The question has been posed to state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) more than once: Why would you want to leave a safe, cushy job in Albany for the term-limited City Councili
During an interview at his newly opened campaign headquarters on Bell Boulevard in Oakland Gardens, Weprin said he can be more effective on the issues he cares most about — education, senior citizens and small businesses — in the Council than the Assembly.
“Most of the issues that I’ve been associated with are city issues,” Weprin said. “They’re issues that are established on the state level but administered at the city level. Most of the battles are fought at the local level.”
On education, Weprin is known as the most vocal opponent of standardized testing and believes schools focus too much on getting students to pass state exams instead of teaching.
Weprin, 48, has two children in public schools and his wife is a PTA president.
“I think it’s about time we had a parent of public school kids advocating for them in the City Council,” he said.
The assemblyman is running for the 23rd Council seat now held by his brother, Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who chose to make a bid for the comptroller’s job instead of seeking a third term.
Mark Weprin’s opponents are Bellerose resident and real estate broker Swaranjit Singh and Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich, who is running in the Democratic primary and as a Republican. Singh is a Democrat.
Weprin made the distinction that he has 15 years of legislative experience while his rivals are political neophytes.
“An advantage I have over the other candidates is that I have 15 years of experience in government,” he said.
Weprin noted he already has relationships with the mayor and the major players on the Council, which can enable him to quickly move into a leadership role in city government.
“That is going to help us here in the community,” he said. “I’ll walk in the first day as if I’ve been there a long time.”
Weprin has the support of the Queens Democratic Party, the Independence and Working Families parties and a slew of unions, including the principals union and school custodians.
Campaign mailings attacking the assemblyman have mostly been launched by Friedrich. Weprin shot back, criticizing the co-op president for being a registered Democrat yet also seeking the backing of the Queens GOP for political convenience.
“I’m a Democrat. You’ve got to accept some of the principles of the party you’re running for,” Weprin said, characterizing Republicans as “anti-women, anti-choice and anti-gay rights.”
“It’s important to put principles over politics,” Weprin said. “I had a chance to run as a Republican. I never wanted it because even though I deal with Republicans often, I can’t stand under their banner.”
As his campaign headquarters opened last week, Weprin said he wondered what the mood of his supporters would be. In his 15 years in the Assembly, Weprin has largely gone without substantial opposition during his re-elections.
“I didn’t think people will get excited,” Weprin said. “I’ve been amazed at the groundswell of grassroots enthusiasm we have in the campaign. There was a real excitement in the room. It felt like a grassroots campaign movement.”
As far as term limits on the Council, Weprin said he never planned on making a career out of politics.
“Eventually, I’m going to leave politics,” he said, noting he has a law degree and quipped that his bartending experience while in law school is another asset. “I have a lot of skills.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2009 Community News Group
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