This Tuesday (September 12) is the primary election in Mah Rabu's state of New York, so here are our long-awaited endorsements.
Eliot Spitzer is going to breeze through both the primary and the general. There's not going to be any suspense; he's been crowned for over a year. But I'm going to endorse him anyway. As state attorney general, Spitzer has cracked down on corporate crime effectively.
He's certainly not perfect. None of the candidates is ideal on the school funding issue. But Spitzer is willing to go the farthest towards providing adequate funding for our schools. And any Democratic governor will be such a breath of fresh air after 12 years of Pataki that any of these complaints pale in comparison.
Both candidates support nonpartisan redistricting for the state legislature. This gets a big thumbs up. At present, New York is gerrymandered so that the State Assembly is eternally Democratic and the State Senate is eternally Republican, and most state legislators never answer to their constituents. Nonpartisan redistricting will make the state government more democratic (and probably more Democratic too).
I heard a chunk of the Spitzer-Suozzi debate, and was disappointed with both. Both candidates were evoking the "tax relief" frame, and arguing over who could cut taxes more. Why would you do that, in a Democratic primary in a blue state? Stop triangulating and start leading.
But there were more negatives (in that small chunk of the debate) for Suozzi. He said to Spitzer something along the lines of "All you've been doing is prosecuting. That's no way to run a state!". Spitzer responded more calmly than I would have, saying "Uh, I know that. The attorney general's job is to be a prosecutor. I know that's not the only thing, and that's why I'm running for governor."
More substantively, Suozzi was talking about how he balanced the Nassau County budget by standing up to the police officers' union. As a member of another public employee union, I'm certainly not going to vote for someone for union-busting and then bragging about it!
So Spitzer gets my vote. Finally, this blue state will be led by a governor who represents the state's progressive values!
Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, my state senator until I moved a few blocks out of the district, is unopposed in the primary. In the Senate, he's been trying to buck tradition by abrogating the tacit non-aggression pact and turning the Democratic minority into an actual opposition party, so he'll be missed there.
The two leading candidates are 2001 mayoral nominee Mark Green and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, each looking for a shot at redemption. I moved to New York in 2002, and I guess I didn't have a permanent address in time to register for the primary that year, so I wasn't around for either Green's or Cuomo's previous runs for office. So I'm not going to focus on the ugliness from either of those campaigns (though I did vote for both of their rivals later on - I voted for McCall in the 2002 general election and Ferrer in the 2005 general election). Instead, I'll focus on their records.
Green served two terms as NYC's first Public Advocate, and was an, um, advocate for the public. In contrast, Cuomo's tenure as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was marked by cronyism and corruption.
Therefore, I endorse Mark Green to fill Spitzer's shoes as attorney general.
I am harboring no delusions; Hillary Clinton will be re-elected. But I still intend to cast a protest vote in the primary.
Sen. Clinton supported the disastrous Iraq war. I endorse labor activist Jonathan Tasini, who wants to support our troops and bring them home. Tasini also supports universal health care, impeachment or censure of Bush and Cheney, and marriage equality.
I don't advocate protest votes in the general election; those are about pragmatism and getting your party elected, not about making a statement. So the primary is precisely the right time to make a statement. If Tasini gets a substantial vote total on Tuesday, it will send a message that the people of New York are opposed to their senator's support of the war. (Tasini garnered 44% of the vote in a primary among NY MoveOn members. Neither candidate reached the two-thirds threshold for MoveOn to make an endorsement in the primary.)
Clinton will, of course, sail to victory in November over her little-known Republican opponent. (I won't name the Republican candidates in the race; they don't get any free advertising from me. I'll let the NRSC waste its millions in the expensive NY media market if they want you to know the candidate's name.) But we can give her a mandate to bring home the troops.
Clinton is no Lieberman. She hasn't gone on all the talk shows to defend the Bush administration and undermine the Democratic caucus. So I'll vote against her in the primary, but I'm not worried about her reelection in the general.
But another reason to vote against Clinton in the primary is to put the brakes on the media narrative that she is the uncontested frontrunner for the 2008 presidential nomination. I swear that her frontrunner status is a creation of the media and the Republicans. The Republicans have been using a Clinton presidential candidacy to spook their base for years before she made any indication of running. And even if she's leading in the polls, that's hardly fair -- Clinton has 100% name recognition, while the average American who doesn't obsessively follow politics hasn't heard of the other candidates, being as how this average American only tunes in once every four years, and we're not even halfway there yet. I've never met anyone who was actually excited to vote for Clinton in 2008 (and accepting her nomination as inevitable doesn't count). So the other candidates' numbers will start to go up once people learn who they are. But only if they get a fair chance. If Clinton is the undisputed frontrunner from before day one, then we're back to the "electability" clusterfuck of 2004, where people are voting in the primary based not on who they want to vote for, but on who they think other people will want to vote for. We can help avert this now by taking some of the wind out of Clinton's sails.
All the other races in my corner of the City, County, and State of New York are uncontested: Rep. Charles Rangel, state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, and state Rep. Linda Rosenthal have no primary opposition.
There is a contested race for Democratic State Committee from my district between Debra Cooper and Elizabeth Starkey. I got two things in the mail from Cooper. She says "I'll push our Democratic Party to be liberal and loud about what the Republicans are doing wrong." Who can argue with that? And she has endorsements from Scott Stringer, Jerry Nadler, Schneiderman, and Rosenthal. From what I can ascertain online, Starkey seems to be the incumbent. Does anyone know anything about her? Is there an establishment candidate and an anti-establishment candidate, or anything like that? Which is which? And what does the Democratic State Committee do? In the absence of further information, I'll vote for Cooper.
A number of other states are also having primaries on September 12, most notably Rhode Island and Maryland. (The others are Arizona, Delaware, DC, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin.)
For obvious reasons, I endorse Steve Laffey in the Rhode Island Republican Senate primary. According to Laffey's bio, when he took office as mayor of Cranston, the city was near bankruptcy and had the lowest bond rating in the country. He brought financial stability to Cranston, bringing the city's bonds back to investment grade in less than two years! Laffey "is a compassionate person who wants every child in Cranston to have the same opportunities that he did growing up, and he wants to see senior citizens feel safe and secure in the city in which many of them have lived for decades." If any Rhode Island Republicans are reading this, just think: Isn't it about time you had a real Republican representing you in Washington? Do the right thing Joanne. (That goes for Connecticut Republicans too. Support your party's nominee!)
As for the Maryland Democratic Senate primary, I'm not making an endorsement. Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume are both solid candidates, so I'll leave the decision to the voters of Maryland, and support the nominee in the general election for Sen. Paul Sarbanes's open seat.
VOTE OR DIE