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A Republican Wants To Give New York a Majority Voice…A Sacrificial Lamb?

A Republican Wants To Give New York a Majority Voice

By YAEL KOHEN Staff Reporter of the Sun

July 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

Republican Paul Rodriguez says if New Yorkers want to be heard in a GOP-led Congress, they need to elect Republicans.

That's one reason the president of the New York City Young Republican Club is running against the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, in Brooklyn's 12th district this fall.

"As long as Democrats are the only ones representing New York City, New Yorkers are not going to have a voice in Congress," Mr. Rodriguez said. "New Yorkers need someone in the majority to get a better chance to have their interests represented," he said.

If elected, Mr. Rodriguez could become the first Republican Puerto Rican congressman in the country.

He held his first fund-raiser on Tuesday night and raised $2,000 to put toward his bid. The campaign will hold another event in late July.

The campaign is part of a larger effort by a year-old group, the Urban Republican Coalition, to rejuvenate the city's GOP and break the Democrats' hold on city politics.

Rodriguez is one of five candidates that the Urban Republicans are running for Congress. There is only one Republican congressman in the city's delegation, Rep. Vito Fossella of Staten Island.

He is not affiliated with the Urban Republicans.

Mr. Rodriguez, 35, is a stock-options trader at UBS. Until recently he worked as an analyst evaluating economic development in Latin America and emerging markets. He's held positions at some of Wall Street's most prestigious firms, such as Salomon Brothers (today Salomon Smith Barney) and Merrill Lynch.

Now he's set his sights on Brooklyn. For the most part, Brooklyn's lagging economic development was among the key issues that led Mr. Rodriguez to seek his bid.

He wants to see more federal money pumped into the city to help spur development and create jobs.

"You meet so many of young people that have this feeling of impossibility, that things can't be done that the world's against them and the world's unfair. That kills me," Mr. Velazquez said.

He wants to help change that view. Success "wasn't handed to me. I worked very hard for it," Mr. Rodriguez said. "I believe that is the possibility for anybody coming from modest means."

Mr. Rodriguez was born in Elmhurst, but he later moved to Puerto Rico with his single mom. When he was a teenager his family moved to Georgia, where he worked to put himself through college. He eventually graduated from the University of Georgia.

Mr. Rodriguez's overall campaign platform is in line with the Urban Republicans. That is to get back a larger share of federal tax money to the city, reform education with a voucher system, and pump billions of dollars into homeland security.

He wants to secure funds to hire more police officers and firemen, including a system of police reserves to be called on in extreme emergencies.

Whether Mr. Rodriguez, or any of his Urban Republicans colleagues, will be elected remains to be seen.

Political strategists are skeptical that a Republican could win against Ms. Velazquez, a well-known politician who has held the seat for 12 years in a notoriously Democratic district.

"To say he has an uphill climb is like saying Mount Everest is tall," political strategist Bob Liff said. "Anybody is going to have a tough time beating Nydia."

Another political strategist Joseph Mercurio described Mr. Rodriguez as a "sacrificial lamb" that would have to raise at least $3 million to win against Ms. Velazquez. "He has no chance of raising that kind of money."

A spokeswoman for Ms. Velazquez, Kate Davis, declined to comment saying that she was unaware of any official candidates running against the congresswoman.

Mr. Rodriguez rebuts that notion. He thinks he has a 50-50 chance of beating Ms. Velazquez. And if he doesn't win this year, he will run again.

"I'm not looking to be a one-time wonder," Mr. Rodriguez said.

A Sacrificial Lamb?

ALICE LEMOS Woodside, N.Y.

July 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

I beg to differ with the characterization by political consultant Joseph Mercurio of Paul Rodriguez, the Republican candidate for the congressional seat currently held by Nydia Velazquez, as a "sacrificial lamb" ["A Republican Wants To Give New York a Majority Voice," Yael Kohen, New York, July 6, 2004].

Ms. Velazquez's district was gerrymandered by Congress to create a "Hispanic seat" - which resulted in Ms.Velazquez's defeat of the more able and experienced Stephen Solarz.

This gerrymandering should have been thrown out by the Supreme Court because of its discriminatory nature.

Any of the Republicans - or more conservative Democrats who opposed Ms. Velazquez - would have more ably represented a district which embraces parts of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

To date, Ms. Velazquez's main achievement has been getting arrested at Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Her district has a high poverty rate and poorly performing schools. Many of her constituents support school vouchers and the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Rosemary Marcgraf, who ran against Ms. Velazquez in 2000, would have been a wonderful congresswoman with a firm grasp of that district's problems, as will be Paul Rodriguez when the district gets to know him.

Until the Republican Congress corrects the original mistake in the formation of this district, its constituents will continue to get short shrift from Ms.Velazquez, a radical of the Jerrold Nadler/Jose Serrano school of representation.

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