Bare Knuckle Politics
The race for the 40th district senate seat between Republican Assemblyman Greg Ball and Democrat Legislator Mike Kaplowitz is shaping up to be the most entertaining of the election season. It has turned into a chess game of insults, strategic nicknames, and office crashing. Both candidates know how to appeal to the voters with quick one-liners and stinging jabs, at times appearing like two guys in a barstool argument right before the first punch is thrown.
Anyone who has followed the campaigns knows that Ball likes to drive his points home. It is quite possible that he has never actually said his opponent’s full name, constantly referring to Kaplowitz as “Tax Hike Mike.”
“When you run against Greg, it’s kind of like running against a two year old,” Kaplowitz told the Courier back in August. “He makes up names for people and he just says no. He’s in that ‘no’ phase.”
Ball told the Courier Wednesday that Kaplowitz’s nickname is starting to get under his political skin. He claims that Kaplowitz rubber stamped $10 billion in bloated budgets during his 12 year tenure in the Westchester legislature. Ball never fails to publicly connect Kaplowitz to former Democratic Westchester county executive Andy Spano, ever so delicately referring to him as “Andy Spano’s tax-and-spend toy poodle.” Spano, who served for 12 years in the county’s top post, was ousted last year by Republican Rob Astorino.
Kaplowitz has also employed guilt by association tactics, referring to Ball as the “Carl Paladino of the Hudson Valley.”
Paladino, Republican candidate for New York governor endorsed by Ball, has come under fire for controversial remarks he made about homosexuality, as well as personal e-mails that supplied detractors with some heavy ammunition.
“We will be asking Assemblyman Ball to withdraw his endorsement of Paladino every day between now and November 2,” wrote Josh Luger, a spokesman for Kaplowitz, in a press release. “In the event he chooses not to, he is more than welcome to explain to the voters why.”
Ball, despite condemning Paladino’s comments, will not be withdrawing his endorsement. “I personally found the remarks offensive,” he said. “I hope that Carl will get back to focusing on issues of taxation and limited government. Two million New Yorkers have left the state because of an inhospitable environment created by taxes, not because of social issues.”
The Kaplowitz campaign has hosted two press conferences outside Ball’s Brewster office. The first coming the day after the Republican primary one month ago, and the second last week. “Tax Hike Mike waited in the bushes outside Greg Ball’s office, for who knows how many hours, until the staff went to lunch,” said Ball spokesman Jim Coleman in a press release. “Meanwhile, he should have been in Westchester trying to repeal … the big spending he is responsible for.”
Kaplowitz, naturally, recalls the events differently. “We were there twice … Both times he wasn’t there. No staff was there,” he told the COURIER. “What are we paying for? It’s an assembly office with his logo, paid for by the taxpayers of New York … and no work is getting done.”
Ball continues to stress the importance of term limits, having signed a pledge to limit himself to three. “Move up, or move out,” he said in a press release. “Proposals like this will kill the culture of corruption and entitlement for career politicians while delivering transparent and accountable government.”
Last Thursday, Coleman, accompanied with a man in the chicken suit—“The Term Limit Chicken”—went to Kaplowitz’s Westchester office to deliver the term limit pledge. “The people demand you sign this pledge for reform,” Coleman told Kaplowitz, according to the press release. “But he wouldn’t listen,” Coleman said. “At the end of the meeting, he absolutely refused to commit to term limits.”
“Yeah, I believe in term limits. It’s called an election,” Kaplowitz told the COURIER in August. He said that Ball’s emphasis on the term limit issue is like a magic act. “Here, don’t look at my left hand, look at my right … let me show you smoke in mirrors,” he said, explaining Ball’s strategy as he sees it. “There is nothing new. Nothing innovative.”
Ball said that all evidence is to the contrary, listing various proposals and legislation he supports. “I am the prime sponsor of term limit legislation in the assembly,” he said. “I support fair redistricting. I support legislation to outlaw all loopholes that allow public officials to use their positions for private benefit.”
“On the reform issues I have an extremely solid record. I also outlined a proposal to eliminate all public pensions for career politicians,” he added.
Kaplowitz reminds the voters that, as a financial planner, he is a small business owner and has created jobs over the years. “The only job Greg ever created was for this guy in a chicken suit,” Kaplowitz said. “I have adult solutions … The rest of us in society don’t have time to wait for him to grow up.”
Ball considered the comment about only creating chicken suit jobs an attack on his military record. “He is walking on a very thin line,” Ball said. “When I was serving my country in uniform … Tax Hike Mike was increasing taxes and increasing spending. I’ll take a comparison of our public service records any day.”
The race has become so interesting that even dogs are getting involved. “Hannah, the beloved weimaraner of Assemblyman Greg Ball will be joined by dozens of dogs and their best friends at Brewster on Saturday at 1pm to form the grassroots activist group ‘Dogs Against Tax Hike Mike,’” announced the Ball camp Tuesday.
“Tax Hike Mike’s increased taxes, increased fees, and increased spending mean less toys and less doggie treats for Hannah and her friends,” said Coleman, speaking on behalf of the new group. “More Tax Hike Mike means less money in the pockets of pet owners.”
Kaplowitz is not overly concerned with the formation of new opposition. “You know, so many people leave Greg, that I’m not convinced the dog won’t take a walk.”
The Kaplowitz campaign has taken the fight to a medium outside the canine sphere of influence. In September, they launched TheBallFiles.com, which, according to a press release, is “solely devoted to chronicling the fibs, the distortions, and the hypocrisy of [Ball].”
The Ball camp has an attack website of its own, StopTaxHikeMike.com.
Both candidates claim to have the advantage. According to Luger, Kaplowitz has “captured all of the momentum,” citing a Siena poll that has them in a “virtual tie.” According to the Ball camp, an Iona College poll has Ball leading by a 10 percent margin.