Primary Season: Is Something Brewing?
It's the summer and the political primary season has therefore begun. In even numbered years, Congress, State Senate, Assembly and party District Leaders are on the Primary Ballot in September and then the General Election Ballot in November.
This biennial ritual usually produces yawns in Queens except when someone vacates a seat due to death. We don't usually expect to see incumbents lose. Publically funded mailings, fundraising advantage, name recognition and party law machines, keep the ins, in.
However, this year's buzz and petitioning seems to indicate significant activity foretelling an active primary season. We'll leave most District Leader races for the blogs or until their entire picture is clear. Here we briefly look at what appears to be some of the potential races with political impact.
Monserrate V. Sabini
What was heralded as the best Queens race to watch, is no longer. State Senator John Sabini, who had lost the Queens Democratic Organizations support to Councilman Hiram Monserrate promised to take it to the people.
But political camaraderie and Mayor Bloomberg's plan to close down NYC's OTB parlors has ended the race and handed Sabini a new job. Gov. David Paterson announced a deal under which the State's new Empire State Off-Track Betting Corporation would take over the City's unprofitable Off Track Betting operation, preserve 1,500 jobs and said he would name Sabini, his former Senate colleague, as chairman of that board. While negotiations with the City may remain, and we have been deprived an interesting race, we wish Sabini an exciting ride and anticipate the State Senate being a bit more exciting with the addition of Hiram Monserrate's renegade style.
Meng v. Young
The best primary in town will likely be fought in Flushing where Assemblywoman Ellen Young faces a well financed challenge from activist attorney Grace Meng, daughter of former Councilman Jimmy Meng. While Young has two years in office, support of the Dem organization and Councilman John Liu, Meng is a grass roots activist and part of the Flushing community which brought her father victory over the Dem organization's candidate four years ago. While the incumbent has to be considered the frontrunner, if this was a horserace, we'd expect a photo finish.
Addabbo v. Baldeo
In the season's most watched primary, Councilman Joe Adabbo Jr. takes on Albert Baldeo for the right to challenge Sate Senator Serf Maltese. In their quest to recapture the State Senate, the State Senate Dems, led by South Queens' Malcolm Smith have made this their number one target seat backing Addabbo. However, Baldeo who came within a couple of hundred votes of Maltese, two years ago, was according to sources, very demanding if he were to be coaxed out of the race. So as of this writing, Baldeo has hired petition carriers, attempting to mobilize the immigrant community, he has taken aim on Addabbo. Looking to conserve his financial resources to spend against Maltese, Addabbo and the Senate Dems need to watch this one carefully, or this seat may not wind up in the Dem caucus. Joe Bruno will be funding Serf.
Southeast Queens seems to be a hot-bed of activity. Hip-Hop and community activist Erica Ford is challenging Queens Dems Vice-chair Dora Young for District Leader. Juanita Watkins will be stepping down as one of the borough senior Dem district leaders in what may be viewed as a beginning of the changing of the guard.
Assemblywoman Michele Titus will receive a challenge from Donovan Richards, chief of staff to Councilman James Sanders. Richards, one of the few Obama supports in Hillary New York's country dreams of seeing the Obama network come to his aide. Even the weakest incumbents don't go easily but we'll keep our eye on this one where the incumbent is likely to be outworked.
And Congressional powerhouse Greg Meeks is the target of Reuben Wills. Willls first appeared as the director of the Christian Basketball League, joined Guy Brewer Dem Club and ran Shirley Huntley's upset campaign against Ada Smith. Attempting to ride the Obama wave, Wills will attempt to capitalize on Meeks' support of Hillary Clinton. It'll take a lot more than that to make this a race.
This summer may be a bit more interesting (politically) than most. Don't expect surprises, but there certainly is something brewing and we sure could use some fresh air.
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Women’s Hospital Breaks Ground
Citi Field To Be Year-Round Attraction
Stolen Torahs Recovered By Police
Meng Beats Young in Primary for Flushing Seat
Term-Limits Reversal Is Lukewarm
Attract Little Attention But May Be Costly
HENRY J. STERN
Recently, the news has been devoted to fresh assaults on the public treasury.
Last Thursday, the papers reported that the New York Yankees want an additional $350 million in tax-free bonds to finish Yankee Stadium; the Hunts Point food market wants the City to pay hundreds of millions to expand the market, and threatens to move outside the city if their request is not granted; a judge of the State Supreme Court ordered a pay increase for himself and his colleagues despite the fact that the State Constitution specifically provides that the legislature has authority over judicial salaries.
Also a current issue is the brownfields program approved in Albany which grants subsidies and tax credits to developers of luxury condos and office towers in Westchester and Manhattan. Another bill in Albany threatens charter schools by requiring them to pay higher wages on construction projects, while they receive 30 per cent less per student in public funding.
Readers are invited to submit further examples of legislation or agency rulings which fall under this rubric. We produced our list after a brief perusal of one day's newspapers. We are certain that there are many more examples of actions, proposed and implemented, which increase the wealth of one corporation, or one sector of the economy. Since the state budget is usually a zero-sum game, riches for one party are likely to come at the expense of the less fortunate, or less well connected, whether competitors or the general public.
Increasingly, the issues which come before legislatures are less about public policy (capital punishment, abortion, gay marriage) and more about which group will receive what subsidies at whose expense. It can be described as money-grubbing by people and businesses who seek favored treatment by state and city government, or who seek to safeguard their interests from others whose favored treatment may have a negative impact on their balance sheets. Of course, all the parties believe they are only seeking their just desserts, or protecting themselves from predators.
Many business or labor interests believe that after contributing for years on a regular basis to legislators' campaigns, they are entitled to favored treatment on matters affecting their interests. Some legislators take the same view, seeing it as less than honorable to take money from people and then deny them what they want. They have been purchased, or at least rented, and are anxious to deliver value. Using a reverse prism, they are more comfortable staying bought than voting on an issue on the merits.
Businesses and individuals hire lobbyists, not only to persuade the State Legislature to enrich them, but to defend themselves against bills that would enrich their competitors, or place a new burden upon them. Lobbyists are hired for both offensive and defensive purposes, and some are quite expensive. When dealing with matters of this sort, with motives so clearly financial, it can be difficult to find threads of principle in what is a commercial transaction. There can easily be a rationale for both sides of the argument, and it comes down to a power struggle. The situation is encountered in the distribution of pork, or members' items. where it should remembered that one man's pork is another man's bacon, and people are elected in part on their ability to bring home the bacon.
How much senators, assemblymembers and councilmembers receive in terms of favored treatment depends on the power and influence of the legislator who is seeking funds for a project, which may or not be useful or economical (remember the bridge to nowhere in Alaska), although that is often not the prime consideration in whether a project advances. The local legislator's clout depends on whether he is in the majority or minority party, his seniority in the body, and particularly his relationship with the speaker or the majority leader, be they alpha males or alpha females.
In order to burnish that relationship with the head of the house, the local senator or assemblymember must comply with the leader's wishes with regard to voting on specific issues in which the leader may have an interest. This enhances the power of the leader and adds to his reputation as the dominant member of his legislative body. In politics as in life, what is reported and believed often becomes what is true.
We know the cautionary words: Don't accept cigarettes in prison. However, when the proffered enticements are not merely smokes, but important projects which will benefit your constituents, it is harder to refuse. The consideration for this transaction can be your vote: payable on demand. It could be worse.
We learned the mantra in our nine years on the City Council, (1974-83), where the watch-words for receiving beneficences, be they chairmanships, lulus, appointments, contracts, member items or the passage of legislation were "seniority, geography and loyalty." In many portions of both the public and private sectors, the noblest of these three qualities is loyalty.
Judgments on public issues involving millions of dollars should not be made on the basis of political convenience or obligations to contributors. Many fine reformers concern themselves primarily with procedural improvements, which are important.
As older and possibly more cynical reformers, we cite: "Follow the money."
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato