This Tuesday, September 9, is the New York non-presidential primary election. There are no statewide races, so the interesting elections are limited to isolated pockets. This post will just cover New York City.
Most of the incumbent U.S. representatives are going unchallenged in the primary, with a few exceptions. In the 10th District (Brooklyn), longtime Rep. Ed Towns faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Kevin Powell. But the real insanity is in the 13th District (all of Staten Island plus the southwest corner of Brooklyn). The story in brief: Incumbent Rep. Vito Fossella (the only remaining Republican congressperson in NYC) has been reelected by smaller and smaller margins in recent elections, and even before this mess broke out, the district was considered a strong Democratic target for this year. Then Fossella was arrested for DWI, and then was bailed out by a woman in Virginia with whom he turned out to have been having an extramarital affair and who turned out to be the mother of his 3-year-old child whom his wife and children back in New York didn't know about. He announced that he wasn't running for reelection. The Republicans scrambled to find a replacement, and all the high-profile Republicans in the district said no. They came up with Wall Street executive Frank Powers. Then Powers's son (also named Frank Powers, much to the confusion of the voters) declared his candidacy as a Libertarian. Then Powers, Sr., dropped dead of a heart attack. Another round of scrambling ensued, and two Republicans are on the primary ballot: former State Assemblymember Robert Straniere and Dr. Jamshad Wyne. They've been fighting an ugly and ethnically charged race. (Money quote: "There is no reason he shouldn’t be proud to be a Pakistani and Muslim.") Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, 2006 candidate Steve Harrison (who won 43% of the vote against Fossella) faces off against City Councilmember Michael McMahon. McMahon has held some problematic positions, including support for the war in Iraq, but has picked up key endorsements, in part because he is from Staten Island, which makes up the bulk of the district, and there is a perception that Staten Island voters will not vote for a candidate from Brooklyn (Harrison). McMahon and Straniere are expected to win their primaries, and McMahon is expected to win the general election, so that New York City's congressional delegation will finally be entirely Democratic.
There are a number of competitive Democratic primaries (and no Republican primaries) for State Assembly and State Senate, but the most high-profile is in the 64th Assembly District (Lower Manhattan), where Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver faces challenges from Luke Henry and Paul Newell. Silver has held an inordinate amount of power in what has been called the most dysfunctional state legislature in the country. Along with our new governor and the anticipated Democratic majority in the State Senate for the first time in over 40 years, dethroning Silver will result in a progressive state government that is accountable to the people.
In my neighborhood in Manhattan, we're sharing none of this excitement. All of my legislators are unopposed in the primary, including Rep. Charles Rangel, despite recent scandals. If this were a jurisdiction where a Republican had any chance of winning, I'd consider it highly irresponsible to let a scandal-ridden incumbent coast by unopposed in the primary, leaving him vulnerable in the general. (I'm still bitter about Carol Moseley-Braun's loss in 1998. And I feel a twinge of guilt, because that was the first election in which I could have voted, but something got messed up with my absentee registration, so I wasn't actually able to vote. But she lost by more than one vote, so it's only partially my fault.) But this district, which includes Harlem and Washington Heights, has zero risk of going Republican, so I'm not losing any sleep over this. I have argued repeatedly that partisan control of Congress is far more important than any individual member, so I intend to vote for Rangel in November regardless of what happens, and then if there turns out to have been serious wrongdoing, then I will support his resignation, and he will be replaced in a special election by another Democrat.
So the only primaries I'll get to vote in are for New York County Surrogate and Civil Court Judge. I'll post more about these races tomorrow. In the meantime, I haven't made up my mind yet about who I'm voting for, so feel free to lobby me in the comments.