NYU Student Runs For Mayor In Hometown

This story was written by Christina Wills, Washington Square News
Many New York University students set goals: finish a paper, run a mile, maybe get that special someone's number. Becoming your hometown's mayor is not usually one of them.

Except for junior Jonathan Levine. He's running for mayor of Ardsley, New York, a village of 5,000 in Westchester county.

"It is easier to run for mayor in Ardsley than it is to run for the NYU senate," 20-year-old Levine said. He needed 86 signatures to get on the ballot, he added.

Tuesday is voting day, and Levine will have to deal with a few unexcused absences. He will be at the polls at Ardsley High School all day long.

"I apologize to my political theory and sign language classes," he said. "I'm making a political decision ... so I hope they understand."

The journalism and politics major wears a leather jacket and ripped jeans -- but carries a briefcase and talks with his hands like politicians more than twice his age. His inspiration to run came after being far away from home.

"I studied abroad in Prague, and I got back, and I was looking for something to do," Levine said.

So he found something.

"I heard that the mayor's race was this year," he said. "These mayor's races in Ardsley have been uncontested for as long as I can remember."

Levine wanted to break that cycle and decided to do so himself by running for mayor, striking surprise in his village and at home.

"We're so proud of him," his mother, Lois, said.

Lois Levine said her son has been interested in politics since he was 8, when he asked her why the United States lost the Vietnam War.

Levine is running with a strong emphasis on property taxes and traffic issues in the village, he said. He's been endorsed by local Democratic leaders, and a debate with his opponent was shown on a local media channel. His 52-year-old opponent, current mayor Jay Leon, was not available for comment.

"We just have a very different outlook," Levine said of Leon. Levine said Leon has created a lot of "budgetary waste" that Levine plans to use more efficiently.

This isn't Levine's first political experience -- his freshman year, he was the "proud president" of the University Hall dorm. He's now an RA at Second Street residence hall and the co-captain of an NYU intramural bowling team, "the Pinheads."

Being a full-time student and a mayor may sound difficult, but Levine is up to the challenge. He said the job is part-time and that he is just as qualified as his opponent, who is currently mayor and has a job in the city.

"He's a full-time media research assistant," Levine said. "He's in the city every day, 9 to 5. I defy anyone to say that being a full-time media research executive at Turner Broadcasting is easier than being a student at NYU."

So by the end of the day, NYU's student body just might include a mayor. And the candidate said the university has had a large influence on his campaign.

"'Power and Politics,'" he said, referring to the introductory politics class at NYU. "That was the seed."
© 2007 Washington Square News via U-WIRE
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