“Riders of the Lost Cause” Starring Harrison Fraud--RATED X BY AN ALL LEFT JURY!
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“NY 13 : One of only Six Republican from New York, and one of only two without a challenger, this district showed a bigger Bush swing than NY 3, but also went for Gore by a similar amount. Vito Fossella represents Staten Island and Brooklyn. Steve Harrison on an extremely small budget held Vito to only 57% and therefore the right challenger should be able to win.”
Those expecting the passion of my last two pieces on this topic are going to be disappointed. The aim of my prior pieces concerning Congressional hopeful (or wishful) Steve Harrison was “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, but this is an episode of “Dragnet”. Just the facts, mam.
The facts are that Steve Harrison cannot beat Vito Fossella. He is a weak candidate. Those whose first priority is to take this seat from the Republicans should not be backing him, unless a stronger candidate fails to emerge. A stronger candidate has emerged. Game, set and match.
I am no fan of Harrison’s, but this would be my position even if I was fond of him. If one wants to reward Harrison for his valiant effort against Fossella in 2006, then back him for City Council in 2009; I will not being doing so, but the rationale for such a move would not be unsound. Moreover, if Harrison were to abandon the race for Congress, and bravely mount a challenge to Republican State Senator Martin Golden, I would argue that, were he to lose the Senate seat in a respectable manner, Democrats would be duty bound to support him in the 2009 council race.
But we are under no obligation to back a valiant loser for a seat which might otherwise be winnable. Practical politics is not a suicide pact.
So Let’s get to the numbers.
In 2006, Harrison received 45,131 (43%) to Republican incumbent Vito Fossella’s 59,334 (57%). While not a landslide, that’s a pretty crushing margin. In the District’s Brooklyn portion, Harrison lost 13,484 (51%) to 13,006 (49%). In Staten Island, the loss was 45,850 (59%) to 32,125 (41%).
Harrison supporters point out that this is the best showing ever against Fossella. Since adoption of the current lines, Frank Barbaro received 41% in 2004, and Arne Mattson received 28% in 2002. But that hardly tells the whole story. Numbers must not be looked at in a vacuum. Some years are good for Democrats, some less so. To understand these numbers, we must place them in context.
Let’s start with the Brooklyn portion of the district, which is more Democratic than the Staten Island portion. Running well in Brooklyn is a key element in winning a race in this district. In 2002, Mattson managed to run five points better in Brooklyn than he did in Staten Island. In 2004, Barbaro, a former Assemblyman, with a base in Bensonhurst and Gravesend, ran 18 points better in Brooklyn than on the Rock.
Being a Brooklynite is not an advantage in a district where about 3/4s of the votes come from Staten Island, a place where 3/4s of the voters voted to secede from the City. However, if, as seems to be the case this year, we are stuck with a candidate from Brooklyn, it had better be one who can take some succor from their hometown advantage. But, while Barbaro took Brooklyn by ten points, Harrison lost it by two. He ran only eight points better in Brooklyn than on Staten Island, barely a better performance than Mattson.
Now to the main event. I’ve taken a look at all the Staten Island-wide Congressional results since 2000, and found it was extremely instructive to compare them to the results for the other candidates in races which were also on the ballot in every voting machine in Staten Island. For purposes of this exercise, I’ve chosen to compare the Democratic Congressional performance to that of the Democrat at the top of the ticket, and that of the Democrat who did the worst, other than (as was usually the case) the Congressional candidate.
In 2000, Al Gore carried the Island with 52%. The poorest showing, other than for Congress, was by Hillary Clinton, who received 45%. Democratic Congressional candidate Katina Johnstone, valiantly attempting election as a Carolyn McCarthy-type martyr, received 31%. This was 21% behind the top of the ticket, and 14% behind the next worse performing Democrat.
In 2002, poor Arne Mattson was hardly the Democrat worst-off on the Rock. Carl McCall, running at the top of the ticket, and dragging at it’s bottom, received 21% of the Island’s votes, six points worse than Mattson.
In 2004, the top of the Democratic ticket was John Kerry, who’s Rocky performance was 43%, which was also the bottom of the ticket, excepting Congress. Barbaro got 37% on the Island, only six points behind Kerry.
In contrast, the 2006 ticket was lead by Eliot Spitzer, who got 63% of the Island’s votes. Hillary Clinton, never the Island’s favorite, got 58%, and Alan Hevesi, about to be run out of office, managed 56%. This clearly was a year of strong coattails. Of course, if one’s name was poisonous to the Island’s voters, the impact of those coattails could be limited, but even Andrew Cuomo managed 51%, the non-Congressional bottom of the ticket. It was clearly a great year to be running as a Democrat on Staten Island. Thus, an Irish Democrat, Kim Dollard, managed to beat an Italian Republican for Civil Court Judge, taking 53%, despite her opponent’s ethnic advantage.
But there was one 2006 Democrat who got his clocked cleaned on Staten Island. Steve Harrison managed only 41%, 22% behind Eliot Spitzer, 17% behind box-office-poison Hillary Clinton, 15% behind public-disgrace-already-in-progress Alan Hevesi, and 10 % points behind the son-of-the-despised-Mario-Cuomo. Steve Harrison’s 2006 race for Congress was born on third base; his performance is remarkable only in how badly he managed to squander a once-every-quarter century Democratic landslide.
Can there be any question that 2008 is not going to be a once-every-quarter-century-Staten-Island-Democratic-Landslide? In the absence of a Spitzer landslide, Harrison’s performance is likely to be comparable with the likes of hopeless cases like Katina Johnstone. In fact, in context of how Harrison performed compared to the rest of his ticket, Harrison and Johnstone are practically identical twins.
Harrison’s supporters choose to cast the blame elsewhere. Most especially, they cast blame on Vito Lopez and Dominick Recchia for not lending sufficient support. They have a point; if only Recchia and Lopez had gotten off their asses and raised Harrison's Brooklyn performance from 49% to 80%, Harrison would have managed to squeak out a narrow victory.
Can there be any doubt from Frank Barbaro’s numbers that an Italian-American from Bensonhurst-Gravesend, with voter recognition from serving as an elected official, is a winning formula for winning this district’s Brooklyn portion? Dominick Recchia meets that criteria, and has the advantage over Barbaro of not being considered by many to be a dangerous radical. Being an Italian-American is also an undeniable advantage on the Rock, as well.
What is not an advantage is being a Brooklynite. Recchia is far from the strongest possible candidate. But we are not choosing between Recchia and the strongest possible candidate, we are choosing between Recchia and Steve Harrison.
Harrison has proven to be extremely poor at raising money. Recchia’s record as a fundraiser is far stronger. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is like the Lord here; it will help those who help themselves. Harrison continues to prove he cannot do so.
Moreover, Recchia seems more in line with the flavors preferred by local voters; with the retirement of John Marchi’s, first elected in 1956, Staten Island has lost the last of its “altar boys”; the preferred model for its electeds is now “disco stud”; Recchia seems a perfect fit.
Despite the talk of the “progressive” blogocracy, it is Recchia, not Harrison, who is attracting the hopeful whispers from Democratic Congressional staffers.
Those are the facts, mam.
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