Assemblymember Janele Hyer-Spencer will likely have an opponent when she runs for re-election this November, but just who that will be is still unknown.
Hyer-Spencer, a Democrat who represents a swath of Staten Island in the vicinity of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, as well as portions of Bay Ridge, won by approximately 700 votes in 2006 over Republican candidate Anthony Xanthakis, who is currently mulling a rematch.
“I haven’t made a final decision,” Xanthakis, who is vice chairperson of the Republican Party on Staten Island, told this paper. “It’s a huge financial undertaking and a huge time commitment. I’ve received nothing but compliments from various Republican groups and encouragement to run. I’m certainly encouraged by the support I’ve gotten.”
But, he added, with petitioning beginning in early June, he will have to decide soon whether or not to throw his hat into the ring.
Nonetheless, activists from both parties report that he has been flirting with making a run. They reported that Xanthakis has been making the rounds of Republican clubs on both sides of the bridge.
Asked about that, he said that, in his position with the party, “I go to events whether I’m a candidate or not.” However, one insider reported that when Xanthakis appeared at one Bay Ridge club event, the expectation was that he would announce his candidacy. There was surprise, the source went on, when that did not occur.
The district, Hyer-Spencer acknowledges, is a “competitive” one.
“It always will be,” she stressed. “I never expected not to have an opponent. I think that no matter how long I’m blessed with having the seat, every two years I will have to go back to the voters, tell them what I’ve done and ask them to hire me again.”
This may explain, in part, why Hyer-Spencer is perhaps the only elected official within the 13th Congressional District whose name has not been mentioned as looking at a possible run for the seat there, in the wake of all the revelations about the current seat-holder, Vito Fossella.
“I have spent so much time and effort, and have committed myself so fully to be a part of Bay Ridge, to learn it, know it and represent it well,” stressed Hyer-Spencer, who hails from Staten Island, where the majority of the district is located. “I don’t think I could do that if I were worried about my next move.
“When you commit to public service, a race and a district and a community, I do think you have got to be responsible for that,” Hyer-Spencer added. “I have been very focused on trying to do this job.”
While the fallout from the Fossella scandal is still undetermined, with respect to other seats that are up for election this year, any Republican who sets his or her sights on the seat in the 60th A.D. may get a boost from having John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, at the top of the ticket.
That would be in contrast with 2006, acknowledged Xanthakis, when the top of the New York Republican ticket was gubernatorial aspirant, John Faso, who lost overwhelmingly to Democrat Eliot Spitzer. Indeed, Xanthakis said, in the election districts within the 60th A.D., “I out-pulled Faso.”
However, if he runs again, Xanthakis will have to put his proposals next to Hyer-Spencer’s accomplishments for the voters to compare.
These include the establishment of a Bay Ridge office, “the first time in this bi-borough district that Bay Ridgites have had an office in the district.”
In addition, Hyer-Spencer cited efforts on behalf of getting tamper-proof fencing at the 65th Street railyard, which includes discussions on her part with the state’s attorney general to determine exactly which entity was responsible for the area.
She also cited her efforts working with other elected officials on behalf of beleaguered Victory Memorial Hospital. “With pressure and discussions,” she said, “we have been able to bring the Department of Health recognize the need for some health care footprint in Bay Ridge.”
Hyer-Spencer also said she was, “Thrilled with what I was able to do to answer the real transportation snarls associated with the Verrazano project.” To that end, she said, she had worked with NYPD chiefs in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, to create a “coordinated request” for traffic agents.
“I’m proud of the money I was able to bring back to the district,” she added. “As a freshman, you don’t always have a power broker position to bring funds back to the community.”
Hyer-Spencer also said she was proud of bills that she drafted and had been able to pass in her first term, including domestic violence legislation that opened the state to “millions of dollars in federal funds” that it had previously been closed out of, as well as an elder abuse law that she worked with Republican State Senator Marty Golden to pass.