If any local race in New York was going to get really strange, it figured to be one involving Greg Ball, a state assemblyman running for the State Senate.
During his primary race, opponents said he was, essentially, unfit to hold office. “Assemblyman Greg Ball has a ‘pattern of sexual misconduct towards women,’ ” went one statement. “The residents of Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties are tired of the distractions, tired of the conspiracy theories and tired of all of the excuses. You can’t take anything Greg Ball says seriously,” went another.
And those were from his fellow Republicans, specifically the State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which backed his opponent in the primary for the open seat in the 40th State Senate District. Mr. Ball won. Now, with perhaps control of the State Senate and redistricting in the balance, party leaders are backing Mr. Ball.
And then there are the Democrats.
“You don’t find anyone in the Assembly minority sorry that the guy is leaving, and you won’t find anyone in the Senate happy he could become a member,” said Senator Diane J. Savino. “There’s not a lot that Democrats and Republicans agree on in Albany, but this is one where we totally agree: This guy doesn’t deserve to be in public office.”
Once, this might not have been a promising way to run for office. Now, who knows? In a year when the political id is running wild, this may be one of those rare local races that’s a window onto a lot more.
“You’re talking to the most independent guy in the New York State Legislature, and that’s why collectively, the insiders don’t want me in Albany,” said Mr. Ball, a former Air Force officer. “This is what happens when you take on the dysfunction and corruption they have all perfected.”
Mr. Ball, who was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, is like a more toned-down version of Carl P. Paladino, smart, ambitious, attractive and a heat-seeking missile for controversy. He rose to prominence as the loudest local voice against illegal immigration and has been accused of using his polo charity, billed as a way to aid minority youth, to help finance his first campaign. Then there was the still-unexplained incident in which he reported a dead goat on his property, with a note around its neck alluding to a Hispanic gang not known to be in the area.
AND he has been dogged by personal issues involving women: a 2003 temporary protection order taken out by a former girlfriend he was accused of stalking; a barroom complaint in Albany by a server who said he had groped her; a sexual harassment allegation (eventually dismissed) in the Legislature. He says the first was in the distant past, a mutual disagreement; and the other two complaints were politically motivated and without basis.
In a race viewed as almost deadlocked, gender issues have become the main line of attack by his Democratic opponent, Michael B. Kaplowitz. He ran an ad citing the former girlfriend’s complaint. Female supporters of Mr. Kaplowitz held a news conference on Wednesday to criticize Mr. Ball’s conduct and his voting record on women’s issues.
In response, Mr. Ball ran an ad of his own in which a woman identified as his former girlfriend defended him forcefully. It turns out she wasn’t that former girlfriend, but Lauren Pistone, a Republican political consultant and Mr. Ball’s finance director when he considered a run for Congress. She also defended Mr. Ball in July when similar issues arose.
She said Mr. Ball was being targeted because he was an outsider. “I call politics high school for adults,” she said. “Greg broke into their clique and they didn’t like it. I grew up in Putnam County. It’s always been a very status-quo area. He rocked the boat, and when you do that you get a visceral reaction.”
Will people misinterpret the ad as a defense by the woman he was accused of stalking? “I don’t know,” she said. “People take away what they want to take away.”
You might think all this leaves Mr. Ball vulnerable, but Mr. Kaplowitz’s vulnerability this year may mean more: being part of the County Legislature in the county with the nation’s highest property taxes. “People are interested in property taxes and foreclosures,” Mr. Ball said, “not old issues dredged up two weeks before the election.”
Mr. Ball ran an ad of his own in which a woman identified as his former girlfriend defended him forcefully. It turns out she wasn’t that former girlfriend, but Lauren Pistone, a Republican political consultant and Mr. Ball’s finance director when he considered a run for Congress.