Robert Hutchison readily admits that he does not have much of a chance to unseat state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), who is seeking her seventh term, but he remains optimistic.
"I think I could win," he said. "I am the guy batting with two out, two strikes in the bottom of the ninth facing Pedro Martinez. I have not quit my day job."
Then what would possess this 43-year-old husband, Army veteran and shop steward at United Parcel Service - who will celebrate his 44th birthday the day after the election - to run against a well-liked assemblywoman from southeast Queens?
He is running on the Republican, Independent and Conservative lines in the 33rd Assembly District, which covers Queens Village, Bellerose and Laurelton.
Hutchison said he got involved in politics when he was out of work last year due to an injury from a car accident. He had a chance meeting with Ray Motez from the American Legion and began to ask how he could participate in veterans groups.
Motez invited him to attend a meeting at the local Legion Hall the next day. At the meeting, the members discussed politics. Motez suggested that Hutchison should come to the Queens Village Republican Club's next meeting.
"At the meetings the club talked about putting a committee together and finding someone to run against Barbara Clark," Hutchison said. "I was the youngest member from the area. They asked me to do it and I said yes."
He said that when he sat down with the Independent and Conservative party leaders, they did not see eye to eye on all the issues such as labor and voting regulations, but he agreed on enough points - especially on the need for a third political party - to run on their tickets.
"We are running on a shoe-string budget," Hutchison said. "This is a real grassroots campaign - we are just shaking hands and networking. Anything we get invited to attend, we attend."
His campaign war chest, he said, is all of $500, which means he does not have to file a campaign financial disclosure report with the state Board of Elections. He said he receives help on his campaign from his wife, Rosanne Hutchison, friends and the Queens Village Club.
"Barbara Clark is an accomplished legislator and I do not have her base," he said, "but there are things wrong with the district."
Hutchison said his main concerns are schooling and crime. He said the school scores for District 29 were terrible and there should be mandatory sentences for violent crimes.
"The schools in this district are appalling," he said. "Kids should do better than 18 percent passing on the English test and 34 percent passing the math test. Something needs to be done to the system."
Hutchison said he believes in the voucher system "so every kid will have access to the school of their parents' choice." He said split sessions should be used to reduce overcrowding, and the private sector needs to become involved and play a part in education.
Businesses, he said, can provide jobs or internships, and can help show kids how school subjects really do relate to everyday life.
"I think we should have mandatory sentencing for violent crimes," Hutchison also said.. "Then the sentence should be based on the crime, not the person. Once they are in the system they need to be rehabilitated."
But juveniles, he said, should not be treated or tried as adults, and need to continue their schooling in jail if they are sentenced.
"Let them know they screwed up and need to be punished," Hutchison said. "But give them the tools to help themselves after they get out."
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.