Cassino laments low voter turnout

11th Council District candidate Tony Perez Cassino is ready for a vacation. He campaigned hard against incumbent Oliver Koppell but only won 36 percent of the vote. Courtesy of Cassino for Council

11th Council District candidate Tony Perez Cassino, who fell to incumbent Oliver Koppell on Primary Day, blamed poor voter turnout and promised to remain active in Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Woodlawn and Norwood.

Unofficial results from the Board of Elections had 5,348 votes (64 percent) for Koppell and 3,021 votes (36 percent) for Cassino, a lawyer and former Community Board 8 chair.

Cassino won votes in Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Woodlawn and Norwood, at the Amalgamated Houses in Van Cortlandt Village and east of Bronx Boulevard, he said. There was no single Koppell stronghold. Cassino was defeated by apathy, he said.

There are some 64,000 registered Democrats in the 11th Council District. If more had visited the polls, Cassino thinks he would’ve won. The Bedford Park born Cassino knocked on 40,000 doors in seventh months; most 11th Council District residents were ready to unseat Koppell, he said. Not enough voted.

“I had 8,000 people in the database,” Cassino said. “I had 8,000 people committed. In the end, barely 8,000 people showed up for [Koppell and I] combined.”

Cassino lamented the poor turnout. He would have understood it if there had been two lackluster candidates. Not so.

“[Koppell and I] offered a lot,” Cassino said. “We were energetic candidates. We were interested in helping the community.”

The poor turnout in the 11th Council District was no anomaly. Only 11 percent of registered Democrats visited the polls citywide.

“Where were all the people?” Cassino asked. “Maybe they felt the mayoral ballot was less than real. But we had the Public Advocate and [City] Comptroller, too.”

Cassino also attributed Koppell’s success to incumbent status and years in government. Koppell has represented Riverdale and the northwest Bronx as an assemblyman, councilman and state attorney general for more than three decades.

Incumbents are able to lean on non-profit groups and constituents, Cassino said. Those groups and constituents rely on Koppell for funds.

“There’s an intimidation factor,” Cassino said.

Cassino also mentioned reach. As a two-term councilman, Koppell has represented Woodlawn to the north and Wakefield to the west. As chair of CB8, Cassino only represented Riverdale and Kingsbridge.

“He did beat me in Woodlawn,” Cassino admitted.

Although Cassino won an endorsement from 1199 SEIU, Koppell was endorsed by the Bronx County Democratic Party. Cassino has no idea whether 1199 SEIU soldiers made a difference; the union kept to itself, he said.

Cassino, still a member of CB8, plans to keep his oar in the water. He heads the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, for instance.

“We ran a campaign based on a strong vision,” said Cassino. “I met so many good people on the way. It was an incredible experience.”

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