Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Attorney general hopeful Richard Brodsky up for the job

Wednesday, September 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

Richard Brodsky is one of five candidates vying for Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Richard Brodsky is one of five candidates vying for Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Smart politicians know lunchtime at a senior center assures an attentive audience.

So around noon Tuesday, Richard Brodsky, the bulldog assemblyman from Westchester County, suddenly appeared at the JASA senior citizen center in Rockaway Park, Queens - the second of three senior centers he visited in an hour in the same neighborhood.

About 40 people were gathered around a half-dozen tables, waiting patiently for their lunch.

Audrey Pheffer, the local assemblywoman, gave a quick introduction to Brodsky - one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in Tuesday's primary.

"That's Brodsky with a 'B'," he joked as he rushed from table to table shaking hands.

"I'm Reshevsky with a 'v'," quipped Caroline Reshevsky, surrounded by a group of her girlfriends.

"Why did they change from voting machines to paper ballots?" Reshevsky wanted to know. "That's gonna cause problems."

Brodsky nodded in agreement. He's been one of the few politicians, he told her, warning that the new system of electronic voting on paper ballots could produce major foulups next week when voters use it for the first time.

"They brought a machine in and showed us how to use it," someone shouted.

A white-haired woman with a walker pulled him aside.

"Are you running for the same seat as [state Sen. Eric] Schneiderman?" she whispered.

"Yes, I am."

"He's my cousin," the woman said.

"Well, remember this, I came to visit you today and he didn't," Brodsky said with a smile.

It was the kind of rapid-fire banter Brodsky is known for in Albany, where he has spent nearly 30 years as a maverick populist legislator.

All five Democrats in this race are capable candidates. Several, including Schneiderman and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, have raised more money. A few are more easygoing and less confrontational than Brodsky.

But none has displayed the consistent courage to challenge powerful interests - or the attention to detailed investigations - that Brodsky has.

You could start with the hundreds of millions of dollars former Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg provided in subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium.

Brodsky was virtually alone among politicians in challenging that kind of financial help for baseball's richest team.

He lost that fight, but he was on the winning side of two other huge battles with Bloomberg - against congestion pricing and against the building of a new Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side.

After the big Con Ed blackout in 2006, Brodsky sued and won more than $40 million in reimbursements for ratepayers from the company.

As head of the Assembly's committee on public authorities, he forced the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide more transparent reporting of its finances.

Last year, he led the successful effort for the Public Authorities Reform Act. Under the new law, hundreds of secretive public authorities have become more accountable to the taxpayers.

The last thing Brodsky's powerful enemies want is for the gadfly from Westchester County to be our state's new attorney general.

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