Sunday, February 12, 2006

Running Reprise

If there’s anyone lurking here from Asheville, NC or New Rochelle, NY, I’m impressed you found your way here. Your reward is a heads up on an entertaining documentary screening in your area in early March. It’s called Running in High Heels, and it chronicles Emily Csendes’ 2004 NY State Senate campaign.

Emily was the energetic Republican challenger to an entrenched Democrat incumbent, Tom Duane, whose only distinction during his previous term of office had been to post the second highest rate of absenteeism in the senate. Just watching her debate her boorish opponent is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately the district, taking in most of Manhattan’s Upper Westside, is overwhelming Democrat. The Csendes campaign was simply overwhelmed by the presidential turnout.

At its best, Running in High Heels captures a scrappy, underdog campaign in all its ragged glory. Emily and her campaign manager, Stephen M. Evans III, come off as real people, dealing with the comic frustrations of an under-funded campaign. Sample a clip on the film’s website: and the trailer here (these are Quick Time). There are some hilarious campaign moments in the film, and if you watch closely you can see the back of my head in a few scenes.

Filmmaker M.T. Manelski’s intent was to make a statement about women’s access to power in the political process. Too often she cuts away from the campaign for tiresome interviews with talking heads. Most are activist feminists from a decidedly leftwing perspective. Myrna Blyth does come off well, as a voice of reason. However, the deck is obviously stacked against Phylis Schlafly in her interview segments, through selective editing. It looks cheap and undermines the credibility of the film.

The real action is on the campaign trail. There you’ll see what its like to street campaign as a Republican in New York City. Whether you’re a man or woman, it can be down right brutal. Republican campaigners, including myself, have been cursed at, spat on, and called the vilest epithets imaginable by New York Democrats who can’t accept the mildest challenge to their world view.

After seeing the film, we now have a real life sequel. Emily Csendes is back on the campaign trail, running for an overlapping assembly seat recently vacated by the incumbent. Most of the original supporting cast is back too. Emily remains a smart, hard-working individual, with the kind of real world experience we need in Albany. To support her assembly campaign go here: For those in Asheville and New Rochelle catch Running in High Heels, if you can. It’s definitely entertaining. Screening schedule here: