The Very Long Primary Season & Races Worth Following
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
This year will go down in New York political history.
There are 3 scheduled Primary elections and a November General election.
The first Primary – a Presidential Primary – was held on April 24. It came and went with little note since the Presidential candidates from each party was pretty much a done deal.
The next Primary is for Federal office – Senate and Congress – and will be held June 26. The date was set by the courts to insure that absentee ballot turn-around for our overseas troops would allow sufficient time between for their absentee participation in the General Election. As we explained last week, the 6th C.D. is the Queens race worth watching in that one. Grace Meng, Rory Lancman, Liz Crowley and Robert Mittman square off for the vacant seat running across Queens from Hollis Hills through Flushing to Maspeth.
Then, on Sept. 11 – yes, it’s 9-11 again – the “regular” Primary for State Senate, Assembly and Party positions will be held.
This column will take a quick look at which of those races are shaping up to be fun for politicos to watch.
But first, a word from our sponsor . . .
New York State can spend between 45 and 50 million dollars on each of the Primary Elections. Lookout if there is a close one tied up in curt and/or requiring a recount. The still undecided Special Election for Carl Kruger’s seat held in Brooklyn last month has passed the million dollar cost mark for only a single election in just one of the State’s 63 Senate Districts. Yes, the price of democracy is indeed high.
Back to our program . . .
For the September 11 primary, in the State Senate, there are 2 Democratic races worth watching:
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. plans to challenge incumbent Senator Shirley Huntley in her new District, which includes the Rockaways. While there may be an age disparity, Huntley, a senior citizen, has been known to out-campaign much younger opponents. Both candidates will need to demonstrate they can raise the necessary funds.
In the northeastern part of the borough, incumbent Toby Stavisky, who has been redistricted out of the 16th Senatorial District but plans to run there, faces a fierce challenge from businessman/attorney John Messer. Messer, who challenged Stavisky 2 years ago, has committed $500,000 in personal funds and intends to raise more in this new district which has been drawn in his favor. Stavisky, with her son’s political consulting firm, can expect to be put to the test since the district has the largest Asian population of any in the State. Messer’s wife is Chinese and Stavisky has not previously performed well or established strong relationships in the Asian parts of her district. This could be the one to watch.
In the most interesting free-for-all around, look for a very large field of Asian candidates to petition to replace Grace Meng – who is the frontrunner in the 6th Congressional District race — in the Assembly. We’ll need a little time to track down all the candidates for this one.
Also in the race for the 6th C.D. is Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who has told this writer that even if he loses, he has no intention of returning to the Assembly. Perennial candidate Community Board 11’s Jerry Iannece has already declared his intention. Rumors have former State Senate candidate and Lotto millionaire Isaac Sassoon as a potential candidate, as well as Austin Shafran, the Vice Chair of New York State’s Economic Development Coerporation and a skilled political operative in his own right. Shafran, a lifelong resident of the area has a family network and presumably has built a fundraising network which would immediately make him competitive in this one.
There is still time for these potential races to take interesting turns and have surprise candidates jump in.
When all of this is done, we’ll have in the Genreal Election, Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich giving incumbent State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. a run for his life, a Rudy Giuliani challenging incumbent State Senator Tony Avella and GOP’s Dan Halloran looking to do his magic in the 6th Congressional.
Lies, Damn Lies .. and Polls
By TOM ALLON
When I was a teenager I was struck by this wisecrack: there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies ... and statistics.
Let’s extrapolate that and just insert the word “polls” instead of “statistics.”
There is no more misleading thing in politics today than polls, particularly those that are conducted more than three months before a primary or general election.
Why? Because we have seen what happens to the frontrunner again and again.
In the recent GOP presidential primary, Rick Perry was thought to be an early favorite until he actually went on television and had a hard time recalling the names of three agencies he would abolish in government.
Remember Herman Cain? The polls at one point showed him as the favorite for the GOP nomination, until he sank faster than a lead balloon.
New York City mayoral history is littered with early front runners who stumbled and fell on their way to the finish line.
In 2001, the reasonably well-known Speaker of the City Council, Peter Vallone Sr., was an early favorite in the race for Mayor.
In the September Primary, Vallone wound up finishing third, behind Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green.
In 2005, Council Speaker Gifford Miller was the leader in fundraising and looked to be the strongest challenger to former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer. Miller’s run floundered and he was overtaken by a scrappy Congressman from Brooklyn, Anthony Weiner, who eventually lost to Ferrer.
Miller, the Council Speaker, suffered an even worse fate than his predecessor, Vallone, finishing last in the primary with just ten percent of the vote.
Now the early polls for 2013 are out (16 months before the primary!) and another Council Speaker with lots of campaign dough and high name recognition leads the pack. Christine Quinn polled recently at 32 percent (in a field of six where I polled last).
Will Quinn fall prey to the recent curse of the Council Speakers of the last 12 years? Will the reign of Manhattan-based Mayors continue for the 35th consecutive year (thus making Bill DeBlasio a longshot)?
Right now, it is much too early to even begin to speculate on this. The city and country will be focused on the presidential election for the next six months while the prospective 2013 Mayoral candidates jockey for campaign cash and endorsements.
Then comes the holiday season. It won’t be until early 2013 before this city begins to listen to the ideas, vision and experience of the Mayoral candidates. There will be twists and turns in the electoral road; mud will be slung and gotcha moments exposed by the hungry New York press corps.
There will hopefully be many debates where the candidates can differentiate themselves and explain their vision for making New York a more prosperous and livable place for all.
But don’t be fooled by the early polls and their ability to predict who will win.
I know polling quite well. I worked in the NBC polling unit many years ago and learned firsthand about their fallibility. I also learned then and later as a journalist that polls are merely a snapshot in time. Even exit polls on election day can be suspect (Just ask “President Dewey.”)
The only “poll” that matters in New York City will be the one taken on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2013 — more than 18 months from now.
Eighteen months is a lifetime in politics.
Eighteen months ago, the heavy favorite to be the next Mayor was Anthony Weiner.
You could look it up.
Just check out the polls.
Tom Allon is a Liberal and Democratic candidate for Mayor in 2013. His first part-time job in high school, in 1979, was in the polling unit of NBC News.