Voters in the 25th Assembly District will have to choose on Election Day between a young political aide who has spent a solid dose of her professional life traversing the heady waters of Albany, or a wonkish retiree with unorthodox prescriptions for what ails the district.
The race has come down to Democrat Nily Rozic, 26, and Republican Abe Fuchs, 56. Both live in the district and see education as a paramount issue.
The similarities end there.
The candidates in separate interviews conceded the district’s schools could use a bit of help, but are far from the ramshackle condition of many institutions elsewhere in the borough.
Rozic believes a distribution of state funds that favors downstate districts — where most tax money comes from — would be the first step in helping the City’s schools solve cramped classrooms and poor performance.
“You hear a lot about overcrowding in schools and the need for more resources for teachers and students,” she said. “We need to make sure that downstate representatives get their fair share.”
Fuchs’s fix calls for school vouchers with funding of a distinctly un-Republican nature. The Kew Gardens Hills resident points to a growing class divide as a reason for the well-off to help fund the education of others.
“A lot of middle-class people are squeezed doing double duty,” he said. “I say that if two families are at the same financial level, one family should not pay for the other’s education. If we allow people to go to private schools, we can really bring down the cost of education.”
The candidates’ backgrounds may point to the genesis of their respective platforms.
Rozic was Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh’s (D-Manhattan) chief of staff, and also serves on Community Board 8’s Transportation, Land Use and Education Committees. She couches her solutions in the amiable terminology of legislative goodwill and a willingness to work with others.
“It is all about serving your constituents and rolling up your sleeves and working hard,” she said. “You start off with a good idea; you bring all the advocates to the table — even if they’re against it, even if they’re for it.”
This approach to legislating in Albany came during Rozic’s time on Kavanaugh’s staff. It makes her shy away from promises of a revolution in how things are done — a common rallying cry for candidates who lambaste Albany-as-usual.
“I’m not the go-along-to-get-along, but I definitely believe in collaborating with everyone to build bridges,” she said.
Contrast that with Fuchs, who spent three years in a rabbinical seminary, then a year at Empire State College before dropping out. He made his way as a United States Postal Service employee before retiring in 2009.
It was during that admittedly failed collegiate experience that Fuchs developed a distaste for politics. Growing up the son of two Eastern European immigrants in a Jewish Orthodox setting, “government” was not necessarily discussed in positive tones.
“There was something about the American system that I just couldn’t understand,” he said. “It wasn’t just about the fundamentals; it was the philosophy I had to relate to.”
Fuchs eventually overcame his trepidation enough to actually engage in the democratic process — by running for office. This late-comer status gives him a different outlook on Albany, he said. Good can be achieved, if the will to do it trumps all other interests.
“It does have a lot to do with character — not just corruption,” he said. “Aside from that, people’s egos and quest for power is just out of control. I believe in really getting along with people. It’s about having some integrity when you’re dealing with other people.”
The newly drawn 25th District is being left vacant by outgoing incumbent Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who ran an unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge for Congress against Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). It ranges from Flushing to Douglaston on the north side from Fresh Meadows to Oakland Gardens on the south, running along both sides of the Long Island Expressway.