Monday, June 25, 2012

Politics 2012: The Primary

Tomorrow is Federal primary election day in New York State.  In terms of administrative cost per ballot cast, it will be an expensive exercise.  The turnout rate among eligible voters will surely be low, and abstention in many cases makes sense.   It makes sense so many  decisions have already been made.  Formally speaking, Democrats and Republicans will be nominating candidates for United States Senator and for U.S. Representative from each of the State's 31 congressional district.
But in the majority of cases, the decision has already been made.  Thus, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is assured of the Democratic Senatorial nomination, because nobody has filed a challenge.  And in 14 of the 31 of the congressional  districts, there is an intra-party nomination contest only on the Democratic or the Republican side, but not both.
From the standpoint of GreeneLand Republican and Democratic voters, respectively, there is one intra-party contest to be decided at tomorrow's primary.   
           THE SENATE RACE 
Three Republicans are vying for the opportunity to try to oust Ms Gillibrand from the U.S. Senate.  Ms Gilliband has held the seat since January 2009, first by gubernatorial appointment (to replace Hillary Clinton, who resigned in order to become President Barak Obama’s secretary of state), then by special election in November 2010 (for the right to complete the Clinton term).  Now she is uncontested for the Democratic nomination and the Working Families Party and Independence Party nominations, to win a full six-year term.  She has amassed a big war chest, has not been obliged to spend any of it in primary election contests, shines in opinion polls, and is running in a strongly Democratic territory.
    Vying for the right to be Senator Gillibrand's Republican challenger are, in alphabetical order, Wendy Long, George Maragos and Bob Turner.  For information about those candidates, see biographical information on Wikipedia.  For the way they choose to present themselves (and each other, and the meaning of the 2012 election), see their campaign websites: , and
All three candidates profess to be “conservative” and all eschew the labels “moderate” and “centrist” (among others).   They differ, however, in what they designate as priorities.  Mr Maragos and Mr Turner give primary attention, initially, to jobs and economic recovery.  That orientation (as distinct from ObamaCare, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, abortion, socialism, left-wing radicalism, getting our country back, saving our national soul) seems to be the basis for distinguishing candidates who are moderates conservative from candidates who are “conservative.” 
Mr Maragos (accent on first syllable) is comptroller of Nassau County, serving a second term after upsetting an incumbent.  He offers the special attraction of being an immigrant.  He was born in Greece, went to Canada with his family, graduated from McGill University, and launched a career in business management and finance that brought him and his family permanently to America. 
Mr Turner is completing his first term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  After a rather illustrious career in advertising and television programming, he won that office by way of a special election in a preponderantly Democratic district in Queens.  His previous career was in television programming and advertising.  He is subject to suspicion of being a closeted moderate.   One piece of evidence: refusal to join most Republican House members in signing the notorious Grover Norquist pledge to actively oppose, in all circumstances, any and all tax increases. 
Ms Long qualifies to be ranked as the most “conservative” contender for the Republican nomination.  She is the endorsed Conservative Party candidate (and thus will appear on the ballot even if she does not get the Republican nomination).  She is endorsed by putatively conservative icons Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, John Bolton, Norquist and Steve Forbes.  She opines (on National Review Online) that the impending national election imposes a choice “between two radically different paths.  The solvency of the federal government, the future of free enterprise, the security of our people and the very character of out nation are all in the balance….”  Her interest in winning public office can be viewed as a natural concomitant of her work as a lawyer, as a judges’ law clerk, and then as founder of a pressure group, the Judicial Confirmation Network (later the Judicial Crisis Network) that is devoted to ensuring that authentic “conservatives” get appointed to high judicial office.  Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas, she declares, is one of America’s “greatest living judges.”
From the standpoint of entertainment, a general election battle between Ms Long and Senator Gillibrand might offer the liveliest spectacle best value.  Those two candidates share not only a gender, but also a similar background: both are lawyers with strong accomplishments, both are poised and articulate speakers, and both graduated from Dartmouth College (in 1982 for Stone, 1988 for Gillibrand).
From the competitive Democratic standpoint, the ideal result of Tuesday’s primary on the Republican side probably would be the nomination of Mr Maragos or Mr Turner.
Ms Long would still appear on the general election ballot, as the Conservative standard –bearer.  That arrangement would split the ranks of anti-Democratic, anti-“liberal” voters. 
               THE HOUSE RACE
For GreeneLand Democrats, Tuesday’s primary offers a choice between two contestants for the right to be the party’s nominee for election to the U.S. House of Representatives:  Julian Schreibman of Ulster County and Joel Tyner of Dutchess County.  The winner of that contest will be pitted in November against Christopher Gibson, the Republican (and Independence Party) nominee (via the absence of an intra-party challenge) who is the quasi-incumbent.   Representative Gibson presently holds the seat that is identified as the State’s 20th congressional district.  He won that seat in November 2010, unseating the one-term Democratic incumbent, Scott Murphy,who had succeeded the one-term representative, Kirsten Gillibrand, who had wrested the seat from a previously entrenched Republican).  After the 2010 election, however, the boundaries of all congressional districts in New York were redrawn (by the State Assembly, in keeping with legal requirement).  Greene County had been part of the 20th district.  Now it is part of the 19th
Participation by Democrats in Tuesday’s 19th district primary election makes sense, as a practical matter, if the choice between prospective challengers to Mr Gibson is competitively consequential.  The choice is consequential if the seat can be deemed winnable, and if one would-be nominee stands a better chance of winning.
On the former question, the most solid basis for a positive estimate is the fact that the new 19th district contains a bigger proportion of Democrats than the old 20th district.  Encompassing the new district are six counties and portions of three other counties. One of those counties--not part of the old 20th district--is Ulster.  Democrats there out-number Republicans, and independents have joined them in giving strong support to long-serving Democratic Representative Maurice Hinchey (who is retiring).  In the old 20th district, registered Republicans out-numbered Democrats by a margin of 50,033.  In the new 19th district, thanks largely to the inclusion of Ulster County, the Republican numerical edge is only 5634 (153,492 to 147,858).  Meanwhile, as reported by the State’s Board of Elections, 26,591 residents of the 19th district are registered as Independence Party adherents, 11,330 as Conservatives, 2308 as Working Families Party members, 1670 as Greens, and 121,380 (!) as un-partisans.
Those enrollment figures provided one of two considerations prompting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington to add New York’s 19th district to its roster of Republican-held seats that could be rated plausibly as prospects, with appropriate infusion of resources, for Democratic takeover. The other consideration that prompted that “Red to Blue” judgment was the availability of a seemingly viable candidate: Julian Schreibman.  
On the matter of viability, Mr Schreibman presented to the DCCC, and later to the public, evidence of strong local support (financial and otherwise), of past involvement in Democratic campaigns, and of an attractive personal history. 
As recounted in news stories and in his campaign web site (,
Mr Schreibman, 39, is the son of a couple who ran a small Kingston business,   He was first in his family to go to college, thanks to loans and part-time work.  His college, and his subsequent law school, was Yale.  His professional career includes stints as a Federal Government lawyer (for the Central Intelligence Agency), as Special Assistant to the district attorney of Ulster County, and as partner in a private law firm. Politically, he has been active in Democratic campaigns and won election as chairman of Ulster County’s Democratic committee.
By way of contrast, Mr Tyner, 42, says nothing on his web site ( )
about family origins.  He lives with his mother.  He graduated from Rhinecliffe High School and then from SUNY New Paltz.  He works intermittently as a substitute teacher.  Politically, he has won four terms as a Dutchess County legislator from a Republican-leaning district.  That electoral record is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that Mr Tyner presents himself as a staunch “progressive.”  His roadside signs proclaim allegiance to the so-called Occupy movement (“We are the 99%”), as well as giving special prominence to condemning hydrofracking.   His activities, however, have not attracted strong support from fellow Dutchess co-partisans.  The county’s Democratic committee has endorsed Mr Schreibman.  So have the party organizations in Greene, Columbia, Sullivan, Rensselaer and Ulster counties, along with numerous other organizations and noteworthy individuals, including the revered Representative Hinchey.
Mr Schreibman’s success in picking up endorsements around the 19th district stems in no small measure from showing up.  By way of contrast, again, Mr Tyner has  made few appearances away from home. There have been no campaign mailings from Mr Tyner to 19th district Democrats.  From Mr Schreibman there have been five.  Some of them dwell on what he promises to do, or to better than the Republican incumbent, namely,
       *Protect Medicare and Social Security
       *Help small businesses and family farms.
       *Invest in infrastructure and rural broadband
       *Work to protect our air and water
       * Stand up to the Republican extremists who are slashing funding for women’s health.
       *Fight to end the giveaways to Big Oil and to make our tax laws more fair so that millionaires pay their fair share.
This disparity in campaign activity can be ascribed partly to the disparity in resources. Mr Tyner’s campaign visibility has consisted largely of those roadside “We are the 99%” signs.  His camp also put out an anonymous automated opinion survey, asking respondents whether they prefer a “legislator and progressive activist” over a “C.I.A. lawyer and party boss.”  And folk singer Pete Seeger recorded an endorsement.  Then there was last week’s colloquy in New Paltz between the candidates—their only direct encounter.  According to Press reports, differences in policy stands did not come to the fore, but the two speakers differed in “tone.”  Mr Tyner made “sharp attacks” on Mr Schreibman and on the moderator.  This contributed to the warmer applause bestowed on Mr Schreibman. It also prompted Mr Tyner’s treasurer, next day, to quit his campaign, and to do so in a dramatic way.  In statements to the Press, Mischa Fredericks accused Mr Tyner of failing persistently to record outlays properly.  And she finally took that step, she said, because of Mr Tyner’s “atrocious,” “horrendous” conduct during the New Paltz encounter.  To that blast Mr Tyner responded that Ms Fredericks must be an enemy “plant.”  He also accused her of sexual harassment.
P.S.  Contrary to rumor, the two candidates do not disagree on "fracking."  Both are opposed.  Mr Schreibman voiced his opposition clearly at the New Paltz encounter and at a recent Catskill gathering.  In his words, "bad for the environment; bad for the economy." 


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