Great photo with the beer in your hand, Sam
Sam Di Bernardo, 74, has Facebook and YouTube pages and is currently repairing around 40 computers that he will give to friends or donate to schools.
While he embraces new media and technology, however, the Independent 32nd Council District candidate - Di Bernardo says he has been running under the radar of main-party politics since March 2008 - has endured his fair share of old-fashioned, political intimidation.
When the South Ozone Park and Howard Beach native took his co-op board to court - the management was "horrendous" and "autocratic," he said - his car was keyed and egged and its tires were slashed. But he was victorious, nonetheless.
Di Bernardo, a former teacher and real estate executive, feels eerily similar about his ongoing fight for Senator-elect Joe Addabbo's Council seat, which will become vacant in early January 2009.
"I am the underdog and I have an uphill fight and I know it," said Di Bernardo, who met his campaign manager, a politically savvy college student, on the street and offered him the job on the spot. Di Bernardo emphasized that his status as an Independent, despite calls from local Republicans to join their ranks, translates into a huge disadvantage in terms of finances and support for his bid. "But if I can get my message out, I can stand a very good chance," he said.
Di Bernardo's message, which he passionately repeats over and over again, sounds a little something like this: "Education, education, education!"
Of course, as a one-time computer lab teacher, who is currently searching for a part-time teaching position, Di Bernardo is a big advocate of technology in the classroom.
"Teachers fear technology," he said. "They're afraid that the kids know more than they do and the kids do!"
Di Bernardo says other top priorities are safety and public services for senior citizens and a more honest mortgage and housing industry.
With political aspirations and campaign experience dating back more than 30 years - Di Bernardo opposed the late Joseph Addabbo, Sr. in the Congressmember's 1976 reelection bid, only to have his petition for candidacy wrongly invalidated, he said - Di Bernardo is well aware of the fact that he is the oldest of the five candidates vying for a Council seat in the 32nd CD's special election, likely to be held in February.
"I think age is positive," he said. "I run into the City Council as a rich, rich man - maybe not in terms of wealth, but in terms of education, ideas and experience."
"I want an honest chance to be on the ballot," Di Bernardo added. "Let the people choose."