“I think that’s a good thing,” said O’Leary, who is running for the 26th Council District seat, which is being vacated by Councilman Eric Gioia, who is running for public advocate. “I’m doing this for the right reasons.”
In some senses, O’Leary is a political anomaly: a Bloomberg LP attorney running a grassroots campaign; a third generation District 26 resident who has also lived for many years abroad.
O’Leary said the idea of running for public office never crossed his mind, until last year’s financial crisis struck. “If it wasn’t for the financial crisis I might not be running,” he said, adding his first priority is bringing jobs back to the district.
O’Leary, whose father and grandfather are from Sunnyside, was born in Jackson Heights, and moved out to Long Island with his family before starting high school.
After graduating from law school, O’Leary worked for the firm White & Case, before being hired at Bloomberg LP, where he works as a financial attorney. (O’Leary said he would resign if elected, to focus full-time on the City Council). He is also an active fundraiser for various charities and served for four years on the Democratic National Committee.
“Right now we’re in a financial crisis,” O’Leary said. “I think I have the right skill set to make government more effective and people’s lives better.”
He said he is the only candidate in the race, which also features Dierdre Feerick and Jimmy Van Bramer, with finance sector experience.
But it isn’t just dollars and cents for O’Leary.
Besides his plans to create new jobs, O’Leary is also focused on sustainable development, securing renewable energy for the district, especially in Long Island City, where solar power is an attractive option, and on bringing more government transparency to City Hall.
O’Leary said he’s confident his message is resonating with voters. “I think it’s going to be a very close election,” he said, but “I think we’re going to win.”