town supervisor at the time. "Placement on the ballot is the only explanation I can offer."
Murphy's campaign finance filings show contributions totaling more than $274,000, including $10,000 each from D'Amato and Cablevision chairman Charles F. Dolan. Cablevision owns Newsday. Contributions of $5,000 came from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and former New York City Deputy Mayor John Zuccotti, whose firm owns the World Financial Center. James Gill, former chair of LIPA and the Battery Park City Authority, gave $2,500.
King said D'Amato asked for his help. King noted that he has known Murphy for years and attended Notre Dame football games with him because three of his kids studied there. "He's in a tough spot," said King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It's hard to get attention in judicial races and I think this could help."
Koch, who does a radio show with D'Amato, said he has known Murphy for 20 years. He added that it's not the first time he has cited a ballot position in an ad. "I once did an endorsement, 'Vote B-9 before anyone else,' " Koch recalled.
While Murphy could not be reached for comment, Republican officials say his ballot position was sealed at the party nominating convention last month. GOP officials say his nomination was moved down on the convention schedule when Suffolk Conservative chairman Edward Walsh insisted that his two Supreme Court nominees, Joseph Pastoressa and John Collins, be moved up. The order of nomination affects a candidate's place on the ballot. Murphy is among 21 candidates vying for 10 Supreme Court vacancies on Long Island. The job has a 14-year term and will pay $174,000 annually by 2014.
Last week, D'Amato made a personal pitch for Murphy at a Suffolk GOP fundraiser. He recalled that the first time Murphy came to his attention was when his daughter Lisa did not want to return to Binghamton University after meeting her future husband one summer. Then, looking ahead to Election Day, he asked the crowd, "Don't forget my son-in-law Jerome Murphy."