Perennial G.O.P. candidate challenging Shelly Silver

By Julie Shapiro

Danniel Maio is hoping the eighth time will be the charm.

The Republican challenging Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this November has previously run office seven times in New York City.

Maio, 46, is running a nontraditional campaign for the Assembly’s 64th District seat based on a philosophy he developed during his seven previous runs for other offices. Maio does not ask his supporters for money and has raised only $3,000 for the race in unsolicited contributions.

And Maio is making only one campaign promise, but it will be hard to keep: If elected, he will talk to every single family in the district — or at least those who will open their doors. The issues those families raise will become his platform.

As for why he is running against one of New York State’s most powerful politicians, Maio didn’t mince words.

“New York City is being choked by one man — and the state, too,” Maio said.

Maio criticized Silver for not talking to his constituents and not policing state-controlled agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

In heavily Democratic Lower Manhattan, Silver is seen as a shoo-in because of both his party and the power he wields as Assembly speaker.

Maio is running as a Republican and not a Democrat because he said New York City’s Republicans are friendlier to upstarts who want to make a bid for office.

Maio characterizes himself as a social moderate but a fiscal conservative. To save money, he thinks the state’s social programs should be tailored to individuals rather than applying to everyone who falls into a certain category.

Particularly given the economic crisis, Maio thinks Albany should make cuts to education and Medicare, which he said are the state’s two biggest expenses.

Jonathan Rosen, Silver’s campaign spokesperson, declined to directly address Maio’s candidacy.

“Assemblyman Silver is focused on …protecting vital public services like schools, healthcare and affordable housing from the negative impacts of the economic downturn,” Rosen said in an e-mail.

Maio criticized Silver for holding closed-door meetings and for not throwing his weight behind congestion pricing, a proposal that floundered last spring but could see a reincarnation within the next year.

Since Maio knows that he is unlikely to succeed in taking on a behemoth like Silver, his main focus in knocking on doors is to help the people he speaks with, from filling out medical paperwork to filing a complaint with a landlord.

“As a candidate, you can make an impact already,” Maio said, explaining why he has run for office so many times. “Agencies pay a little more attention than if you’re an ordinary citizen.”

In addition to running for Assembly as a Republican this fall, Maio wanted to run through a third party he created called “Reform Albany.” He gathered signatures but Silver’s lawyers knocked him off the ballot. Maio sued and a judge determined that he was short by seven signatures.

Maio was born in Taiwan and moved to Frederick, Md. when he was 9. Maio was student council president at his high school and then studied international relations at American University. He speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and English and has also studied Spanish, German, Yiddish and Hebrew.

In 1992, Maio and his brother started the Identity Map Company, a business they selected because it felt “comfortable and honest,” Maio said. He has walked every block of Manhattan, gathering data on the buildings and what they hold.

Maio lives with a roommate in the East River Co-op, across the street from Silver.

Maio’s 2001 campaign for borough president was by many accounts his most successful. Incumbent C. Virginia Fields won, but Maio received more than 64,000 votes, or 16 percent, his highest percentage to date. He also raised about $15,000, he said, but he afterwards pledged never to solicit campaign contributions again.

“If I lost, I feel I let the people who gave me the money down, and I’m wasting their money,” Maio said.

He later ran for U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Congress seat, State Senate in Manhattan and Queens and City Council in two different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and he made a bid for public advocate but did not get on the ballot.

In listing the elections by year, Maio reached 2007 and paused.

“There was no election in 2007, otherwise I would have been running in 2007,” he said.