Helping Out With Joe Crowley’s Dilemma
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I haven’t made the calls that the reporters have. I haven’t talked to Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley or his party brain trust Gerry, Mike or Frank. I haven’t even discussed who should replace Anthony Weiner with my friend U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman.
I’ve simply followed and read and watched, and thought and played the game that most insiders have been playing — who should Joe Crowley give the Democratic line to in the 9th Congressional District’s Sept 13 Special Election?
First, a complaint: The Governor, who has become my hero after demonstrating incredible leadership in managing the terrible New York State Legislature in his first year, after a series of unbelievable accomplishments, personally used his political capital (read goodwill) to orchestrate the passage of the Marriage Equality Act. But as Andrew Cuomo pulls legislative miracles out of his hat, we know that the game of politics is based on horse trading. What has our hero governor been trading?
Might I suggest that he has, in the case of the 9th Congressional District and six Assembly District elections. It appears that the Governor chose the party leaders over the people. He has called a Special Election for the Weiner seat and six Assembly seats in the State –two in Queens – and has timed it so as to avoid Primary Elections, thus giving party bosses almost single-handed control of who will go to Washington in the Weiner seat, or to Albany in the case of the Assembly elections.
The Dems have already ordained Phil Goldfeder to replace Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who has become County Clerk, and Mike Simanowitz, replacing his mentor Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, who conveniently retired at a time that would enable the elevation of Simanowitz without a primary. Good government this is not. The people do not get to select the candidates, the party bosses do. The Governor has shown deference to the party hierarchy and continues a long-lived dreadful practice in New York of allowing political bosses to elevate insiders of their choosing to elective office through back doors and smoked-filled rooms, denying the people their rightful participation in the election process.
Watch for another potential area of the Governor forsaking the good government move to play to the legislature. Redistricting should be done by an independent, non-partisan commission and not by the legislature, which draws lines to serve the parties and the incumbents. The Governor, during his campaign, clearly stated the need for independent redistricting. We agree. All good government groups agree.
We fear Cuomo’s position that an independent commission is required may have fallen victim to one of his legislative accomplishments. What did the Senate Republican Majority Leader get for allowing the vote and therefore passage of Marriage Equality?
As long as politics exists there will be horse-trading and compromise. We hope the Governor stands firm on those good government issues which will affect the state for the next decade (read redistricting). But we’re not betting on it.
So, who should Joe Crowley anoint as the next Congressman from the 9th District?
Crowley must keep many conflicting issues in mind. First, he is aware of the likelihood that one of the two New York seats which will be lost due to redistricting – especially if done by the legislature – and therefore must be concerned that he is not creating a new Congress member who will like the job so much and will turn around and challenge a Queens senior member – or worse, challenge Crowley himself. So Joe must set out to ensure his seat is safe and so is Gary Ackerman’s – the member most likely to pick-up the largest portion of a redistricted former Weiner seat.
Crowley must also find someone who can beat a strong Republican – Councilman Eric Ulrich could change his mind and run should the Dems put up a caretaker nobody. Crowley also has been seeking to rise in the ranks of the Democratic Congressional leadership, and therefore cannot afford an embarrassing pick.
So the term “caretaker” is the word of the day for the Democratic Leader and his support team – “competent caretaker.”
The person Crowley could trust the most, his cousin, relatively new Councilwoman Liz Crowley, is not ready for the big-time Congressional scene – color her out of the race.
The safest route is to designate someone who does not necessarily possess the ambition that might cause them to renege on a promise to go quietly if the seat is done away with.
Therefore, we suggest Crowley should remove from the list anyone who must give up a secure elective office to take the temporary Congressional gig – folks in office should be perceived as ambitious until retirement. Three oft-mentioned choices would be eliminated by this route. Both Mark and David Weprin just took their seats, and Rory Lancman is Queens’ hope for Assembly leadership now that Mark Weprin and Mike Gianaris have left the esteemed body.
Next we look at former electeds. Both former Councilmembers who ran citywide last time out – Eric Gioia and Melinda Katz – have been mentioned. Both are potential stars; both are more than competent; both may use the temporary seat to launch a citywide run in 2013. But both would likely be out of office via redistricting in 2012. They both can also be viewed as capable of fighting to stay in Congress no matter what was agreed to prior to designation. We believe that with strong Democrats in New York – Schumer, Cuomo, even Bill Clinton – Crowley has the ability to meet with strong potentials and extract promises in the presence of the State Dem heavyweights who make it clear that should the “caretaker” decide to challenge a senior member the party hierarchy would take to the streets against them. We also believe it would be easier for Crowley to avoid the potential problem and look for a truly safe, capable caretaker.
The first two such names that came to our mind were Claire Shulman and Peter Vallone Sr. The former’s age may be an impediment and we are told the latter is not interested. We think it would be a fitting tribute for the former Speaker to end his elective career serving in Congress. Joe, perhaps he can be convinced.
Now that we’ve eliminated just about all the serious Queens possibilities, we look to Brooklyn which makes up 30 percent of the Weiner District. And there, sitting and waiting – no… anxiously waiting – is former U.S. Rep. Liz Holtzman: an experienced, competent 70-year-old caretaker who wants the seat. She can do the job. She’s from the other borough and would be at a great disadvantage challenging a Queens incumbent. We hate to recommend Joe go out of borough, but it might be his simplest move.
We’re not sure we would opt for Holtzman if we stood in Crowley’s shoes; however, we think that Crowley is likely to make that move and have tried to explain it here.
She’s certainly not a bad choice; she’s just from the wrong borough.
A Major Step Toward Equal Rights For LGBT
By Henry J. Stern
Our last column reported that the Legislature had not reached a decision on the major issues before it: rent control, property tax cap and gay marriage. The Senate also voted to name sweet corn the state vegetable. It defeated the onion by 56-6, with six downstate Democrats dissenting.
Shortly thereafter, the dam burst and the bills involving money: extension of rent stabilization and a 2 percent cap on property tax increases were approved overwhelmingly. Gay marriage was considered in the late evening. In the rush to make the 11 p.m. news programs and get the bill signed by Governor Cuomo before midnight, many legislators were not allowed to make statements explaining their votes, which would have been their moment in the sun.
The enormous satisfaction the gay community has demonstrated in the last few days is based on the end of what they regarded as the final legal impediment imposed by New York State to full citizenship. They called the cause “Marriage Equality.” The bill was supported by many in the LGBT community who have no intentions or immediate prospects of marriage, but want the same rights that straight people take for granted.
I support marriage equality, in part because I know people who love each other and should be allowed to commit themselves, and assume the protections and the burdens of marriage. In principle, capacity to reproduce should not be a requirement for couples – many people choose not to have children or are unable to do so. With 300 million Americans and millions more seeking to enter this country, there is no risk of running out of people if gays are allowed to marry.
Finally, it is somewhat gratifying to see New York State resume its historic role as a place of legislative initiative on social issues. Credit goes to Governor Cuomo and the State legislative leadership in both parties. We hope that the success in securing marriage equality will lead to further accomplishments in Albany.
It can make an enormous difference, if our leaders work together and stay on track. They have shown the capacity to do so, now we look to them for performance.