Although he's only 29 years old, Jimmy Dahroug has reason to be improbably jaded.
The former State Senate candidate recently had to abandon his third bid to unseat longtime incumbent Caesar Trunzo, more or less because it had become logistically impossible for him to win.
So in mid-May state party officials recruited Brookhaven Town Supervisor Brian Foley to run, even though by that time Dahroug had activated his campaign, knocked on doors, and collected the endorsement of several progressive groups, including Democracy for America, the Washington D.C.-based organization founded by Howard Dean.
It takes institutional support to unseat a 30-year incumbent. And in June, the Working Families Party endorsed Foley.
“If you run a dead body, you can get about two percent of the vote,” said Dahroug, who told me in an October 17 phone interview that in his senate district, “People just look for that Working Families Party line.”
He went on, "If I’m just running on the Democratic line, it would put me at an important disadvantage. Plus, if we pulled off the primary, Brian Foley is still on the third party line, without actively campaigning, he would pull significant votes away. To me, that was a critical factor. Having won the primary, it still would be almost impossible to win without that line. And with having spent everything that we raised on the primary, we would have to start all over again with just less than two months.”
Dahroug decided if that even if he won the Democratic primary, that one ballot line wasn't enough. “Having learned how difficult campaigning can be, both within your own party, and against an entrenched Republican incumbent, you get a sense of what’s possible and what’s likely,” said Dahroug.
To get a sense of how much the W.F.P. endorsement meant to Foley's campaign, consider the 2006 election. There are only 772 registered Working Family Party members in the 3rd Senatorial District, but the W.F.P. candidate got nearly twice that many votes in the 2006 election (1,345), even though the candidate, David Ochoa, had stopped running and was actively campaigning for Dahroug.
Trunzo has the endorsement of the Independence Party and the Conservative Party.
So where is Jimmy Dahroug going now?
Having formerly worked for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, Dahroug could stay in government, but he probably won't.
“My family–they’d probably be a lot better off if I made more money. So, I think for now, I’m probably going to focus on doing something so I can be more financially solid,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder if I should have gone into the private sector.”
After we had spoken by phone, Dahroug emailed a few more thoughts.
“In some ways," he wrote. "I think the Bloombergs, Corzines, and Mark Warners (the self-financed) had it right. They became financially independent–they could self-finance and they didn’t have to play the same game. They are, as Corzine campaigned– un-bossed, un-sought. The sad part is, obviously, we’re not all going to be extraordinarily wealthy. So the best we can do is work to reform the political system. That’s our generation’s challenge.”