Aside from our “shadowing” days, this would be the most face time we would get with The Congressman. During all of the time we spent pitching how educational and inspirational this trip would be, we forgot it actually would.
First on a long list of campaign stops was a breakfast debate with The Congressman’s opponent and Democrat, at a synagogue.
I offhandedly made a juvenile comment to one of the city representatives that I would love to run for The Congressman’s seat someday.
“Do you believe in gun control?” he asked.
“Then forget it. You’re not Jewish either.”
I naively fought back that it didn’t matter in a democracy, blah blah blah. But he was right.
Kiryas Joel, the village of Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews was located in the district. Thousands of members typically vote as a massive bloc. Wielding a disproportionate political influence over the rest of the district, this one village is the key to winning the election.
Hunting was a big part of life in three of the counties represented by The Congressman. During hunting season you were more likely to see a car with a deer strapped to its top than one with an “I (Heart) New York” bumper sticker.
So, if you weren’t Jewish and pro-gun control, good luck getting on the ballot. One out of two wouldn’t win you the election and (spoiler alert) The Congressman would go on to beat his opponent in this election and another in 2000.
It didn’t hurt The Congressman that a “glitch” by his opponent’s campaign resulted in unwanted robocalls to voters throughout the district at three and four in the morning.
As a society, we are quick to look the other way when the President lies under oath, but it’s a whole other story when a pre-recorded message interrupts your R.E.M. cycle; it’s hard to forgive and forget.
I don’t remember much about this particular debate but was relatively unimpressed with the opponent. He was super skinny and didn’t have the impressive presence of The Congressman’s posse.
The Congressman spent his opening remarks in typical form, taking most of the time acknowledging the organizers by name and then getting right down to business for the last couple of seconds allotted.
During the opponent’s closing remarks the usually unflappable Congressman threw a pen down on the dais in response to one of the claims. The debate ended with a handshake, and since we weren’t offered a plate at the breakfast buffet, we were off to brunch.