Third time’s a charm.
It could be the motto for one of this year’s Democratic Public Advocate candidates.
Norman Siegel, 65, has been a civil liberties lawyer for 40 years; well known for his work in the New York Civil Liberties Union, Sept. 11 cases and eminent domain suits, he is on his third run for Public Advocate.
With Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum out of the picture and less candidates in the race, this may be his lucky year.
Siegel still hopes to be the “people’s advocate.”
“I don’t want to be the mayor or U.S Senator, I just want to be the people’s lawyer,” he said, “I still have this dream of using this office to help people improve their lives [and] take on the powers that be,” such as protecting against budget abuses by the City Council.
While his dream is nearly a decade old, he is still not a part of the political world of his opponents City Councilmen Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, Eric Gioia of Queens and former Public Advocate Mark Green.
“I am not a politician,” Siegel said, but “ I have more experience than the rest of them.” As an executive of three nonprofits including the NYCLU, he learned about budgeting while getting all three out of financial trouble.
He sees his past experience defending those whose rights have been trampled as sufficient experience for public advocate.
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats agreed, recently giving Siegel their endorsement. “CBID respects his long career,” said Joy Romanski, 40, CBID corresponding secretary, “We feel that Norm Siegel is by far the best candidate.” CBID chose Siegel snubbing it’s own representative, de Blasio.
Siegel has raised $210,791, compared to the millions his opponents have. He hopes his fundraising improves drastically before the September primary.
“You need a lot of money at the end [of the campaign] to do TV and radio commercials.” Siegel hopes to save money now in order to spend it closer to the election when costly campaign strategies like television commercials and radio ads are more effective.
In 2005, he ran “great commercials” with 9/11 widows who were former clients but a lack of funds prohibited him from running ads on network television.
He has cut costs wherever possible. His campaign staff consists of 100 volunteers and just five paid employees.
Yet, with all of his campaign restructuring and extensive experience, some do not see him as the ideal candidate.
Dorothy Siegel, 62, South Brooklyn chapter leader of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Bill de Blasio, explained that all of the candidates were acceptable but it came down to “the person most likely to win the election-not just the primary.”
If WFP happens to be correct, this may be Siegel’s last time in the Public Advocate race.
“If I am not successful this third time, I will continue to do what I am doing now,” he said, “I don’t want it to happen, so I’ll be as competitive as I can, and work as hard as I can, and hope I get lucky.”