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September 25, 1985
David to Stein's Goliath?

His chances poor, but then he is too

by Frank Lombardi
"You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked, and I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause . . ."
James Stewart in Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

For years, George McDonald wanted to go to Washington and be just like film maker Frank Capra's Jefferson Smith, a crusader for lost causes.

McDonald never got to Washington, and, in part, he blames Andrew Stein for his shattered dream. Now, McDonald wants to return the favor and keep Stein from becoming Council president in the Nov. 5 general election.

In what could be called the battle of the pauper v. the millionaire, McDonald, who is unemployed and lives in a shelter for the homeless, is running on an independent line against Stein, who won the Democratic nomination after a bruising, $2-million primary campaign.

Everyone, including McDonald, agrees that only a miracle in the Nov. 5 general election can stop Stein. But McDonald believes in miracles.

A former exec
A former Garment Center executive, McDonald, 41, gave up the corporate rat race -- and annual earnings of about $60,000 -- in 1979 to devote his full time to politics, especially to trying to get elected to Congress from Manhattan's "Silk Stocking" district.

The fact that the voters have yet to elect McDonald to anything doesn't keep him from considering himself a full-time professional politician.

"People like Stein just spend their money. I spend my life doing this," McDonald said of his political and community activities. "There's an old Greek saying: 'None can reach the heights but those to whom the miseries of the world are miseries and will not let them rest.' That's how I am."

Usually dressed in a neat gray, pinstriped suit, McDonald spends his days as a community and governmental gadfly and his evenings as a volunteer with a group that helps feed the homeless men and women who frequent Grand Central Terminal.

No welfare checks
He is technically unemployed, but collects neither unemployment nor welfare. He gets by with a little help from his friends and family and by living in a $55-a-week room in a shelter for the homeless at 211 E. 81st St., just a few blocks away from Stein's luxury co-op on E. 85th St.

As a "symbolic gesture" of his commitment, McDonald pledged to donate two thirds of the Council president's $90,000 salary to programs for the homeless and poor.

"I've lived with more and I've lived with less," McDonald offered. "I could live just fine on $30,000. I'm not motivated by stacking up pieces of green paper."

The council president also is next in line of succession if anything happens to the mayor. Of that possibility, McDonald remarked: "The only thing that scares me more than becoming mayor is Andy Stein becoming mayor."

Stein fully reciprocated McDonald's enmity, which can be traced to last year's Democratic primary for the Silk Stocking district's congressional seat.

McDonald had run in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat in 1980 and got only 15% of the vote. He boosted his showing to a respectable 40% in the 1982 primary.

McDonald was primed for a third primary bid last year but Stein, who also coveted the nomination, challenged McDonald's petitions for insufficient signatures and kept him off the ballot. Stein went on to lose to incumbent Republican William Green.

"I just didn't have the money to fight him," McDonald recalled.

Has a 'war chest'
McDonald now has managed to scrape together about $4,000 from friends and well-wishers for his current campaign against Stein, who has spent about $10 million on his various campaigns since entering politics in 1968.

A Stein campaign spokesman dismissed McDonald as "a nut" who has heckled Stein in public and harassed him with court complaints on baseless charges.

An official of the Coalition for the Homeless, with whom McDonald works, described him differently: "He's an honest man and the most faithful of our volunteers. If other politicians took the poor as seriously as Georege does, we wouldn't have 60,000 homeless."

In addition to McDonald, there are four other candidates on the ballot: Evelyn Gurdarramas, of the Republican-Conservative parties; Angela Powderly, of the Right to Life Party; Lorraine Stevens of the New Alliance Party, and Rashand Ali of the Socialist Workers Party.

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