Grand Old Punting

In 2006, as part as part of a longer piece, I posted a detailed complaint about the failure of the Republican Party in NYC to provide the voters with general election choices.

Just for the fun of it, I extracted that complaint from the original piece and used it as a template to rewrite it for 2008 application.

Sadly, little changed.

Today, while looking at this year’s list of contested City races, I decided to see how much I'd need to change to post this complaint again. 

Very little.

But the complaint is still worth getting on the record.

First the good news.

In the nation’s largest City, there are 13 seats in Congress and every one of them features at least a nominal contest.  

Across the country, voters are preparing to take part in (or already taking part in) a national referendum on such monumental issues as whether the United States of America is going to re-write its social contract, abolishing government provided health benefits for tens of millions immediately, gradually abolishing it for those who’ve not yet reached 60, and cutting the non-defense, non-entitlement portion of the federal budget like a freshly caught fluke awaiting sale at the Sheepshead Bay docks. .  

And yet, in over 23% of New York’s City’s Congressional Districts, seriously delusional voters will either be unable to cast a vote for a Republican candidate for Congress (Nydia Velazquez’s only opponent is running only on the Conservative line), or functionally unable to do so (Charlie Rangel’s and Greg Meeks’ “Republican” opponents are Democratic primary losers.)

No, competition would not change the results (in the case of Rangel and Meeks, a mixed blessing at best). But it used to be that parties rewarded those who stood tall and accepted the party’s nod in districts where victory was unlikely.

Now, for the most part, such candidates are treated as pariahs, and often actively discouraged, even in areas where the GOP might have a serious shot (before 2010, Anthony’s Weiner did not even have GOP opposition in a district which elected a Republican when he left).  

But even in areas where a victory is only a theoretical possibility, aren’t voters with minority views entitled to the opportunity to express their beliefs at the ballot box, if only their own parties would let them?  

And Congress is not the worst of it.

There are only 36 Republican candidates for State Assembly in the City’s 65 ADs, a deficiency of nearly 45%, a number made even worse when one considers that one of these Republican candidates is the incumbent Democrat.

And even the best spin on this statistic is undermined by the thought that most of the Republicans are of the quality level of Richie “Balls on the Pope” Martinez.

Mind you, some of this may be in the nature of a sacrifice bunt.

Take the especially lame job in putting up candidates done by the Queens Republican, who failed to put up candidates in 13 out of 18 AD, even though they have two factions bitterly fighting to get footholds all over the County.

Yet both sides took a swan dive on the Assembly races.  

Perhaps not coincidentally, Queens also accounts for the one place in the City the GOP is really making an effort to oust an incumbent Democratic State Senator (Joe Addabbo). Perhaps not coincidentally, 8 of the 13 Assembly seats where the Queens GOP decided to take a dive overlap the Addabbo Senate District, allowing the incumbent Democrats to take a siesta and avoid expending any effort which might also incidentally assist Addabbo.

And yet, that’s probably giving the Queens Republicans too much credit.

Five of the unchallenged Assembly members do not have a single ED in the Addabbo district. More to the point, the Republicans have failed to run candidates in three of the County’s eight Senate Districts, which, by definition, have no overlap with the Addabbo district.

And, while I really have no interest in aiding Republican efforts at party building, one wonders why so many of these races have not even a token challenge when communities in many of these uncontested districts (like the South Asians) are potentially so ripe for some partisan picking.

All told, if we include Democrats who lost their primaries but still hold minor party lines and other minor party candidates, voters will have an actual general election choice in 44 of the City’s 65 Assembly seats (just over 2/3rds).  

In the State Senate, there are no Republicans in 8 of the City’s 26 districts. Further, in two of the races where there is a Republican, he is the incumbent Democrat.

As such, in a year when New Yorker’s have the opportunity to send a message concerning whether they want to finally continue the pernicious Albany Bi-Partisan Iron Triangle, in nearly 40% of the City’s Senate Districts, the message sent by the Republican Party is “you can’t fire us, we quit!”

In fairness, the Republicans have their reasons; one of the Democrats they’ve given their nomination to is former Amigo Ruben Diaz, Sr., the other is the IDC’s Jeffrey Klein, both of whom are prime candidates for ensuring that even in the unlikely event that the Senate Democrats take the majority, the Republicans will still be able to organize the Senate.

In addition, one should probably add to this list Klein’s inamorata, Diane Savino and Democrat-Conservative Simcha Felder, whose open flirtation with Dean Skelos leave the 17th SD functionally without a Democratic candidate.  

Just to make it even more ludicrous, Felder is still, at last report, challenging the official Republican David Storobin’s ballot status. This could conceivably leave Republicans without an official candidate in a race which they cannot lose (the third candidate on the ballot also looks certain to support Dean Skelos’ continued rule).

In all, counting the races where the only opposition comes from the Green, Independence and Conservative Parties, voters do manage a choice in just over 80% of the City’s Senate District’s, but usually, it ain’t much of a choice.  

The courts, at first blush, look worst of all, though, in actuality, cross-endorsing competent incumbents is really a good government move. Still, the line ups do speak volumes.  

For the sake of this example, I’ll restrict myself to Supreme Court.

In Manhattan, four Democrats compete for four seats. In the Bronx, two Dems compete with one Republican/Conservative for two seats. In Queens, two Dems and 2 Reps join a candidate slated by both sides in the battle for three seats.

In Brooklyn, an incredibly super-competent slate of three blue ribbon judges is endorsed by the Dems, GOP and Conservatives; they are opposed on the Working Families line by two suburban lawyers who were being used as placeholders in two suburban legislative races where the WFP wanted to eventually nominate the winner of the Dem primary. They’ve now been nominated as Judges so their slots can be taken by the primary winners in a process charmingly known as “backfill.”

A few other notes.  The Bronx Conservatives manage to split with the Republicans on six out of seven Assembly races where they both make a choice. I have to assume this is the result of some local grudge. They also split on Jeff Klein (but not Ruben Diaz).

The only other Assembly races where they split in the entire City are the 63rd where the Cs endorsed Democrat Mike Cusick, and the 54th, where the Cs endorsed Democratic Rafael Espinal. However they do split on some Brooklyn Senate races, having spearate candidates against both John Sampson and Eric Adams. 

The most notable Senate race where they do split is Brooklyn’s 17th, where Simcha Felder managed a write-in victory over Storobin, who was the choice of the Party leadership.

Even more noteworthy are the two races where the Cs endorsed unopposed Democrats. In the 23rd and 27th, both in Queens, the Cs backed Orthodox Jewish Dems Phil Goldfeder and Michael Simanowitz. Both young Dems are strong in areas newly added to vulnerable Dem Joe Addabbo’s Senate seat, and their presence on the Conservative line gives Republican/Conservative candidate Eric Ulrich a steroid boost among Orthodox Jews.

One should note that, if the Assembly Dems cared at all about having a Democratic Senate to help them enact their programs, this would not have been allowed to happen.

The efforts of the Independence Party are also telling.

In every virtually every Congressional or State Senate race where the GOP is the incumbent, has a candidate with even a theoretical chance of winning or even has a hopeless candidate who has decided to make an effort (Christopher Wight, the Republican challenging Carolyn Maloney) the IP has gone with the GOP.

The most notable race I found whihc breaks this pattern really doesn’t-- the IP has gone with IDC Dem Diana Savino (they also support Jeff Klein).

Only in the Assembly is this pattern sometimes broken, as the IP really sees little profit in ticking off Shelly Silver. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not making a plea for more and better Republicans. But fact is, when they do start paying attention, they sometimes win. Since they tend to nominate people who repulse me, this usually drives me nuts, but it is good for democracy and bad for complacency.

Frankly, I don’t want a one-party City. I want a Democratic city, where at least once every two years I get the opportunity to engage in a spirited clash of ideas before I get to kick some Republican ass

And in those rare instances where I don’t, I want to be able to cast a protest vote, and sadly, this usually means a Republican.

Guys, get on the ball. You owe it to yourselves, and more importantly, you owe it to us.