I am not a long term political activist. Politics has always intrigued me, but I had not been actively involved until the 2004 presidential election. After the presidential primary had ended there was little need to volunteer for a presidential race in New York, a solidly Democratic state. Looking at prospective areas to help in the city there was only one competitive Congressional race, Fossella vs. Barbaro. I volunteered very late in the race for Frank Barbaro. This was my first introduction to politics in this district. My confession, I have actually never lived in the district. I would find myself having to explain that to sources and friends I have met along the way while covering this Congressional seat and it was always interesting to see the reactions from those I confided in.
A year after the 2004 race Frank Barbaro decided not to take on Vito Fossella a second time. He held a press conference at the ferry terminal that I was unable to attend and so I tried in vain to find coverage of his announcement. There was always a massive void in coverage of Rep. Fossella and his Congressional races. More often than not the local papers and blogs associated with them would spend more time covering members of Congress from outside the city. I questioned one of them about this and they flat out told me no one was interested in this race and it was not news worthy. It was hard for me to accept that a local race for Congress or coverage of ethical lapses of one of our own representatives was not news worthy. May 2008 happened and all of a sudden papers are devoting multiple articles a week to very un-news worthy aspects of the race showing just how rusty they were in their political coverage.
As a side note to the above, another local blogger approached me over the summer to get my feedback on the whole Vito fiasco and quipped that they had information, I forget if they said they covered it, of Fossella's affairs. It is somewhat fitting and humorous that the local media who never investigated much of anything related to Fossella only became relevant after investigative reporting was a moot point.
Going back, after Barbaro's pass at a second run there was an online movement for bloggers starting up asking them to adopt a Congressional district and learn it inside and out. The thought was that we needed people on the ground to know the issues and numbers and cover those regularly instead of relying on the local print media to do so. The idea that was a tangent of that was that we would be prepared should something unexpected happen. Not many thought Fossella's seat was going to ever be a toss-up status, but potentially a strong challenger and shifting dynamic could come along at the right time to make this race competitive.
For three years now this blog had one goal, seeing that Fossella lost his seat and the district receive new representation. I have read through more FEC filings, House bills and resolutions and election law than I care to let myself acknowledge. While this has been modestly small in terms of traffic I do take pride in receiving emails from various candidate's campaigns for this office asking for background on Fossella and opinions on strategy. The down side to this faint notoriety though for sure was the week of Fossella's arrest. I rarely slept for more than a few hours in the early morning. The pace was frantic, something that would have been difficult to keep up with had this been my full time job. The light at the end of that tunnel though is the ability to ponder my own retirement.
After Fossella's arrest and eventual announcement that he would not seek re-election several people asked me what that would mean for my long quest to see him leave Congress. I still wonder that myself. For now, as you have seen, I am taking some much needed rest from the daily Google Alerts, document sifting and posting here. There will be an election to replace Congressman-elect McMahon in the City Council which may be of some interest to me. I do not have a favorite candidate there. There is the Staten Island Borough Presidency race next year as well. I think I may turn this over to campaigns for those races and let some insiders and locals have a go at covering these races. For the immediate future there is still Fossella's sentencing, a possible House ethics investigation and his last day in Congress to cover.
One thing is for sure though, I will need to eventually rename this blog, NY13 Blog; Retaking NY-13 from Rep. Vito Fossella
happily can be retired soon.