Interviewing candidates can sometimes be quite dull, especially if you are only speaking to them in order to give them “equal time” or to not simply leave them out of the process. It is important that writers not create a horse race out of a political race by covering only the early frontrunners, but then you wind up talking to people that are absolutely ridiculous candidates. Alex Zablocki is running for public advocate, and he is by no means a ridiculous or misplaced candidate.
Thanks to online networking capabilities, he will be able to make more of a dent than other past Republican candidates for this particular city post. Zablocki is from Staten Island, and he is 26 years old. While the Republican Party often cites that it wants “young blood,” no party does less to grow talent that the New York GOP (at least that had been the case until the last few years).
Zablocki has about six years of experience fighting overdevelopment on Staten Island as director of Land Use in the 51st Council District, and followed Councilman Andrew Lanza to the State Senate where he worked on similar issues. There are two interesting things about Zablocki in this race. The first thing to watch is that this is a Republican that believes that city services are an important part of the city.
“Government should be there for people,” says Zablocki. He doesn’t talk about running for public advocate so he can dismantle it, but instead he feels that this office is necessary. “It’s an office that serves to look out for people that are not getting government service. People can call 311, but at the Public Advocate’s Office, they are going to be more hands on and try to get you results.”
The second reason to think about Zablocki this season is that he refuses to take a stand against gay marriage. He explains that while the church might be right to reject it, the city should not be offering marriage contracts to heterosexual couples and not gay couples. Some parties have refused to back him for this reason, but give credit to Zablocki for letting go of that support in order to stay true to his beliefs. He may also lose some Republican support because of this stance, but as he states clearly “they can run their parties however they feel is right, it’s just not who I am.”
Zablocki knows that to be a Republican is to be part of the original – the first – civil rights party. He knows that what took place in that little white-walled school house in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854 was the creation of a party that did not discriminate. The GOP then, in 1854, almost split before it actually started because it opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have allowed new land owners in those regions to decide if they could – or could not – own slaves. The Republican Party said no to that, because it is not up to someone else to determine one’s freedom.
Today, the Republican Party is somewhat split again – it’s the natural order of politics, perhaps. Zablocki is running against the wind as a Republican in this city for this office, but he chose to stick with his beliefs and defend the rights of a group that will almost certainly vote for one of his Democratic opponents. This shows character, even if you disagree with him.
We should take policy seriously because it affects us all. After speaking with Alex Zablocki, I got the feeling that he understood government policy – the way Erich Ulrich and Dan Halloran do as well. This is a new group of Republican candidates. Even if they don’t win, they serve to better the democratic process and give us more choices. It’s a good thing. Hopefully, the New York City GOP will get behind these young candidates and find a place for them in government should they not get elected.
Next in Line
Whether you like the candidates for public advocate or you feel it’s a lackluster group, there is reason to question why that office is next in line to replace a sitting mayor should he leave office unexpectedly. The comptroller or speaker of the City Council are probably better choices, if only until a special election is held to fill the position. As New Yorkers, we were left unsure that a sitting governor can appoint a lieutenant governor when Governor David Paterson appointed Richard Ravitch. Lines of succession are important, and it makes sense to explore these matters before they are absolutely necessary. Perhaps the mayor in his next term, or the next mayor, should explore this line of succession and see if there is an appetite to adjust the distribution of power.