The unthinkable is about to happen in the a race for a seat on the bench in Queens County.
Republican Joseph Kasper first ran for a judicial seat in 1995. From 1998 to 2000, his name was on the ballot every year. He took a decade-long break, and then resumed running nearly every year since 2010.
He never won; it’s nearly impossible for a Republican to overcome the built-in advantage Democratic candidates have among registered voters. And since very few voters pay attention to the judgeship races and know very little about the candidates, those who do bother to fill out that portion of the ballot are likely voting strictly along party lines.
Even though Kasper never came close to sniffing victory, he felt it was his obligation to run just to give voters a choice. He believed in the two-party system.
But maybe the 20th (or however many times he has run) was the charm!
After the polls closed, Kasper held a 1,700-vote lead over former councilman Paul Vallone in the race for the 3rd Municipal Court District, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, as well as parts of Ozone Park and Howard Beach.
Not only was Vallone running as a Democrat, voters would no doubt be familiar with his last name. His grandfather, Charles Vallone, served as a judge in Queens Civil Court for 12 years, while his father Peter Vallone was the second-most powerful man in the city when he served as speaker of the City Council from 1986 to 2001, when term limits forced him from the Astoria seat he represented since 1974.
And his brother Peter Vallone, Jr. is also a former councilman who is now a judge himself in Queens County Civil Court.
There were 2,400 absentee ballots sent to the Board of Elections, which they are counting this week. If Kasper’s lead holds, it will be the first time in a very, very long time that a Republican went up against a Democrat for a judgeship in Queens County and actually won.
Kasper was probably helped by the strong showing that Republicans had in several City Council races throughout the city, including Joann Ariola, who easily defeated Democrat Felicia Singh in a district that partly overlaps the 3rd Municipal Court District.
Although, several people familiar with the race told us that Vallone was also overly confident that a victory for him was a lock. They told us he did very little to connect with voters, figuring his name and his party affiliation would be enough to cruise to a win.
And while Kasper didn’t even have a campaign website, he attributed his strong showing to good old-fashioned campaigning, motivating voters and volunteers and meeting with a lot of people.
It took 26 years, but the next time Kasper’s name is on the ballot, it might be as the incumbent, not as a token opposition candidate.