By Sabina Mollot
While Peter Cooper Village resident Keith Powers handily won the City Council Democratic Primary race for District 4, voters have not seen the last of one of his eight Democrat opponents.
Rachel Honig, who placed third in the race, after Marti Speranza, is actually still in the running, because she ran on the Liberal Party line as well as on the Democratic line.
Honig, who got 8.59 percent of the vote (Powers got 41.24 percent and Speranza 22.78) reminded her followers of this fact via an email blast last week that also asked for continued financial contributions to her campaign.
She also told supporters she considered her third place showing a victory since she’d entered the race later than other candidates, in April, while Powers and Speranza had been running for over a year.
Reached on the phone, Honig said she wasn’t the only candidate who’d run on more than one party line. Republican Rebecca Harary, who Powers and Honig will face in the November general election, also ran on the Stop De Blasio line, despite a ballot challenge.
According to Honig, who’d been the one to file the challenge, some of the signatures on Harary’s Stop de Blasio line petition were from voters who don’t live in the district, including at least one person from New Jersey.
“It was offensive,” Honig said of the Jersey resident’s signature. “They didn’t go through the process and say, ‘Did you sign any other petition? Are you in the district? Do you live in the state?’”
However, due to a paperwork error on her part, Honig admitted, in which she neglected to include the amount of signatures being challenged on the cover letter of her challenge, it was tossed.
Asked about the challenge, Harary said this may have had to do with the amount of signatures she got.
“We only needed 450 signatures, and we received well over 1,000,” told T&V. “At the sheer mention of wanting to stop de Blasio, people on the streets literally stopped in their tracks, turned around and asked, ‘Where do I sign?’” Harary added that she could have chosen to challenge Honig’s Liberal Party line petitions too, but chose not to. Harary is also running on the Reform Party and the Women’s Equality Party.
To get onto the ballot, candidates needed 450 signatures from voters in their district registered in their party who haven’t already signed for someone else in the race. Independent candidates or those on alternative party lines can get signatures from any registered voter in the district that hasn’t already signed for anyone else (not a simple task in the primary’s crowded field). Candidates usually try to get many more than they need however to ward off challenges, and Honig said she got at least four times as many as the minimum.
While said she was grateful for the chance for so much one-on-one interaction with voters and called the petitioning process important, it was also “arduous,” and if elected, Honig hopes to see the process modified.
“It’s archaic at best,” she said. “How it’s submitted and how you go about doing it. In a world of technology it should be easier. It’s very labor intensive. I’d like for the Board of Elections to be brought up to the 21st century for sure.”
Honig was, during the late 1990s, an employee of then-Governor George Pataki’s administration at the New York State Council on the Arts. Later, she ran her own public relations firm. As a City Council candidate, her platform has been focused on saving small businesses, fighting homelessness and quality of life issues.
Asked what she’s learned on the campaign trail so far, Honig said that the top concern wasn’t what she initially thought it was — small businesses. Instead, after speaking with countless people on the street — as well as those who responded to her robocalls — Honig said she’s discovered the top quality of life concern in the district is actually scofflaw bike riders.
“What I’m hearing all throughout the district, from Stuyvesant Town to Carnegie Hill, is pedestrian safety, bicycle enforcement. Partly from seniors but everyone is saying bicycles are going the wrong way down the street and you have electric bicycles. We need greater enforcement. Traffic cops are not being told to issue tickets. This mayor is not enforcing a lot of quality of life issues.”
First Avenue in particular is seen as a death trap by many.
“I’m not just hearing from seniors, but people who are being asked by seniors to help them cross the road,” said Honig.
Interestingly, opining on this subject recently helped generate some new enemies for the candidate on Twitter, but Honig, an early customer of Citi Bike, insisted she’s not anti-biking.
“I am for protected bike lanes and more of them,” she said, adding that the way the bike lanes were laid out over the years, “as an afterthought,” is in need of some improvement. “You have bike lanes that start on one side of the street and continue on another side or disappear altogether.”
Other than this surprise lesson though Honig said she hasn’t changed her position on any issues. On small businesses, she noted, “The problem is not abating. It’s getting worse.”
Honig supports seeing some form of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act passed, as well as City Council reform so legislation, like the SBJSA, couldn’t be blocked by the speaker from at least getting a hearing.
“In a nutshell, the issues that led me to run are still issues.”
Honig gave an example of how recently she thought she’d discovered two new businesses in her neighborhood in what had been vacant storefronts, only to then realize they were existing businesses, both of which had to move from their original locations.
Asked her thoughts on running against the winner of the Democratic primary (in New York City generally believed to be the winner of the election), Honig said she disagreed with that school of thought.
“There is a tremendous amount of non-affiliated folks who want a voice,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are disappointed that they couldn’t vote in the primary — and I would advocate for open primaries. There are a lot of people in the district who identify as moderate, who are socially liberal, but are fiscally moderate and work really hard for their money and approach spending with caution. Politics at large — and it’s exacerbated at the national level — do not allow moderates to have a voice. The two-party system doesn’t give them a voice.”
Of her two opponents, she said, “I respect both of the other candidates but I think people of the district need another alternative.”
Meanwhile, throughout the race an underlying issue has been the dwindling number of female members of the City Council, about which Honig said of course she was concerned.
On one hand, she felt gratified to have mostly women on the ballot for District 4. “I was proud to campaign alongside six women. How great is that?” she asked.
But on the other hand, there are currently only 13 women in the Council, with that number potentially shrinking next year.
Honig said it’s important to have female representation at the city level considering the Trump administration’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.
“The city and state needs to pick up some of that so it’s important to have women on the Council, not that there aren’t men who wouldn’t support that as well,” she said. “I could wax philosophical for hours about companies doing better when there are more women on the board.”
She also gave an example of the recently signed salary history legislation, which she called “a step toward eliminating or mitigating the wage gap. A bill like that is going to affect a family for generations to come.”
Still, said Honig, “I think they should pick the best person for the job. Which is why I’m running.”