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Opinion

Two political mailers, two different approaches

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the downtown

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman tours the downtown Lawrence LIRR station on April 9, 2019. Credit: Johnny Milano

Daily Point

Igniting his base

The radicals are coming, the radicals are coming!

That’s the message behind a mailer Town of Hempstead board member Bruce Blakeman has sent out and posted repeatedly on Facebook headed “Left Wing Radicals Want to Take Over Our Town and County Government” and featuring pics of far-left icons Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The piece, which ran online and in print publications, was paid for by “Friends of Bruce Blakeman” and is intended to scare voters with a bulleted “Democrats’ Agenda” that hits all the scary notes in the playbook: state control of religious schools, defendants accused of serious crimes released with no bail, immigrants here illegally getting free college tuition and driver’s licenses, hiked property taxes and a new commuter tax.

The ad touts Blakeman’s campaign, as well as those of fellow Republicans — Hempstead supervisor candidate Donald Clavin and county legislature candidates Howard Kopel, Nathan Wein and Denise Ford (a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans) — as the “Blakeman Republican team!” It does not, notably, mention former supervisor and current town clerk candidate Kate Murray, GOP receiver of taxes candidate Jeanine Driscoll or any other town board candidate.

Asked whether he perceived Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and other local Democrats he’s worked with as being such radicals, Blakeman deflected to the broader political climate, saying, “I believe the Democratic Party has taken a hard-left turn and it does not represent your just-left-of-center Democrats, Nassau County Democrats, anymore. That’s who I’m trying to talk to. I’m a just-right-of-center Republican and I believe moderate Democratic politicians have really been frightened into adopting policies detrimental to the community.”

Blakeman’s strategy is reminiscent of the one Republicans used in 2018 on Long Island to save the State Senate, which failed miserably. Democrats won six of nine seats and control of the chamber as Republicans tried to convince voters that, if Democrats won, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other big-city Democrats would savage the Island.

So why does Blakeman think the strategy will work better now?

“I think voters have buyer's remorse, seeing what the Democrats actually did once they took over,” Blakeman said. “I think they proved us right, and the message will have even more resonance now.”

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

A different approach

While many political campaigns this year are resorting to traditional scare tactics, sneers and smears, Huntington Town Council Democratic candidate Kathleen Cleary took a different, softer tack with a recent mailer.

“To Huntington’s women voters” is the header of the targeted piece Cleary said went out to about 14,000 registered female voters she sees as potential supporters, and does not include a single negative word about anyone or anything. Instead, the mailer introduces Cleary, a horticulturist who worked for 25 years as a contract manager for global corporations, and her campaign, focusing on quality-of-life issues close to female voters’ hearts.

“I’ve found in this process that the best interactions with voters are face-to-face, knocking on doors,” Cleary, 52, told The Point. “So what we tried to do with this piece is communicate what I’ve been saying to people I meet.”

Key phrases in the text-heavy piece include:

  • “I am appealing to you as a female voter to make an extra effort to vote.”

  • “With our vote, suburban women around this country demonstrate their strength, power and influence.”

  • “We are invested in protecting our families, our lifestyle and our hometown. We are practical and we want our taxes used to provide honest and efficient town government…We want to be heard and our voices insure that we are.”
  • “During this 100-year anniversary of winning the right to vote, it’s so important that we never take for granted that hard won right.”

In an interview Wednesday, Cleary said that she doesn’t have funds for TV ads and that she prefers not to engage voters that way, “I don’t even watch them. So the question became: ‘How do we communicate with voters?’ And this seemed like a great answer. Clearly it’s not just women who care about the issues I outlined, and it won’t be just women who see this piece, but I do expect women to be my strongest supporters, and that’s why we went with this.

“….I have a 15-year-old daughter and there are times in the past few years when I’ve thought ‘has nothing changed at all?’ I am a woman and it can be easier to connect to women, and this was a way to do that and talk to people about more local issues.”

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Cutting away

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Final Point

Concerns over voting reform

On Tuesday, The Point told you about how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is offering some workers financial incentives to ensure that its trains and buses are fully staffed on Election Day.

But the concern over New York’s new election law isn’t limited to public transit. 

Count Northwell Health among the Long Island employers that could be impacted.

The law, which allows any worker in the state to take three hours of paid time off to cast a ballot on Election Day, was intended to encourage more people to vote. But it “exemplifies the law of unintended consequences,” said Joshua Rose, who is assistant vice president of legal affairs for Northwell, the state’s largest private employer with 69,000 workers.

“It’s laudatory to encourage registered voters to vote,” Rose told The Point Tuesday. “But it unintentionally provides hardships on employers.”

The law, which comes against the backdrop of the state approving more than a week of early voting, allows workers to give employers 48 hours notice that they want the three hours off to vote. It applies to any worker, regardless of a demonstrated need for the time off and without any verification that the time was used to cast a ballot. Rose and Northwell’s human resources compliance director Jodi Krebs told The Point that as of Tuesday afternoon, they don’t know exactly how many employees have requested the time, or how many more will request the time. But both have received calls from individual sites’ human resources officials, seeking advice on how to handle the requests that have come in.

“What if we’re left in a situation where we can’t adequately staff because we have to grant so many employees time off to vote?” Rose asked. “We’re hoping employees will be reasonable, and that they’ll take their patient care responsibilities seriously.”

As of now, Northwell isn’t offering incentives to encourage employees to work their Election Day shifts. But Northwell officials are considering ordering additional supplies in case their suppliers are understaffed because of the law’s impact.

On Tuesday, an MTA source told The Point that the authority is offering certain categories of employees an extra four hours of straight time pay, or four hours of future paid time off, in exchange for waiving their rights to take the three hours off on Election Day. The source said that if all eligible workers took the deal, it could cost taxpayers in the “low millions.”

“We look at this as we have to protect service on a day when we’ve been handed an unfunded mandate by the State Legislature,” the MTA source said.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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