25 - Oct. 8, 2003
Koppell Raises Money Despite Safe Seat
By JORDAN MOSS
Oliver Koppell's name didn't appear on the Sept. 9 Democratic primary ballot. But that's
because no one bothered to challenge him.
And while there is a general election in November, Koppell's Republican opponent,
Jayson Blau, has little, if any, chance of toppling him.
So, why did Koppell's campaign organize a fundraiser at the home of supporters, Chris
McNichol and Fred Walters, in one of the tonier precincts of Riverdale?
Koppell, who represents all of Norwood and most of Bedford Park, asked and answered
that question in a talk at the fundraiser. The money his campaign has been able to raise
"frighten[ed] off the opposition" and it has also enabled him to support the campaigns of
other independent members of the Council. Since he and the rest of the members of the
Riverdale-based Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club are perpetually at odds
with the Bronx Democratic Party, or the "regulars" as they are known, Koppell is looking
to form a power base of his own among members of the Council.
One of those Council members, Allan Jennings of Queens, recounted how Koppell, an
attorney, went to bat for him in court to get him back on the ballot after the Democratic
machine in Queens succeeded in getting him thrown off. Without enough money to even
send out a single mailing, Jennings managed to prevail by 103 votes. He told the
audience that though he never had a hero growing up, "Oliver Koppell is my hero."
The event drew relatively new Koppell supporters and those who have been with him in
the trenches since his first campaign for Assembly in 1970.
Marcia Allina, a Democratic state committeewoman who works for Human Rights Watch
and got her start in politics as a little girl licking envelopes for Adlai Stevenson's
presidential campaign, got her start on one of Koppell's Assembly campaigns more than
three decades ago. Someone asked her if she would "arrange for getting the liquor for
Oliver's fundraiser" and the rest is history. She worries about the reformers having no
allies in the Bronx (most of their friends are elected officials in other boroughs, she said),
but said that they continue to champion open processes in politics. She cited the recent
judicial candidates convention in the Bronx as an example of the kind of politics that
Others at the party are more recent recruits to Koppell's team of supporters. Charlie
Cohn, who works in insurance, said he, his wife and their neighbors have been concerned
about 254th Street being dangerous for pedestrians walking to and from the Metro North
station at the bottom of the hill. Koppell and his staffer, Joe Gordon, have been helpful in
getting the city to address the problem, Cohn said.
"When they have a function like this, I feel honor-bound to come," he said.
When Koppell finished his speech, a veteran supporter raised his hand and asked if he
could say something. Koppell said he knew what the supporter was going to say and he
wished he wouldn't. But the man pressed ahead and identified himself as the head of the
Committee to Elect Oliver Koppell Attorney General. Koppell, who was appointed to that
position in the early 1990s when Robert Abrams resigned to run for U.S. Senate but lost
the job two years later in a Democratic primary, said, "I appreciate the sentiment but I
already did that."
The fundraiser netted the campaign about $20,000 from almost 110 donors, according to
Noah Franklin, Koppell's chief of staff.
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