Halloran is now a Maybe

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 6, 2010 — 1 Comment

Last month rumors started swirling that newly elected New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, an openly Theodish political conservative, was considering a Tea Party-fueled challenge to Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman in November. After a few days of speculation, and increasing attention from political reporters, Halloran seemed to back down on a serious attempt for the seat, though he did leave the door open a crack in case he changed his mind.

“I’ll sit down and talk to [local party leaders], but I’m not inclined to run … I haven’t ruled it out, but Gary Ackerman has tremendous financial and political resources. My big picture right now is the state of the city and that our district gets its fair share of money.”

Well it looks like Halloran’s inclination is changing, his spokesman Steve Stites now says that he’s “considering” a run for Ackerman’s seat, while Halloran himself is saying that Ackerman’s support for the recently-passed health care package has “changed things a lot”.

“City Council Member Dan Halloran, a Republican elected last year, said that he is now strongly considering challenging Rep. Gary Ackerman for Congress after Ackerman’s vote for the health care package passed last month and Ackerman’s behavior at the bill’s signing ceremony.”

The big question: does he have a chance of winning? Swing State Project seems to think it’s a long-shot.

NY-05: Dan Halloran, a Republican who won a Dem-held seat on the NYC City Council last year, is weighing a challenge to Rep. Gary Ackerman. Halloran, a practicing Theodist, thinks he can make Ackerman pay a price for voting in favor of healthcare reform. Ackerman, for his part, has $1.1 million on hand and the support of the Queens Independence Party. This district also went 63-36 for Obama (but notably, that’s the same percentage that Kerry got, suggesting there was something of a “conservative white ethnic New Yorkers for McCain” effect here).”

To make this a close contest, two things would have to change, the Queens Independence Party (which backed Halloran for City Council) would have to switch support from Ackerman to Halloran, and he’d have to pick up a lot more money so he could run in a far larger geographic area. He would also have to pick up a lot of support outside of Tea Party and local conservative parties. Recent polling analysis shows that despite the Tea Party’s momentum and enthusiasm, they are predominately a conservative movement, and it’s fair to say they might do little to sway non-conservative-leaning independent voters.

“Although the Tea Party gets pretty decent numbers among independents, support is smaller among self-proclaimed moderates; only about 15 percent of moderates support the tea-party (Gallup) and about 10 percent consider themselves a part of it (Wilson). Liberals, who support the tea-party in the high single digits, are actually pretty close to the moderates.”

Naturally anything can change in politics, but a swing and miss here could harm Halloran’s long-term political future. Especially if local Queens residents start seeing him as someone more interested in higher office than in serving out the term he was just elected for. Ackerman, meanwhile, seems pretty confident that the health-care vote won’t harm his standing with local constituents.

“Ackerman said the health care bill was a “very easy vote” for him and that the bill was overwhelmingly popular in his district. Ackerman added that he was “not overly concerned” with a potential Halloran challenge, noting that the Council member represents only about 20 percent of Ackerman’s constituents, while Ackerman has represented all of Halloran’s constituents for decades.”

I’m guessing that Halloran will remains a “maybe” unless something happens, a bad poll, evidence of softening support for Ackerman, or a scandal, that would make him believe he has a real chance at the brass ring. How long he can do the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” dance without frustrating his Tea Party supporters remains to be seen.

Jason Pitzl-Waters