By Phil Corso
Questions over voter apathy have left some supporters of Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece wondering how their candidate could have lost in September’s primary election.
On Sept. 13, Democratic and Working Families candidate Nily Rozic, of Fresh Meadows, bested Iannece, the Independence candidate, in the Democratic state Assembly primary with roughly 500 more votes, according to official results from the city Board of Elections.
Since her victory, many Iannece supporters have laid some of the blame on their own, saying their candidate would have enjoyed a clean victory if they were not so complacent.
In a TimesLedger Newspapers column published last week, William Lewis contended that Iannece’s loss came as a result of apathetic voters throughout the 25th Assembly District, which stretches from Flushing to Douglaston and includes most of Bayside Hills, where Iannece lives.
“This year we had three sets of primary elections, so registered voters got tired of it,” Lewis wrote in his column. “A significant number of them did not want to come out a third time. Many of those who did not show up at the polls were Iannece supporters.”
Nevertheless, a TimesLedger check of turnout for recent elections in the same Assembly district showed that voting was higher in the September 2012 primary than the most recent primary election to date.
Iannece, 53, also said he expected a higher turnout from his base and thought voter fatigue may have contributed to his primary loss.
“People said they were going to come out, but at the end of the day, they just stayed home,” Iannece said, adding that matters were not made any easier by Sept. 11 falling on Tuesday, forcing the special Thursday primary after a series of previous primaries the same year. “I was not taking anything for granted. I knocked on over 5,000 doors and when you have a voting block five times the size of the number that came out, it’s sad.”
Rozic, 26, said she achieved her primary victory and opportunity to run as a Democrat for the seat currently held by Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) by making sure she was accessible to voters in the district.
“While campaigning, I spoke to thousands of voters and my message resonated across the district,” Rozic said. “I’m looking forward to the general election on Nov. 6 and representing our community.”
There are 53,761 enrolled voters in the 25th Assembly District, according to the BOE, with 31,457 active enrolled Democrats.
In September, a total of 3,994 voters cast their votes in the Iannece-Rozic Democratic primary, with 2,245 votes going to Rozic, according to the BOE’s official results. That number exceeded that of the most recent primary to take place in the same Assembly district. In the Sept. 16, 2006, primary for the Democratic Party, 3,229 voters hit the polls, with 2,458 of them supporting Lancman, according to the BOE.
As for general elections, BOE results showed the most votes for the 25th Assembly District came Nov. 4, 2008, when 14,916 ballots were recorded in the race in which Lancman retained his seat. Two years later, on Nov. 2, 2010, 11,721 total votes were recorded in the next general election.
Nonetheless, Iannece supporters, including those at the civic association he was once president of, have looked within to make sense of their candidate’s loss.
After the election, Bayside Hills Civic Association Vice President Armando Cortino released a letter to its members asking, “Where were you?” on Primary Day.
“It was as plain as day why voters should have noticed that Jerry Iannece deserved to be elected, yet they chose not to come out in droves to the voting booths,” said Michael Feiner, BHCA president. “The turnout was dismally low. To me, that’s apathy.”
But regardless of the reasons why he did not win, Iannece said he hoped a brighter message would survive in civic leaders who may have followed the race.
“I hope the would-be civic leaders out there do not get dissuaded to run for public office,” Iannece said, speaking of his more than 20 years of civic experience not being enough for voters to get him on the Democratic ticket. “That is when you are going to get real change in government.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.