Matt Alexander, the Democratic mayor of Wappingers Falls, has hired longtime political consultant Joe Mercurio to serve as a chief advisor to Congressional run against Hudson Valley incumbent Republican Nan Hayworth.
The race marks the first time that Mr. Mercurio has served as a general consultant on a campaign since he worked for Virginia Fields in her 2005 mayoral race.
He decided to enter into the fray this time because he lives in the Hudson Valley district, and called it a fairly progressive one, having sent moderate Republican Sue Kelly and liberal Democrat John Hall to Congress previously, “And now you have Nan Hayworth, who is a very very conservative Tea Party candidate, to the point where you have all of the town supervisors and mayors up here talking about how they can’t get the kinds of things you try to get for your town from Washington because of her. Even in the natural disaster up here she was doing the Tea Party routine like Cantor–no disaster aid unless there are budget cuts. That was the final straw for me.”
What Mr. Mercurio was referring to was that soon after Hurricane Irene devastated counties upstate, Ms. Hayworth echoed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s call that disaster relief should be tied to budget cuts. She quickly reversed course.
Mr. Mercurio described Mr. Alexander as “this young mayor of Wappinger Falls who really spent a lot of time turning around his city, who beat a Republican who was really running the town into the ground and really turned it around. There were storefronts boarded up, gangs starting to form. It was pretty awful. And he did such a good job that Republicans didn’t oppose him the last two times he came up.”
A website devoted to Mr. Alexander’s campaign talks up his belief that that “investing in our environment and its protection is key to economic development” and describes his re-establish of municipal wells which tapped into natural acquifers and his pushing for the state to clean up a stalled Superfund site.
“He is a good, energetic public official and is outraged about how she is trying to shut government down rather than have government work for people,” Mr. Mercurio said.
Mr. Mercurio has been a political consultant for 35 years, working for Sen. Patrick Moynihan, attorney general Robert Abrahms and congressmen Jerry Nadler and Chuck Schumer. He mostly works, he says in media buying, not in general consulting.
Rich Becker, a Westchester County lawmaker and a cardiologist, has already declared to run against Ms. Hayworth. Mr. Mercurio though argued that Mr. Alexander would be a better candidate in the Democratic primary.
“I met with Becker, I heard him speak, and when you listen to him talk he goes into the weeds about tort reform and malpractice and other things that relate to the nitty-gritty of health policy, and he just goes on and on with this stuff,” Mr. Mercurio said. “I don’t think it’s very compelling, especially against a candidate who has been in government and knows what government can do to improve lives.”
Mr.Mercurio said that Mr. Becker hoped to frame a general election against Ms. Hayworth as a race “between two doctors and they will discuss health care as if this will be the overriding issue in this election. Frankly, if Romney is the nominee, health care will be off the table. It will mostly be about jobs and the economy and the government’s role in localities.”
Mr. Alexander met with DCCC chairman Steve Israel last week and raised $10,000 in the first week on the trail, according to Mr. Mercurio, and scored another $72,000 in pledges. Mr. Becker meanwhile pulled in around $110,000 after fundraising for an entire quarter, but $50,000 of that came from his own pocket.
The district lines could change dramatically between now and election day, but Mr. Mercurio said it didn’t matter to Mr. Alexander.
“We aren’t waiting on the lines. Either way we are running.”