Chess Game Known As Queens Politics
Let me begin with a disclaimer: this column is all conjecture. There is nothing in the sequences proposed here that has been researched, verified or even asked of the principals in the scenario described. However, we believe that the political process presented below is the stuff borough politics is made of.
We have created a scenario - a sequence of political chess moves - which we think typifies the process as played by the borough powerbrokers, insiders, pundits and political junkies.
We share it, not to judge the process, but to provide our readers with insight which may help them understand local political clubs, elected officials, the political party and mostly the political process.
And with the final disclaimer that many of the characters in this political story are friends and all are basically good people, let's play "Political What If."
Queens Democratic County Leader Congressman Joe Crowley is the new party boss in Queens. The party is at peace and Joe is popular and unchallenged. He remains so as long as his elected officials remain elected and he has a small handful of jobs and judgeships to share with the stronger District Leaders who keep him atop the party.
Crowley, like all other elected officials, place their own reelection on top of their wish list, which they want to be easy.
Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate has been a Latino Democratic powerhouse in Queens who is often at odds with the regular Democratic organization. He has, on more than one occasion, begun to organized a challenge for Crowley's Congressional seat, believing he could be competitive in both Crowley's Queens District, which includes much of his Council District and many Latinos, but also in the larger part of Crowley's district in the Bronx which has a large Latino voting block.
Now with the advantage of incumbency, fund raising and district-wide name recognition, no one would predict a Monserrate upset. However, it could be a bloody and unpleasant fight for the popular Queens County Leader. Something he obviously would rather avoid. Now there is no present talk of a Monserrate challenge to Crowley this year, but if Crowley can help find a place for the '09 term-limited Councilman, he would likely score enough political points so as to assure Monserrate's support in his reelection campaigns. Hopefully such a peace would last until the next reapportionment where Crowley, using his County Leader's hat, could have lines drawn more to his liking and solidify his district against an ethnic challenge. Also, taking care of a renegade Dem and bringing him into the party fold, is what County Leaders do when they can't beat back the renegade.
Two years ago, Monserrate challenged State Senator John Sabini and came only a handful of votes (242) from beating him. This year, Monserrate is organizing another challenge against Sabini who has been weakened by an Albany DWI conviction.
Now if Crowley and the guys who run the Queens Democratic Party - Jerry Sweeney, Mike Reich and Frank Bolz - can find a place for longtime Dem Sabini - who served as County Leader for six months between Donald Manes and Tom Manton - allowing Monserrate to be their choice and thus an easy win for State Senate, Monserrate would help Crowley with the Latinos and perhaps be a more loyal party member.
Sabini, who certainly must be very, very concerned about a Monserrate challenge would likely welcome an alternative elected office if offered. Sabini was term limited out of the Council in 2001 but is eligible to return. But alas, the seat won't be vacated until a year after Sabini's State Senate reelection unless incumbent Helen Sears resigns.
Sears, who is term limited in 2009 has talked about a borough president run, most likely to encourage the party bosses to find her a good position. In Queens, such plums could be Deputy Borough President or head of Community Boards, both jobs are appointed by the Borough President and both jobs are presently held by former Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.
Now Koslowitz, who is planning to run for her old council seat, which will be vacated by Melinda Katz, term limited at the end of 2009 - was like Sabini term limited out of that seat in 2001. In order to raise money for her race, for which she expects the support of the party, city rules will require Koslowitz to resign and leave her Deputy Borough Presidency vacanct.
Should Koslowitz resign before the Senate petition process, would Helen Sears resign from the Council and be appointed to replace Koslowitz (either as Deputy Beep or as Head of Planning Boards) with the expectation of keeping the job should the Dem County candidate win the Borough Presidency)?
That would enable Sabini to run for and fill the Council vacancy in a Special Election and rerun in 2009 as an incumbent, thus leaving the Senate seat sitting there for Monserrate's taking.
Now the Deputy Borough Presidency is tossed around as the plum to get a candidate out of the Borough President race. But history does show the job can be split into two. There is the Deputy Beep and the Head of Community Boards - either of which could pay a salary to attract a soon-to-be out of work councilmember.
In summary, what if:
The Party bosses convince Karen Koslowitz to resign by the summer to fundraise and organize for her 2009 council race for which they would support her; Helen Sears resigns from the Council to fill the Koslowitz vacancy by appointment; John Sabini runs for the Sears vacated council seat; Hiram Monserrate runs for the vacant Sabini State Senate seat and peace prevails throughout central Queens and the Democratic Party Leaders have kept all insiders happy.
Some truth as to how the game is played?
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How He Could Recover
HENRY J. STERN
As our readers know, we have probably given more space to New York's new governor, Eliot Spitzer, and his travails than any other subject. State government is an often overlooked leg of the federal-state-city triangle of sovereignties. Nonetheless, a lot of power resides in the state capitol in Albany. For one thing, this country is the United STATES of America. For another, cities, even a great one like ours, are creatures of the state and subject to its direction. If it cared to, the legislature could repeal any city law or promulgate any new one.
We would probably have been better off if the state had kept its capital city in Kingston, which was the seat of state government from 1777 to 1797, when the governor and legislature moved 56 miles up the Hudson to Albany. It certainly would have been more convenient for New York City residents, shaving about an hour off their travel time.
In Albany, on January 1, 2007, a new Democratic governor was sworn in after 12 years under Republican Governor George Pataki. Elected by a large majority on a promise of reform, the slogan at the time was "Day One: Everything Changes." We kept count of the days, and unfortunately, most of the change was for the worse.
Last week, Day 422, however, was a very good day for Governor Spitzer. The Democrats capture a vacant upstate state senate seat in a special election and are now just one short of a tie in the Senate, which would be broken by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson. The Republican advantage is now 32-30. Similarly, the Democrats control the United States Senate by a single vote (that of Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut). If he switched, the result would be a tie, to be broken by Vice President Cheney, and you can imagine how he would vote.
The Democrats have a comfortable majority in the House of Representative, but their hold on the Senate is precarious, as was shown when Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) suffered a serious stroke on December 13, 2006. If he were to pass away, his seat would be filled by an appointee of South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican. Senator Johnson fortunately, made a substantial recovery, and nine months later resumed his seat. He said he would run for re-election in 2008, but some think he may not.
Another Senate vacancy almost materialized when Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) promised to resign after an unfortunate encounter with an undercover police officer sitting in wait in an adjoining stall at the airport men's room in Minneapolis. However, the Senator gave more thought to the matter and decided he would remain in office to continue to serve his constituents. His Republican colleagues had demanded that he resign. The question occurred to us as to whether they would have exhibited the same fervor if the Idaho Governor who would appoint Craig's successor had been a Democrat.
Back to the Governor, last week at the New School, a five-member panel discussed the question of whether he could recover in his second year (2008) from what is generally regarded as an unsuccessful first year, during which his popularity declined sharply, his administration endured Trooper-gate, his Director of State Operations was ousted, he was at war with Senate leader Bruno, and his relations with Speaker Silver were amicable as long as Spitzer deferred to his senior (15 years by birth, 22 years by arrival in Albany).
We attended the panel discussion at the New School called "In Like a Lion." The panelists said some fascinating things. It is remarkable when people who are really knowledgeable as to what is going on are brought together and share their insights with a group of students and public policy buffs. We learned things this morning that we had not known before.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato