It’s been more than four years in the making and John Messer is ready to get back in the ring to defeat heavily entrenched incumbent Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.
Messer, an activist and local businessman, never quite waved the flag after he was defeated in a two-way competitive Primary last September. The streets of Flushing (and for that matter all of District 16) was a hot political war zone. Flyers were put up and flyers were town down. Canvassers knocked on doors like an organized army and then they knocked again. Hundreds of phone calls were made and chances are your mailbox was filled to the brim with campaign lit. If you were a Dem in District 16 in 2012, you knew there was an election coming up.
A highly anticipated debate which packed the auditorium of Flushing Hospital turned out to be quite a spectacle. Stavisky accused Messer of all sorts of political rhetoric but during the entire performance he was a gentleman, unwilling to give in to the blood lust which had overcome the crowd for the TKO. On that night, he gained the respect of voters and community leaders, but you’d have to be from this community to really understand what exactly happened. There was never a dull moment, dead people were reportedly signing the Senator’s designating petitions. On Primary Day, despite all the outreach and GOTV, turnout was pathetic, however, Toby’s base of triple prime voters still showed up and thus delivered the election to their incumbent. There were rumors of first time voters, particularly immigrants and non-English speakers, who were turned away from their poll site and redirected to another, even seniors were reportedly getting turned away. Sure, it could have been a simple mixup due to redistricting, but go tell an octogenarian they’ve showed up to the wrong polling site not once but twice and then redirect them across town, well, wouldn’t you give up? The rumors and innuendos, although unverified, sounded like a conspiracy theory with Toby Stavisky at the helm secretly engineering a complex voter disenfranchisement operation using poll workers she hand-picked to make it a miserable experience, that is, if they knew you weren’t there to voter for her.
Nevertheless and despite the loss, Messer continued serving and volunteering in and around the community. You’ve probably seen him around, shaking hands hovering quietly in the back of the room because he’s not the type to get on stage and demand attention; he’s more humble, a quality lacking in career politicians. Messer has been spotted attending various civics and community events keeping up his commitments and looking like he’s ready to knock on doors once again with his signature energy and charisma.
Some may call this a final battle; if it were baseball it might be like three strikes you’re out but this is politics and third time’s the charm, right? Messer really wants to become Senator. Can he defeat her? What will he do differently? For quite some time, many chuckled at the rumor that Toby Stavisky would retire and not seek reelection. Let’s be clear: with her son in control of one of the largest lobbying\campaign firms in New York and with infinite ties to the state legislature and no term limits, it’s not going to happen anytime soon, that is, unless she’s voted out.