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At heart of Pollard's challenge to Senator Montgomery, charter schools (and big bucks from charter school proponents)

I got a mailing the other day from Mark Pollard, who's challenging 13-term incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th District, which includes Atlantic Yards.

What it doesn't say is that the contest is significantly about charter schools, given that charter school proponents from outside Brooklyn have contributed a large majority of his $87,385 war chest.

(The candidates allso differ on Atlantic Yards, but I didn't see any AY backers contributing to Pollard yet, other than $25 contributions from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition and head of the potemkin Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, and her daughter Saadia. Hunley-Adossa last year challenged incumbent 35th District City Council Member Letitia James, a Montgomery ally.)

Mark Pollard Mailer 27 July

According to the two-page mailer, which doesn't mention Montgomery by name, attorney Pollard is running against the dysfunctional government in Albany, blaming the incumbent for being part of the problem.

He's concerned about small business and health care, second chances for nonviolent offenders, and protecting and expanding educational opportunities.

Who isn't? Montgomery's concerned about those things too.

The charter school money people

Most if not all of the big contributors in the screenshot at right (click to enlarge) are charter school backers.

Let's let Tom Robbins of the Village Voice take it away, in NYC's Charter School Grudge Match: The charter movement's money men target Harlem's Perkins:
But even after their victory, pro-charter advocates decided that their cause would best be served by taking a few scalps to teach future foes not to mess with them. This is no idle dream of political payback. Charter schools have become an adopted cause for a clutch of wealthy hedge fund managers who are fueling campaigns aimed at winning friends and taking out perceived enemies. Already in this election cycle, the deep-pocketed investors have shelled out more than $500,000 to a range of state and national candidates. In the State Senate races, they held a couple of meet-and-greets last month for potential candidates to see if they could handle their missions.

One reception was held at the home of R. Boykin Curry IV, who lives in Trump Parc on Central Park South. Curry helped found two charter schools. He has earned enough from managing other people's money to have bought a chunk of the coast of the Dominican Republic, where he wants to open a "creative person's utopia," as he told The New Yorker a couple of years ago. Guests at his soiree included a few dozen charter school backers, many of them investment managers.

Invited for inspection were Basil Smikle, a political consultant running against [Sen. Bill] Perkins; Mark Pollard, a Brooklyn lawyer challenging Montgomery; and Lynn Nunes, a Queens businessman trying to defeat [Sen. Shirley] Huntley.

...Pollard said he was already thinking of running when the invitation came.

...They're responsible for $80,000 of the $145,000 Smikle has raised; $83,000 of Nunes's $155,000 total receipts; and $65,000—a whopping 70 percent—of Pollard's campaign donations.
On Montgomery

Montgomery has [updated] raised $177,173.60 since 11/7/06, the date when she was last re-elected, with a significant haul from unions and other groups that do business in Albany. As Robbins explained it, the charter school backers are fighting "the dues-rich teachers' unions—the state's largest political funder." He writes:
Montgomery is the polar opposite of the mouthy Huntley. She's been quietly plugging away since 1986 on women's and criminal justice issues in the legislature, work that finally started to pay off when the Democrats won a majority. Her apparent offense to the charter backers is that she piped up with a few questions at the legislative hearing chaired by Perkins in late April. Pollard, a former prosecutor, said that, other than charters, his biggest gripe with Montgomery is that she has stayed too long. "No disrespect," he said, "but after 25 years, it's time for new, energetic leadership."
Pollard's right that any veteran deserves a challenge, and I'd like to see a debate, as long as they come clean about who they're serving.

The political fallout, and the AY angle

In May, City Hall News reported Vote On Charter Schools Questioned, Sen. Montgomery Gets A Challenger. The article noted that Pollard:
Pollard expects the United Federation of Teachers to back Montgomery, but is confident charter school proponents will energize his campaign, like parents of local Kings Collegiate Charter School, which recently played host to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Pollard also hopes to win the support of Assembly member Bill Boynard and trade unions alienated by Montgomery’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards development.

But so far, most of the political establishment is backing Montgomery. Although Pollard used to work for Al Vann, the Council member is backing Montgomery, saying in a statement to City Hall that, “I think it is unwise for someone with no track record to run against her.”


  1. Wait, I'm confused. If Pollard is running for State Senate in Brooklyn, why do all his big donors live in Manhattan?

  2. It is not for me to answer the previous question, however I have a few comments: to Al Vann’s ridiculous statement that a person with no track record should/can run against her is exactly that RIDICULOUS. This is the United States of America and if one believes that they can do a better job, then MARK POLLARD have that right to challenge someone who is apparently too comfortable in their seat. MARK POLLARD is an experienced leader in his community, career and family, make no mistake he can also lead Brooklyn’s 18th District.


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