Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The 2013 NYC Democratic Primary -- My Endorsements

September 3, 2013

Greetings!

Since New York City voters adopted term limits for municipal offices, there have been three significant elections:  2001, 2009 and 2013.  In 2001, the first full regime of term-limited citywide officeholders, borough presidents and City Council members were elected.  In 2009, "the people's will" establishing term limits was confronted and temporarily discarded by the incumbent Mayor with the blessing of a majority of City Council members.  As a result, there was no wholesale change in the Council and the Mayoralty remained in Michael Bloomberg's hands, even though a new Comptroller and Public Advocate were elected.

This year, voters will select a new Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, several Borough Presidents, and a majority of the City Council.  In addition, Brooklyn voters are considering whether or not to return an incumbent District Attorney to office.  There are also judicial races -- a more complicated topic that will not be addressed here.  The Democratic Primary will be on Tuesday, September 10.  That's less than one week away!  If a run-off is needed for either of the Citywide offices with more than two candidates -- Mayor and Public Advocate -- it will take place on Tuesday, October 1st.  The General Election will be on Tuesday, November 5.

As an elected party official and member of the Executive Committee of the Kings County Democratic Party, I have the opportunity to express my support for candidates in more and less formal ways.  In the end, I vote in accordance with my conscience balanced by what I perceive to be the needs of my constituents, Brooklyn as a borough and our City as a whole, depending upon the office.  Here are my thoughts on campaigns other then Mayor (stay tuned.)


COMPTROLLER:  SCOTT STRINGER *

I hope that this is an easy decision for you, as it has been for me.  New York City has had some top-quality Comptrollers -- and a few hacks.  This year, we Democrats are fortunate to have a choice between two candidates who are more likely to be higher quality than not.  Unfortunately, one candidate brings serious garbage to the race  -- garbage that soils his candidacy.

Yes, I am talking about Eliot Spitzer, our former Governor.  There are many reasons to question Mr. Spitzer's fitness for the job of Comptroller and you can read the media pieces addressing all of them, but I will focus on two issues of particular importance to me.

Mr. Spitzer, to this day, has not admitted to breaking laws with regard to his participation in prostitution.  Some may argue that this is a private matter -- that it's just sex outside of marriage and a matter between Eliot and his wife.  Well, for discussion's sake, let's say I agree with that.  What about the attempt to violate banking regulations to cover up the payments?  What about the transportation of a prostitute across state lines?  Then, as Governor, what about "Troopergate?"  If Spitzer had admitted all and paid a price for these transgressions, I might have a more respectful view of his candidacy.  But he has not, and I do not.

The second issue is Mr. Spitzer's decision to pull a Bloomberg and attempt to buy this election "because he can."  We have fought against the corrupting influence of big money in elections, we have bemoaned the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and bashed Bloomberg for spending over $100 million across three Mayoral elections, and we have taken stands to the point of ridiculousness supporting the sanctity of our campaign finance program.  Eliot Spitzer himself has been part of this chorus.  Yet now he exploits the temporary -- and inexcusable -- popularity of Anthony Weiner and his own notoriety and combines them with vast personal wealth to jump into what should be a serious campaign at the last minute.  No club appearances, no discussions with local community leaders, just name and dollars.  I cannot support or even respect this choice.  This is particularly true when I know that the only reason Spitzer has standing in the polls is more people know his name than Scott Stringer's -- for all the wrong reasons as well as better ones.

Spitzer is not a person we should reward with a high political office at this time.  Pay some real dues, Eliot, and start humbly and maybe we'll take you seriously in a few more years!  Our Comptroller needs to be someone intellectually capable, politically experienced, and trustworthy.  I can't trust that Eliot Spitzer won't use his personal position to influence the course of events in an inappropriate manner again ... at least not yet.

On the other hand, Scott Stringer has no such baggage.  He has worked his way up the political ladder with a number of important policy successes along the way, both in the New York State Assembly and as Manhattan Borough President.  Scott is ambitious and has taken positions that I know some of my personal and professional acquaintances are not happy with.  He has, however, been in a position where he takes the heat for the positions people don't like as well as the applause.  And he has never had to resign from office.  

As Manhattan Borough President and a NYCERS Trustee, Scott already has eight years of experience dealing with the City's pension systems.  As an elected official with years of experience, Scott knows organized labor and can work with labor leaders to help resolve contracts and address future pension issues.  Furthermore, as someone who has already put together high-performing staffs, Scott Stringer is ready to manage the hundreds of employees within the City Comptroller's office.

I endorsed Scott Stringer's campaign for City Comptroller almost a year ago -- before he had even announced his intention to run.  During August I joined the campaign effort as a consultant to help ensure his victory over Eliot Spitzer.  In this election, Scott Stringer is clearly the best candidate.  All the major papers have endorsed him, along with elected officials, community leaders and many others.  All the polls show the race as too close to call.  Let's change that together.  Every vote will count!  Since there are only two candidates in this Primary battle, there will be no run-off -- its simply win or lose.

I know Scott would be honored to receive your vote in the Democratic Primary election on September 10th.

We need just a few hours of your volunteer time!  Please sign up HERE.   


CITY COUNCIL:  EDE FOX & STEPHEN PIERSON *

I live in the 35th Council District.  That district -- an open seat -- overlaps with our Assembly District along with the 33rd and 39th Council Districts.

In the 35th, I strongly endorse the candidacy of Ede Fox for City Council.  Ms. Fox, who just received the New York Times' endorsement and is preferred by the Citizens Union, has been an active organizer within my Prospect Heights community and herself worked for two City Council members who are members of The Progressive Caucus.  

The five candidates competing for this Council seat share many values.  But Ede is the most qualified candidate and has the deepest understanding of policy development. She also has experience working in the Council, where she helped to create more than 1,000 units of affordable housing and helped to bring living wage jobs to the districts where she worked.  Ede serves on our Community Board 8 as Chair of the Sanitation / Environmental Committee.  She is involved in her block association, which borders the Atlantic Yards project.  And she has a strong history in supporting the "reform" movement within the Kings County Democratic Party.

I believe that Ede Fox has the right temperament to be of great service to an economically and racially diverse district like ours.  I believe that Ede's heart is always in the right place.  Now, she is running a strong grassroots campaign.  And Ede is not supported by any outside "super PACS" -- such as the developer-supported PAC standing behind one of her opponents.  All five candidates are credible, but Ede Fox gets my vote as most deserving of the opportunity to succeed a great advocate, Letitia James.  I hope you will honor her with your vote as well.

To volunteer for Ede Fox, go to http://www.edefox.com/volunteer


In the 33rd, an incumbent closely tied to disgraced political boss Vito Lopez is being challenged by a non-profit administrator.  Neither the Times nor the Citizens Union preferred the incumbent, Stephen Levin, over the challenger, Stephen Pierson -- which is, in my book, a political indictment of the incumbent. Mr. Levin is no Vito Lopez, but Brooklynites need to purge ourselves of the Lopez legacy and its enduring ripple effects.  

Stephen Pierson is a talented and very hard-working person who built a non-profit from scratch and who is supported by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez as well as State Committeemembers Jo Anne Simon and me.  Making a fresh start with Stephen Pierson is a good move for Brooklyn.  You have the power to make that happen by voting for him on September 10th.

To volunteer for Stephen Pierson, go to http://piersonforcouncil.com/volunteer/


In the 39th, incumbent Brad Lander is not being challenged.  Lander has done a very good job as a Councilmember and as a leader within the Council over the past four years.  Brooklyn will benefit from his re-election.


DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  KENNETH THOMPSON

Incumbent Joe Hynes is nationally recognized as a criminal justice programmatic innovator and someone who has served in the position well.  Hynes built this reputation over the course of 20 years of work.  During years 21 through 24, however, evidence has emerged that the Hynes administration has endured and is currently enduring problems.  These problems have been documented in the media.  

All headlines aside, the root cause of these problems is not a simple one.  Over time, any bureaucracy becomes more rigid and blind to its own weaknesses.  District Attorney is not a legislative position where there is an ongoing shifting of seniority and new policy questions marking each day.  If we consider term limits for legislators -- and if we have them for administrators such as the President and Vice President of the United States, the Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate of New York City -- should we not have them for prosecutors?  But we don't.  That's where the voters come in.

Joe Hynes would like to serve as D.A. for four additional years.  Hynes has been challenged for re-election a few times.  His most worthy challenger prior to this year was an earnest attorney named Mark Peters who finished third in a racially defined 2005 Primary election.  Other candidates against Hynes were simply not qualified to hold the position.  But that is not the case this year.

Kenneth Thompson is an extremely well-qualified candidate for District Attorney who has not only garnered important practical endorsements (such as the Local 1199, Working Families Party, Congressmembers Velazquez, Nadler, Clarke, and Jeffries, and many others), he has also been preferred by The Citizens Union.  I am proud to have been the first party or other elected official to endorse Ken Thompson's candidacy.  In doing this, I am going against the Democratic County organization.

Whatever good D.A. Hynes has done will continue under D.A. Thompson.  What will also happen, however, is a bit of house-cleaning and scrutiny that can only improve the performance of the office to the benefit of all Brooklynites.  I hope you will join me in moving Brooklyn forward by electing Ken Thompson as our next District Attorney.

To volunteer for Ken Thompson, go to http://kenthompson4da.com/volunteer.html


PUBLIC ADVOCATE:  LETITIA JAMES

My current Council representative, Letitia James, is a candidate for Public Advocate.  A State Senator, Daniel Squadron, whose district overlaps with the 52nd AD is also a candidate.  Mr. Squadron has a strong record as a State Senator since 2006.  Ms. James has a strong record in the City Council since 2003.  Mr. Squadron has the support of Senator Chuck Schumer and The New York Times.  He has raised more money than any other candidate in this contest.  Ms. James has the support of numerous labor unions and elected officials.  She has raised less money.

Two other candidates, Reshma Saujani and Cathy Guerriero, have also come on strong in this race.  Overall, the field is filled with talent and much potential for New York City's future.

I endorse Letitia James for Public Advocate.  Every elected official has detractors, but I have found Ms. James to be strong on critical questions of development, civil rights, and government accountability.  Ask anyone in our neighborhood about the eminent domain abuse battles around Atlantic Yards, and they will tell you that Letitia James was there for us.  Ask government watchers about the incredible CityTime scandal, and they will tell you that Letitia James was the City Councilmember who brought everything to light.  

I worked for over three years for the last City Council President, Andrew Stein.  Stein defined advocacy in an almost useless office.  Through a talented staff (I was a lightweight, believe me) and a desire to change policy, the staff set a high-quality advocacy standard that was raised by the first Public Advocate, Mark Green, though not quite met by Betsy Gotbaum and Bill de Blasio..  I admire all of the current candidates for different reasons, but I feel that Letitia James will be the "pit bull" we need in this position.  Ms. James did not have to run for this office; she was assured another term in the Council.  If she loses, she doesn't get to return to the Assembly, State Senator, or another position.  Letitia James wants this job and I think she has earned the opportunity to serve.  I hope you will agree and cast your vote for Letitia James.

To volunteer for Letitia James, go to http://www.letitiajames2013.com/volunteer

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*  Please note that Stringer2013 is a current client of mine and Pierson for Council was a client as well earlier this year.  In each case, my endorsement of the campaign pre-dated my being retained as a consultant and was not contingent upon my being retained.  As stated earlier, I view my role as a Democratic State Committeemember to be a balance between individual conscience and the interests of my Assembly District constituents, the Borough of Brooklyn and our City as a whole.  Any endorsements are made independent of business considerations..

I hope you have found my thoughts interesting and helpful in some way.  Whatever your feelings, please volunteer some time with a candidate of choice during these final critical days before the September 10th Primary Election.  Make sure that your family and friends all come out and vote!

For those about to celebrate the high holy days, may the blessings be plentiful and the new year be wonderful!

Peace.





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