Category Archives: Election ’10

Joanie for Lt. Gov?

Here’s an article about the calculations that go into the choice of the senator that Paterson will inflict on us. It’s the first article I’ve seen which mentions Joanie Mahoney as a potential candidate for statewide office.

Some of Mr. Paterson’s advisers envision a Republican ticket headed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, for governor, with Joanne M. Mahoney, the popular Onondaga County executive, as his running mate. Rounding out the ticket might be John J. Faso, the former assemblyman, for comptroller, and Peter T. King, the Long Island Republican, for Senate.
“That’s a white Catholic ticket,” said one person who has ties to the governor’s political team, and who requested anonymity for fear of losing those ties. “And it’s white Catholics upstate they are going to lose.”

Hm, a couple of Republicans I could stand (Mahoney and Faso) paired with some of the most odious players I can imagine (Giuliani and King)… well, as a white Catholic, I’ll pass. But if the GOP were smart (which they aren’t), they would market someone like Mahoney as a “green,” small-business-friendly candidate and sell her decision to stop the Armory Square sewage treatment plant. The GOP would do well to simply greenwash their entire party platform – it’s not like the Upstate business establishment isn’t on that bandwagon now.

According to the tribal logic of New York politics, Mr. Paterson can expect strong support in New York City, among black voters and from staunch Democrats. Ms. Kennedy, a white Catholic, could help in the battleground suburbs of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. But the Democratic ticket already includes Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who is Catholic and already broadly popular in those places.

The idea that I’d vote for Caroline Kennedy just because she’s an Irish Catholic is really insulting, and the poor reception she has had up here ought to give the lie to that reasoning. I am waiting for someone to seize the real issues that are before us. It’s sad that I can imagine the Republicans doing that before I can imagine Democrats doing it. Still, if the Republicans are going to run a high-negative and frankly has-been figure like Giuliani as their lead candidate, I guess I can’t imagine them doing that either. The Age of Dinosaurs grinds onward.

Top New York stories of the year

Last December, I made a list of what I thought were the top 10 statewide stories of the year. Last year’s list appears so undramatic compared to 2008, truly a tumultuous year in New York’s politics and economy. And most of the stories spawned other important stories, a chain of events that is far from over. The challenge this year was not finding high-impact happenings to list, but deciding what should be ranked where.

1. Wall Street implodes. “Hoocoodanode?” The failure of investment banks and hedge funds, a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the collapse of industries directly or indirectly dependent on obscene bonuses in the financial sector… most of it had already been predicted by cannier observers who saw where mortgage failures would eventually lead, but it apparently came as a big shock to a lot of people who should have known better. And even though Gov. Paterson tried to inject a note of alarm several months before things fell apart, there’s still a great deal of whistling past the graveyard throughout New York. It’s no ordinary recession, and impacts have yet to be felt not just on Wall Street, not just in manufacturing and real estate, but in medicine and higher education (the economic engines of many Upstate New York communities). There is no telling how deep the rabbit hole goes, or what the effects might be on New York’s economic and political structures in years to come.

2. Spitzer implodes. It’s a strange year indeed when a story like his isn’t the New York story of the decade (maybe even the century). In less than seven days — I’d almost say just three — his political career was over, his law-and-order reputation in tatters, and New Yorkers, who have pretty much seen it all at this point, choked back their disbelief, raised their eyebrows and carried on. Although his first (and only) year in office was hugely disappointing, “hoocoodanode” it would have ended up like this.

3. New York’s first black governor. Paterson’s installation into office deserves its own item. A qualified and experienced politician who almost surely could never have been elected “cold,” he is, to say the least, a very interesting figure called (or doomed?) to serve in very interesting times.

4. Bruno exits. Almost as soon as Spitzer’s political body was cold, Bruno got the hell out of Dodge (with federal indictment rumored to be near – and still rumored). Not only did he knock the props out from under the Three Men in a Room, but also from under the Upstate GOP establishment, with Long Island (in the form of Dean Skelos) taking over a Senate majority that would turn out to be short-lived… (or not)…

5. Darrel Aubertine wins the 48th District. Skipping back in time to February: when the special election in the North Country gave the district to Democrats for the first time since the 19th century and heralded a decisive step in the long-cherished plan to institute one-party rule in Albany. Unlike the three-way race in the 49th district in 2004 (which David Valesky won almost by default), this was supposed to represent a sea-change for Democrats in Albany and maybe even for Upstate Democrats too.

6. Gang of Three. As Bruno exited and Democrats made gains in the Senate, three right-of-center rogue Democrats held the Senate Democrats hostage with some hardball demands, showing a great deal of disarray evident in the party. This story is still going on and it doesn’t seem clear who will be in charge of the Senate (and therefore the Legislature) in 2009.

7. New York moves in on Indian tribal commerce. Not only the upstate Haudenosaunee, but the downstate Unkechaug/Poospatuck, have come under more aggressive treatment from state and NYC authorities on the tax-free sale of cigarettes. The issue of Native taxation in New York has a very long and tangled history, but until now, New York authorities preferred to pretty much ignore the situation. Although not much of a news item in NYC, Paterson’s signing of a tax enforcement bill — and local law enforcement raids on Cayuga-owned businesses — will undoubtedly have deeper reverberations throughout Upstate communities in 2009. How serious those reverberations, is hard to tell.

8. Gay marriage debate on deck. After years of remaining on the back burner of progressive politics in New York, gay rights activists finally were poised to get the issue of gay marriage on the state agenda, only to run smack into all of the items just listed: an economic meltdown leaving politicians reluctant to commit to controversial issues, not to mention one of the members of the Gang of Three (Ruben Diaz) trying to use his opposition to gay marriage as a crucial bargaining chip in the already bizarre power struggle among the Senate Democrats. But it is unlikely that this issue will recede again as it has in past years, perhaps adding a contentious ingredient to the newly unstable atmosphere of New York politics.

9. Hillary’s empty Senate seat. Yes, She has left us, as we all knew she would… and it’s really a sign of how explosive this year has been when I can rank the jostling to fill her seat as #9 on a list of 10.

10. Container shipping coming to Oswego. After the preceding items, this one may seem absurdly prosaic, but I think of it as “the quiet story” whose impact could be felt even after 2009… or maybe even 2019. It’s the one news development I heard this year that opened a new potential window on New York’s place in world commerce (for background, see this post on “Atlantica”). It’s also the one story on this list that will probably still retain its relevance after the current economic drama has played out — not to mention the drama of all of the aforementioned political personalities.

The moral of this year’s story: History never comes neatly packaged as a single person or a single event. It is a cascade of events uncontrolled by any one force. “When it rains, it pours.”

Paterson 2010

A lot can happen in two years; just ask Eliot Spitzer. It is a little premature to be talking about David Paterson’s re-election, but then again maybe not. Eager to prove he’s not an accidental governor, Paterson is may be the only person in the world who wants to be responsible for New York State right now, considering what’s happened to the economy.

Matt Driscoll as Paterson’s lieutenant governor? Erm… no. I’d much prefer Tom Suozzi, who is eager to serve and who might bring Paterson some votes, even from Upstaters who remember him from his run against Spitzer. (In any other year, Suozzi might have been elected governor.) If you’re looking for wide geographic appeal, Suozzi is the only non-NYC guy who could possibly do it. And the Paterson-Suozzi connection just gets stronger

Pundits don’t think that the resignation of Paterson’s key advisor, Charles O’Byrne, is going to hurt him more than the economy will. O’Byrne was supposed to be Paterson’s chief negotiator in the governor’s plans to make some sort of new cigarette/gas/casino tax-revenue agreements with Haudenosaunee governments, and I almost suspect that O’Byrne might have been the person who persuaded Paterson to take that nonconfrontational approach. Ironically, O’Byrne is now out because he failed to pay his taxes.

More thoughts on Oldistan

Some further thoughts on Oldistan, continuing from a previous post… One spot-on quote from the Artvoice story:

Where there’s decline, and a low birth rate, there’s ugly politics. The short-term politics becomes all about blame, and not about hope… Students of policy and economics know that we should be talking about regional planning across the metro area (as they do just across the border in growing, leafy, density-designing, regionalized Southern Ontario) and about reviving our own pretty city and mature suburbs with rehabs, flowers, well-tended seniors and pampered grandkids. Instead, our politics is a rancid scramble to claim the few remaining crumbs.

That’s a good characterization of New York and Onondaga County politics. Not just politics, I suppose. Syracuse is a great place to live if you have one of the few stable jobs available — in higher ed, in a state or city job, or if you’ve got seniority at the top-rated TV station, or something (well, maybe some of these specific jobs are not safe — ask Mike Price?) But there’s not a lot of room at the trough. There is a lot of opportunity elsewhere in the nation — but even so, you’re still serving the same global corporate interests, not really local interests, in most places. That doesn’t appeal to me, either, especially in an America where politics have become so meaningless. I still think the best fighting chance for a just and sustainable “middle way” is right here.

So, what “hope” are we being offered? I hate to sound like such a downer all the time, but both parties seem to extend to us “different” solutions, different turns in the maze, that lead to the same end. It’s possible to very consciously hate the rancid “crumb-scrum,” yet to feel deeply ambivalent about the “alternative” as well. The Artvoice story does not address this, and doesn’t even appear to recognize that this ambivalence is very present in the minds (or at least hearts) of “Oldistan” voters. An ambivalence perhaps unknown to “Youngistan.”

Election 2010

When I was at various state campsites this weekend I realized some of the tourism brochures still said “George Pataki, Governor.” I didn’t find any with Spitzer’s name still on them, though — it was either crossed out with black marker, or there was a white label with “David Paterson, Governor” stuck over them. (Some of the newest brochures had Paterson’s name printed right on them.) It’s as if Eliot Spitzer, like the king in Lord Dunsany’s story, never happened.

That means that Tim Green’s budding career as a Democrat is over (thank God), since according to him, Spitzer’s mandate for reform is dead.

Now Michael Bloomberg apparently wants to run for governor. I’ve always been curious as to how an independent mayor of New York City might go about doing that — how does he appeal to rural and suburban voters all over this great state of ours? The answer apparently is that he just runs as a Republican without condescending to be one, which appears to involve wresting control of the state GOP away from Long Island and installing an easily controllable Upstater (again).

I sometimes honestly don’t know how anyone can take New York State party politics seriously when the lines between them are so ridiculously fluid. Is it time to try something new?