Driving the Diva
If her driving is anything to go by, Mindy Meyer is the quintessential Brooklynite.
The Orthodox law student who’s running for state Senate in Brooklyn’s 21st District against incumbent Democrat Kevin Parker, weaves in and out of double-parked traffic on Avenue J in her Flatbush neighborhood, barely sparing the road a second glance.
Even as she careens around the streets where she grew up, the self-proclaimed Diva of the District chats about her politics, religion and — oh, yeah — Sarah Palin.
Ever since Meyer went viral with her pink-themed website, winning smile and longshot campaign, she’s been dubbed the “Jewish Sarah Palin” or “Palin in Pink,” a reference to the oft-ridiculed GOP vice presidential candidate. But she cringes at the comparison.
“Sarah Palin is not one of my role models; she’s oblivious on a lot of the issues,” says Meyer as she drives around her stomping grounds, stopping to point out her high school, Prospect Park Yeshiva and Touro College, where she went to college. “I do not feel like I’m in any way like Sarah Palin.”
So who is her political mentor? (Hint: it’s not Elle Woods, as so many media outlets have reported; the brainy babe from “Legally Blonde” was just the inspiration for the bright pink color of her website). It’s former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And just like Giuliani tried to parlay his fame as “America’s Mayor” into a run for even higher office, Meyer’s not ruling out an eventual (gulp!) race for the White House.
“I want to be known as not just as the senator of New York,” she said. “I want to ultimately maybe one day run in the presidential elections and be there for the entire country.”
She’s certainly passionate about who she is, what she hopes to achieve and the barriers she is working to overcome.
“It’s just not something that they’re used to, having a 22-year-old Orthodox religious girl involved in politics, in the limelight,” she says. “I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. In fact, a lot of people are saying it would be unbelievable if i did win the election. We would have another voice in the government.”
Off camera, Meyer, who’s running on the Republican and Conservative lines, comes off as exuberant and endearing, innocent as the day she invited Giuliani to her bat mitzvah (“I thought he would actually show up.”) Unrehearsed and unprompted, she’s an effusive conversationalist, happy to talk about anything she’s asked.
Once the camera is rolling, though, she rolls out the politician act, reciting lines like a college stage actor. Throw her a question she hasn’t faced before, and she asks for a moment to gather her thoughts.
For someone who aspires to presidency, though, Meyer can sometimes reveal a painful ignorance of politics and its players. Meyer’s open face clouds over as she recalls her TV appearance on Fox 5 this week, when she was shown pictures of Albany power brokers Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos and couldn’t identify them.
Given some time to respond, she hit back at the ambush job.
“I know who they are, I just didn’t know what they look like,” she says defensively.
However, when mentioning an upcoming interview with Mike Huckabee on Fox, she says, “I don’t think I was even alive when he ran for presidency.” Informed that he ran in 2008, she laughs. “Oh, I thought it was in the ’80s.”
Towards the end of the car ride, Meyer wonders aloud whether she’ll get to meet Parker, her opponent in the District, before election day. “I mean, I don’t know how this works. Do you know?”
Parker has politely commented that he doesn’t know much about Meyer and he takes every challenge seriously. “She’s rather young,” he said earlier in the week.
Meyer’s enthusiasm never flags, though. When given the opportunity to meet some constituents on the street, she bounds out of the car to greet them. Shaking everyone’s hands, she tells them who she is.
“Have you seen me on TV?” she asks them.
One man, a Democrat, says he recognizes her. Meyer won’t let him go until she has a promise for his vote, his friends’ votes, and his name and phone number.
“You don’t have time to go up to Albany, right, do you?” she asks him. “Don’t worry I’ll take care of it for you.”
Maybe 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. could be her future address after all.
“This is the ‘Goodbye Kevin Parker’ campaign!” Meyer trills, as she heads back to the car and squeals off into the steamy Flatbush summer day.