Upper West Side Democrats Help in Statewide Races

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by gavin aronsen

assembly member daniel o'donnell has no republican challenger for his upper west side seat for the nov. 2 election. but he nonetheless opened campaign headquarters in his district to help fellow democrats in competitive statewide races.

on one of the final sundays before the election, o'donnell held an open house at the 940 amsterdam ave. storefront to attract new activists to drive voter turnout in what is expected to be a tough year for his party.

about four dozen people listened to o'donnell and rep. charles rangel of harlem stress the importance of the upcoming election before volunteers got back to work later in the day.

"if you are a person in this nation and you work for a living, you need to get democrats elected," o'donnell said.

rangel said he was confident that his party would hold on to both houses of congress, although polling suggests republicans are likely to take control of the house.

"if common sense had anything to do with it we would not even be threatened," rangel said.

volunteers at the headquarters said they had recently spent much of their time on the phones and knocking on doors for attorney general candidate and hometown favorite eric schneiderman, an upper west side state senator, and rep. john hall, who represents the congressional district in the hudson valley.

schneiderman is competing with republican staten island district attorney dan donovan in a close race for the position now held by andrew cuomo, the heavy favorite to be governor. hall, meanwhile, is in a dead heat with republican ophthalmologist nan hayworth, whose personal wealth democrats at the open house said could complicate things.

cynthia doty, an upper west side democratic district leader and member of three parks independent democrats, said local activists who had "adopted" hall would provide a valuable boost to his campaign.

"we helped him win four years ago," she said. "he won a primary he wasn't expected to win."

doty said hall's current race is "very tight" but that she thinks the candidate will prevail.

o'donnell said democrats also have their eyes on the state comptroller race, in which democrat tom dinapoli faces republican businessman harry wilson. recent polls show dinapoli in the lead, but wilson has received major newspaper endorsements.

daniel cohen, a recently elected state committee member, said a strong turnout in the city could be the key to winning closely contested races.

"we need to ramp up turnout downstate to offset more conservative turnout in upstate new york," he said.

rangel is expected to comfortably win his reelection bid against republican and former professional football player michael faulkner. however, rangel must stand on trial before congress nov. 15, for allegations of house ethics violations.

during his speech, rangel briefly referred to the controversy, thanking local democrats for their help in "breaking up fears brought by the papers."

later, rangel called the allegations "irrational" and said, "the people are saying, 'i trust rangel.' that's step one."

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