By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
It’s election time.
And I’m not excited.
Sorry, but one of my passions —
politics — is losing it’s pizzazz.
It’s not me. It’s “them”… and
Now don’t get me wrong. The system is
still as good — if not better — than any other to flourish in modern
history. And the “them” — the politicians — they’re not all that
bad; there is just not enough of them up to the standards I set. That,
too, is a product of the system.
On an entry level, opportunities for the
bright, creative, independent, passionate (need more positive adjectives?)
just rarely, if ever, exist. Blessings like term limits (and I still have
never advocated them — just backed the law after the people passed it by
referendum) whereby a number of newcomers can enter the system and have
some impact just don’t happen often enough. We’re almost always stuck
with the same old politicos who get fatter, more content, lazier and
closer to the big money interests as their terms add up. And the unlevel
playing field, which is money driven, enables them to win term after term
When there is an opening, slick
maneuvers, ballot access, legal wherewithal, political experience and
existing networks, often play into the hands of party organizations.
Therefore, frequently, to make it
through the system as a candidate you have to pledge fidelity to the party
organization. Now, that alone is not so bad. But when party bosses fill
most (or almost all) positions because those bosses play the system so
effectively, the creative governing process is often stifled.
On the highest levels of government —
at all levels — party bosses have frequently been unable to
“control” the selection process. Mike Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Jimmy
Carter, Rudy Giuliani (see, not all my favorites) managed to achieve the
highest level of political electoral achievement and yet were not mired in
the confining political obligations that haunted other administrations.
They had their own problems. Party bosses and obligations were not
However, even in the independent
administration of prosecutor Rudy, we’ve
seen the son of Liberal Party chief Ray Harding playing fast and loose
with City money. Would young Harding have ever gotten so far in the Rudy
administration if his father did not deliver the Liberal Party line to
enable Rudy’s election? No, we’re not condemning Rudy for the Harding
fiasco, we’re pointing out the corruptibility of an administration that
should have been close to legal purity.
The reason: party politics.
God, the Independence Party is mired in
the same type of nonsense. Pataki people register phantoms. The City
Independence Party is hi-jacked by Marxists. All of these curious actions
because the team that can deliver the winning votes gets the access. That
access often comes with the ability to influence big money decisions.
Money, therefore, is aplenty to achieve
the electoral edge.
And sadly, the influence it buys is
often too close to the ability to corrupt.
Election Day, Next Week
Which brings us to the present election,
this coming week.
In spite of my cynicism, you gotta vote.
Your participation, in the long run, can make a difference — it could
Let me wrap the election up quickly
In a year where redistricting should
create some serious challengers, sorry, the weight of incumbency and the
party politics of the Albany gang that redrew the lines means incumbents
are not going to lose.
What follows are merely Schenkler
pre-election projections, but you can take them to the bank.
Congress: the six present members (Ackerman, Meeks, Crowley, Weiner, Velasquez,
Maloney) will all win both primaries (if they have one) and the general
election by landslides. The campaign war chests between incumbents and
challengers are so disparate that until meaningful public financing is
instituted, incumbents will only be removed from Congress by death or
indictment — and that’s a nationwide plague.
Assembly: same story as Congress. Only, there are two new seats and one fledgling
up for re-election.
The Flushing seat (22nd AD) drawn for an Asian, will
likely go to the organization’s guy — non-Asian Barry Grodenchik —
since the Asian community will be split among several candidates (Ethel
Chen, Jimmy Meng, John Albert). However, this race can be viewed as
competitive — merely because there is no ingrained incumbent.
Likewise, watch the 39th AD, where three talented Latinos
face off to become the borough’s first Latino member of the Assembly in
a race sans incumbent. In the best race to watch in Queens, the
organization’s choice, Jose Peralta, will be given the run of his life
by Francisco Moya, a bright, talented and reasonably well-funded
candidate. William Salgado also offers a viable option. This real race
exists only because there is no incumbent.
There is one other Assembly race worth
watching (31st AD) where Michelle Titus has only been the incumbent for a couple of
months, taking over in a Special Election after the death of Pauline
Cummings. She has neither the funding nor the organization to run like an
incumbent. However, in a field of four competent challengers, the vote
will likely be split allowing Titus two more years to gain control of the
process. All of her opponents: Taj Rajkumer (a well funded college
professor), Charles Pringle (a former Bronx ADA), Brian Block (a longtime
party regular) and Henrietta Fullard (a socially conscious
reverend/educator), bring much to the table. Any one of them might have
bested the little-known incumbent. Sadly, with four in the game, none
Senate: In all but two seats, it’s the same old story — incumbents will
breeze back into office.
In the much publicized 16th Senate District, incumbent Toby
Stavisky is challenged by longtime office holder Julia Harrison, who comes
to the process with many of the perks of incumbency — Harrison has been
a District Leader and elected official for many more years than Stavisky.
Stavisky will outspend the challenger by what looks like six or seven to
one and remain an untouchable incumbent.
In the one vacant seat (13th), presumably drawn for a Latino,
Charles Castro and Nestor Diaz will split their ethnic advantage and
probably allow former Councilman, organization choice John Sabini, to win.
This is one of the races to watch.
Statewide, the Democratic effort has
been disappointing and lackluster. The lessons of Mark Green’s loss
after misplaying the race card against Freddy Ferrer has kept the more
aggressive Andrew Cuomo’s hands tied. Afraid to assault Carl McCall for
fear of winning the Primary but alienating the Democratic African American
vote vitally needed to challenge George Pataki in November we witnessed a
half-backed Cuomo effort. McCall, by virtue of longtime service and being
the first black to achieve Statewide office, seems to be in a position of
having “earned the right” to be the candidate. Walking away from a
primary with a victory lacking in dynamics and vision is no way to beat a
Now Cuomo “drops out” in support of
McCall. Has the latest razamataz changed the campaign dynamics? We have
Andy Cuomo cutting some “backroom” deal with Carl McCall to drop out
of the race that he already lost, all in the interest of party
“unity.” Sorry guys, it won’t play well in Podunk, much less in New
George Pataki’s toughest race might
just be the well-funded Primary for the Independence Party line against
Party godfather multi mega-millionaire Tom Golisano. Golisano’s bucks
and Pataki campaign’s registration faux pas make the Independence Party
Primary competitive — watch it. Should the Guv win it, with his campaign
bucks, he waltz’s home in November; otherwise, it’s likely a fox-trot.
Money, again, seems to be the difference
for Lieutenant Governor. Dennis Mehiel, who was no one not so long ago,
seems to have purchased the right to the second slot with Carl McCall over
longtime public servant African American Charlie King. We met King four
years ago and were impressed with him then. However, Charlie is not
independently wealthy and doesn’t offer McCall the much-needed racial
balance, so the party regulars look to Mehiel to help fund their effort.
Ain’t democracy wonderful?
Queens boy Alan Hevesi has run another
lackluster campaign, but seems to be in a position to win the primary over
impressive but lesser known Bill Mulrow. Mulrow may have come upon the
electoral scene with some oomph, but not enough to overtake the
frontrunner. An experienced and polished Republican John Faso will test
Hevesi again in November. That will be the best race, then.
The moral of the story is not very
Our system grinds, it doesn’t jump —
except in extreme times. This is not one of those. Expect all incumbents
to return to office. Expect business as usual. Expect politics and money
to walk along hand-in-hand.
Also expect the good people of our City,
of our State and nation to keep reading and thinking. They’ll listen to
the candidates. They’ll study the issues. They’ll vote with their mind
and heart and not based on the endorsements of parties or politicians.
They’ll give the little guy (read: under-funded) a chance; they’ll
vote in term limits, if necessary. They’ll demand campaign finance
reform. It’ll take time. But there will be change.
You gotta start somewhere: read, think,
The Ins Are Always In
(an old poem, still true)
Incumbents are the guys in office,
Sometimes they’re the gals,
Usually they stick together,
They’re all political pals.
Here in Queens, New York City,
The incumbents always win,
They work so hard to insure,
That the “ins,” are always in.
Now of all the elected officials,
There are some to be respected,
Improving lives of constituents,
And making sure to get reelected.
It’s of little import what they do,
Their record is of little matter,
Raise the bucks, work the PACs,
Make campaign war chests fatter.
So incumbents are convinced,
Name recognition can’t be beat,
With the bucks and paid-for-mail,
It’s another term repeat.
And so we have it here in Queens,
With very little exception,
If an incumbent’s on the ballot,
They’re gonna win election.
This little ditty is to amuse,
And explain to you my writing,
The local elections that I cover,
Just aren’t too exciting.
So follow all the candidates,
And use some critical thought,
And cast your vote each election,
As if it can’t be bought.
Hold your breath, pull the lever,
In primary or general election,
And be a part of democracy,
With warts and severe infection.
by Dom Nunziato