Friday, October 22, 2010

Come November

In the early days of 2010, it seemed likely that for New Yorkers generally, and for Greenelanders particularly, the elections to be held on November 2 would be unusually interesting. Although there would be no contest for President of the United States, there would be incumbent-less battles for Governor and Attorney General. There would be contests for not one but two United States Senate seats. The State Comptroller, freshly in office by way of appointment in the wake of a scandal affecting his predecessor, might be an unusually vulnerable incumbent. In various parts of the State, newly-elected Democratic members of the Congress looked vulnerable. And in GreeneLand, special interest could be aroused by the fact that important offices--County Treasurer and County Judge--would be subject to election without the presence of an incumbent.

Subsequent events changed the situation. Incentives to participation dwindled. Nominating struggles on the Republican side produced candidates for Governor, for Attorney General, and for U.S. Senator who are extraordinarily weak, to the point of being repugnant. It now seems likely that voting in New York State on November 2 (and before, by absentee ballot) will be extraordinarily light, even for an non-presidential ‘off’ year. Especially disposed to abstain from voting in many districts will be Republicans who, as political moderates, recoil from “conservatives” travelling under the “tea party” banner.

In GreeneLand, moreover, voter turnout on November 2 may be kept down by a dearth of contests, as well as by the character of the active contests. State Senator James Seward and State Assemblyman Pete Lopez are unopposed for re-election. Assemblyman Tim Gordon, who represents the northernmost corner of Greeneland along with other counties or portions thereof, does have a challenger (Steve McLaughlin, Republican/Conservative) but is heavily favored. As for those incumbent-less county offices, local nominating processes yielded a different kind of deterrent to participation: rival candidates who are well credentialed, making the choice between them seem to be less than momentous.

The prospect of low turnout in New York (and of consequent survival in marginal districts for imperiled Democratic Congressmen), marks a contrast with prospects elsewhere in the country. In the 50 States, 26 governorships are held by Democrats and 24 by Republicans. In 37 States, gubernatorial elections will take place on November 2. In 19 of those States, the seat is held by a Democrat. Fierce contests in most of those cases make it likely that Republicans will add at least six governorships to their total. Meanwhile, in the United States Senate, Democrats and their allies currently hold 59 of the 100 seats; 36 seats are subject to election on November 2; and pundits foresee pro-Republican swings in five seats or more. Moreover, in the House of Representatives, the current Democratic majority (258 seats vs. 177) will shrink, in the wake of lively contests in many districts, perhaps to the point of eradication.


A mid-October sample survey by Siena Research Institute canvassers indicates that the Democratic (and Independence and Working Families) candidate, Andrew Cuomo, leads his Republican (and Conservative and Taxpayers) rival, Carl Paladino, by 37 points. Mr Cuomo also may manage to edge nominees of the Green, the Rent Is Too Damn High, the Libertarian, the Freedom, and the Anti-Prohibition (especially with regard to prostitution) parties.


According to putative pundit Alan Chartock (newspaper column, 10/17/20), the race between State Senator Eric Schneiderman (Democrat/Independence/Working Families; “professed liberal”) and Dan Donovan (Republican/Conservative; district attorney of Staten Island), along with two minor party candidates, is “as close as can be”; it’s “a dead heat.”

Baloney. The latest Siena poll gives Schneiderman a comfortable lead: 44 to 37.

Undecided voters can learn plenty about the two candidates from their web sites, and They will find in the former site a 59-page reform “agenda.” No equivalent is contained in the latter site (although its “Issues” section alludes to some measures as well as to goals).

A New York Times editorial recommending the election of Mr Schneiderman calls Mr Donovan "a decent man who seems ready to restore the job to the sleepy backwater it was a dozen years ago."

Three local informants who do political work in Albany (and are Democrats) tell Seeing Greene that Senator Schneiderman is exceptionally smart, knowledgeable, conscientious, and (at some cost in the way of cordial relations with colleagues) reform-minded.


Thomas DiNapoli, the incumbent (by gubernatorial appointment in the wake of scandal that drove Alan Hevesi from office) leads the Republican challenger, Harry Wilson, by a margin (again, according to the Siena survey) of around 49 to 32.

That apparent margin points to an outcome that can be regarded plausibly, and in a non-partisan frame of mind, as regrettable.

The editorial board of The New York Times, while generally favoring candidates who belong to the Democratic Party, has endorsed Mr Wilson. So, in a novel show of consensus, have the editorial boards of The New York Daily News and The New York Post. In the words of the Times editorial (10/17), Mr DiNapoli Hevesi, formerly a State legislator, “started with little experience or knowledge of finance” and “has been a worthy caretaker.” But Mr Wilson “knows finance and is not beholden to the Democrats in control in Albany.” He went from Harvard Business School to Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Group and Silver Point Capital, and then “helped to turn around General Motors last year.” “It is rare for someone of Mr. Wilson’s talents and expertise to compete for one of the most important and least glamorous jobs in state politics.” Mr. Wilson “promises to strengthen ethics rules, make better audits of state agencies and drastically reduce the $350 million a year in investment fees paid for the state’s pension fund.” His “investment and management skills” are “needed for New York’s financial and ethical blight.”


Quick quiz: who is running against Charles Schumer for U.S. Senator?

Well, actually, formally, there are three challengers. They include Colia Clark (Green Party) and Randy Credico (Libertarian Party; Anti-Prohibition Party) as well as Jay Townsend, who is the Republican and Conservative nominee. Mr Townsend trails the incumbent by around 30 percentage points.

This huge margin has enabled Senator Schumer to divert millions of dollars in his campaign treasury to embattled colleagues in other States. That in turn will increase his leverage in the upper chamber.


Quick quiz again: Who is running against Kirsten Gillibrand for U.S. Senator?

Actually, there are several candidates: Cecile A. Lawrence (Green Party), Joseph Huff (Rent is Too Damn High), John Clifton (Libertarian), Vivia Morgan (Anti-Prohibition) and Bruce Blakeman (Tax Revolt Party), plus Joseph DioGuardi, former U.S. Representative (from Westchester County), who is sailing under the Conservative and Republicans flags (listed in that order on his web site, . According to various opinion surveys, Senator Gillibrand ( leads the pack by 11 percentage points or more.

That apparently comfortable lead could be regarded as surprising, given the fact that while Senator Gillibrand is the incumbent, she has not been on the senatorial ballot before. She holds her seat in consequence of a gubernatorial appointment entitling her to complete the term for which Hillary Clinton was elected before accepting appointment in 2009 as Secretary of State. Her appointment, moreover, evoked heartburnings from some Democrats (especially down-staters of the “progressive” stripe; plus Professor Chartock). In the matter of keeping contact with constituents—making appearances, communicating, listening, up and down and around the State—Senator Gillibrand has been a model of diligence. According to a lengthy profile in the November issue of Vogue magazine (“In Hillary’s Footsteps”; in addition to being slender now, she is “folksy and earnest”; and she “radiates kindness.”





To be continued.

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