A challenge for Downtown’s political challengers

By Sascha Brodsky

Although he is facing a popular incumbent in Jerrold Nadler in next week’s congressional election, political newcomer Peter Hort said he is hopeful about his chances.

“We have some great momentum, we have been campaigning non stop, 18 hours a day and we are getting a great reaction from people.”

But Republican Hort faces a tough opponent. Nadler, a Democrat, has been active on issues ranging from the environment to health care and has a high profile among voters in his district.

Hort professed to be unworried. He is running on a platform of a mix of national and local issues. He argued in a recent interview that Nadler has not done a good enough job in making sure the federal government protects air quality in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster.

Hort, a Tribeca resident who worked in the publishing industry before taking on the campaign full time, said he would succeed where other challengers to Nadler’s post have failed because he is a more credible candidate than his predecessors.

“I don’t pretend that this has been easy,” he said. “It forces me to be a better candidate. When I get elected I will have to be a better public official. I am running an uphill battle because this is a very Democratic town.”

Hort said that if he is elected he has a plan to make New York the most environmentally friendly city in the region by using alternative energy sources such as harnessing water currents.

On education, Hort proposed making teachers’ salaries free from federal taxes.

“Getting a tax-free salary would tell our teachers that we care about them and that we put education first as a priority,” he said.

Nadler defended his record against Hort’s criticisms, saying that he has been one of the most active politicians on the air quality issue.

“I began the air quality task force just days after September 11th,” he said. “I have been on the E.P.A.’s case from day one making sure that they do what’s right for the citizens of New York.”

Nadler also said that he would continue to fight to make sure that New York gets its fair share of homeland security funds. He blamed the Bush administration for allocating security funds based on population, spread evenly across the country rather than to places that have extra security needs such as New York.

Nadler said that one of the most pressing security needs facing New York and the country is making sure nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of terrorists. He said he has been at the forefront in sponsoring legislation that would secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.

“Unless we take dramatic steps in this direction there is no doubt in my mind that Al Qaeda will get nuclear weapons,” he said. “The amount of money that is needed to secure nuclear materials is miniscule compared to what we spend on other programs.”

In other races, observers say there is less hope of the newcomers unseating their opponents. Below are the incumbents and their rivals.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who has sponsored and co-sponsored a variety of legislation on such topics as small business, financial services, education, environmental justice, health care, affordable housing, and crime prevention faces Republican Paul Rodriguez. Born in Puerto Rico, Velazquez is the first Hispanic woman to serve as chairperson or ranking member of a full committee. Rodriguez, 35, a stock-options trader at UBS, is running on a platform seeking more federal money for the city to help spur development and create jobs.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who has been active in trying to get more homeland security funds from the federal government, faces Republican Anton Srdanovic. Maloney introduced the Remember 9/11 Health Act in March 2004 to provide and expand medical monitoring and treatment for those who responded to, or volunteered for, the 9/11 rescue and recovery. The challenger Srdanovic advertises himself as a “pro-growth fiscal conservative” with a “common-sense approach to government.” Srdanovic attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Union College in Schenectady, New York in 1988. In 1994 he earned an M.B.A. in finance from New York University.

Incumbent Democratic State Sen. Tom Duane, who is gay and HIV-positive, has been active on gay rights issues and fought against overdevelopment in the city, faces Republican Emily Csendes and Independence candidate Tim Neiman. Duane has criticized proposals to build a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, citing traffic, pollution, and overcrowding. Csendes is a Harlem public school teacher who vows to “close the system’s statistical loopholes that allow bureaucrats and educators to hide problems which exist in our schools.” Neiman, 47, owns an interior design business and lives in Chelsea. He has not held public office before and said “I believe the political process has failed the American people and so we need someone who is not a professional politician.”

Incumbent Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has recently fought for federal funding for the J.F.K. Airport rail link and the Second Avenue subway line, faces Independence candidate Carrie Sackett. Born on the Lower East Side, Silver is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Brooklyn Law School. Silver has recently helped introduce legislation that would add Lower Manhattan to the list of communities designated for relocation benefits under the New York City Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP).Sackett, who has not held elected office but is a secretary of the county Independence Party, said she is “building a new political reform movement in New York City because people feel that politics have become too mean, too corrupt and we need to bring New Yorkers together.” A resident of the South Street Seaport area, Sackett is a product manager on Wall St.

Incumbent Democratic Assemblymember Deborah Glick faces a challenge from Libertarian candiate Nic Leobold. Glick  is a lifelong resident of New York City who has lived in Greenwich Village for thirty years. She graduated from Queens College of the City University of New York and received a Master of Business Administration from Fordham University. Glick is the first openly lesbian or gay member of the State Legislature. She has been active on gay rights and womens’ issues and sponsored legislation recently on cutting car and truck emissions. Leobold is a 36-year-old filmmaker and life-long resident of the East Village. He graduated with honors from City College.

State Sen. Martin Connor is running unopposed.

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