10:30 am Sep. 13, 2011
Democratic congressional candidate David Weprin and nine supporters lined up on either side of the only walkway connecting the platform and the sidewalk at the Metropolitan Avenue subway station in Middle Village this morning.
Nobody was getting past them without hearing a lot about the candidate. With no alternate route for passers-by and no sign of the opposing campaign, the effect was a lightly organized and politely aggressive assault on commuters.
Jon Bauman, the baritone Queens native better known (and referred to by himself) as "Bowzer from Sha Na Na," squeezed himself into line near Weprin. As commuters rushed by, Bowzer was so busy introducing himself that he barely got out the name of the candidate next to him. And when he did, it was usually Weprin's first name.
City Comptroller John Liu, who defeated Weprin in a four-way primary for the job in 2009, stood next to the candidate. City Councilwoman Liz Crowley, cousin of the Queens Democratic County leader who chose Weprin to run for the congressional seat, was there too. (She was at the station with two aides at 7:45 when I arrived.)
As straphangers approached from either side, everyone spoke at once and offered palm cards of the candidate.
"Hi, I'm Bowzer from Sha Na Na," Bauman said. "Vote for my friend David."
"The next congressman, David Weprin," Liu announced, pointing to Weprin.
"The polls are open until 9 p.m." Weprin reminded people.
One woman covered herself as she walked through the gauntlet. One woman who tried to step around the crowd was stopped when New York Post photographer Ellis Kaplan stepped in front of her and took a picture. He told another man who warmly greeted Weprin, "Put your arm around him," and took their picture.
One man in a shiny red button-down shirt who happily took Weprin's campaign literature, Kurt Consola, said he is "not big into politics" and hadn't read much about the race. When asked about his thoughts on President Obama, the 29-year-old sales executive for a chain of sports clubs said the country "definitely needs to get a president who can do things." He said he was not registered with any party.
Of the experience of passing through the Weprin-campaign greeting team, "It felt like i just got released from jail."
As I stood in the static train car talking to Consola, we could hear the candidate's voice saying, precisely half-jokingly, "Hold the train. Vote for Weprin!"
The campaign literature handed out by the Weprin people listed seemingly every major Democrat as a supporter of his, with one notable exception: Barack Obama.
After the hand-shaking, I asked Weprin if his association-by-party with the president had helped him or hurt him, he said, "President Obama is not on the ballot," Weprin said. "It's Bob Turner an David Weprin. We'll see tonight."
He spoke about how he'd save Social Security and Medicare and said that Turner was a "Tea Party Republican" who'd gut those programs. (Turner has said that he'd somehow defy his party, and apparently his own advocacy for cutting federal spending by 30-35 percent, when it came to shrinking entitlement programs.)
I also asked Weprin about Governor Cuomo, the popular Queens native who recorded a robocall and appeared on the candidate's literature but did not make a personal appearance on the campaign trail.
"Oh he did plenty," said Weprin. "He did robocalls all-out, he's done mail. We've done literature, so I don't know what else I would use him for. He's been very supportive."
With the race over in a few hours, Weprin didn't seem too worried about the deeper meaning of his intensely analyzed race for Israel, the national Democratic Party or Obama.
"The lesson is to pull out your vote and get your message out there," he said. "And that's what we're doing."
Liu agreed, and told me that other than questions from two reporters, the president hadn't come up once.
"I've been out for a couple of hours already, and not a single thing about President Obama," Liu said.