Saturday, October 28, 2006

A legendary figure in educational disbursement

With the revelation of ethics violations, the shit has hit the fan for NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Gubernatorial heir apparent Eliot Spitzer has withdrawn his endorsement of Hevesi, and the New York Times has endorsed Hevesi's Republican opponent.

I already voted for Hevesi before these violations made the news. (I guess they had already made the news a little bit, but I had missed the story, since this wasn't a race I was following carefully. Oops.) I can't say I would endorse him now, and I did note that comptroller is the rare type of office where party affiliation doesn't trump everything else in deciding whom to vote for. (I'm also not entirely convinced that the state comptroller should be popularly elected. At the federal level, we don't elect the Secretary of the Treasury. But I could be swayed either way.)

However, I want to point out to people who haven't voted yet that there are other options if you don't want to re-elect Hevesi but also can't bear to vote for a Republican for statewide office.

1) Vote for a third-party candidate, such as Julia Willebrand (Green) or Willie Cotton (Socialist Workers). Yes, this is probably an ineffective protest vote, but there's less at stake than usual.

2) Vote for Hevesi anyway (preferably on the Working Families Party line), taking the gamble that he'll resign or be removed from office before he begins his next term. Heck, this might even happen before Election Day. This way, his replacement will be selected by the state legislature, which has a Democratic majority, so it's the only way to make it likely that the next comptroller will be a Democrat. (It's not ideal -- it's too bad that this story didn't break in time for there to be a competitive primary.) (Note to FL-16 voters: do not pursue this strategy. Just look at the names on the ballot.)


  1. in general i like the idea of dispassionate bureaucrats you elude to when you say it shouldn't much matter whether the comptroller is a D or an R.
    In practice though, it is a very important distinction. The secretary of state for most states was thought to be a mostly bureaucratic position that wouldn't be impacted by party affiliation. we thought if we elected efficient folks they'd make sure everything ran alright. then we met ken blackwell and katherine harris. they stole elections and are partially responsible for the republican evils in DC.
    Republicans seem to have so little regard for the law and a sense of public decency that they can't be trusted to remain non-partisan no matter how bureaucratic the post. they have not shown at any level of government that they can be trusted.

    with specific regards to Hevesi, he does seem to be compromised and ought not continue in his post long-term. However, the NY state comptroller controls several very big retirement funds, worth about $140B. This is the largest public fund whose policy is largely overseen by a single individual. Hevesi has used that power to check enormous corporations, to fight for shareholders rights, and to insure corporate governance issues are championed. The New York State Comptroller is the single biggest check on Wall Street (in the world) aside from the AG. We need someone who will hold the financial system accountable to the teachers, police officers, and other hardworking folks who have retirement savings in the pension funds. I can't imagine many republicans using the enormous power that comes with being the comptroller to help common folks. I would suggest that new yorkers plug their noses and vote for hevesi. spitzer will help him leave office with some shed of dignity and will appoint someone credible in his place who will continue Hevesi's great work with less chauffeur mishandling.

  2. I didn't say party affiliation shouldn't matter -- I just said that it shouldn't trump everything else. That is, I would vote for Hitler (D) over Someone Else (R) for Congress, but not for comptroller. (In that hypothetical election, I'd vote for a third party for comptroller.)

    However, Hevesi is not Hitler by any means, and ZT is totally right. Protect my pension, and vote for Hevesi's mystery Democratic replacement (by voting for Hevesi).