Republican challenger Marco DeSena says the deck may be stacked against him, but he wants to give voters a choice in the 27th AD special election on Sept. 13.
DeSena, 30, of College Point, will be facing Michael Simanowitz, 39, who worked for 14 years for Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn. The assemblywoman retired in April from the 27th District after serving in Albany for 28 years.
“In the past, Mayersohn rarely had an opponent and that’s not fair,” DeSena said. “I am giving people a choice.”
The first-time candidate admits that his chances of winning are slim. “Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1,” he said. “It’s also an off-year special election being held on Primary Day, when not that many people vote. It is an uphill battle.”
But DeSena believes political parties “rarely matter at this level. It’s about being effective and getting the issues out there.” He is finding out what concerns residents by going door to door and setting up meetings.
The district includes College Point and parts of Flushing, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Briarwood, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill.
The underdog is also behind in fundraising. He has raised over $9,000, while his opponent has $114,000. “My focus is on meeting people, not raising funds,” DeSena said. “I am running the campaign on the thread of a shoestring budget. But I’m no sacrificial lamb. It was my decision to run.”
DeSena, who works as a communications consultant and is also an adjunct professor at Baruch College, has lived most of his life in College Point, other than a stint studying for his masters degree in England and for two years working for a fiscally conservative advocacy group in Washington, DC.
He got interested in politics in college as an undergraduate at Baruch, and later worked for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign as deputy director of policy research and assistant speech writer.
After graduating from Baruch, he was named to the city’s Urban Fellows Program, where he worked for a year under then-schools Chancellor Joel Klein. “Education and tax reform are my passions,” DeSena said.
He believes parents and students should have more choices in schools, including offering more charters and choosing a location that works best for them. “We need more charter schools and we need to close them if they don’t work,” DeSena said.
For tax reform, the candidate would like to flatten taxes by broadening the base “which actually would collect more revenue,” he said. “I am fighting for the community — families, and small businesses. The government has gotten out of control and is nickel and diming them.”
He pointed to the high cost of parking meters and violations, water bills and sin taxes on such items as cigarettes.
DeSena wants reform in Albany, calling the government there dysfunctional. “I believe in term limits for state government,” he said. “I would serve three full terms or six years. You can get a good amount done in that time.”
The Republican thinks the biggest difference between him and Simanowitz is that he wouldn’t vote for Sheldon Silver as speaker. “Silver is a huge impediment to reform,” DeSena said. “I would work with reform-minded Democrats.
“Simanowitz is probably a good guy, but he’s an insider and has the Albany mentality,” he added.