Scott Free (AKA “But What Have You Done for Me, LATELY?”): A Tale Of Manhattan
The not-so-surprising flood of endorsements of State Senate candidate Dan Squadron by clients of the consulting firm with which he was once associated, Knickerbocker SKD, continued apace this week. Kavanagh, Bloomberg, and now Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (who shares Squadron’s experience as a bar owner).
Is it only a matter of time before we see an endorsement of Squadron by Joe Lieberman? Perhaps not made publicly, but instead quietly distributed under the doors with mezuzahs in the Grand street Co-ops the night before the election.
While unveiling the Stringer endorsement, Squadron took the occasion to unveil a package of legislative and process reforms remarkably similar to those proposed by Stringer when he served in the Assembly. Most of those themselves bear a remarkable resemblance to the package of reforms regularly proposed by the State Senate’s Democratic Leadership, even when they were led by Squadron’s opponent, Senator Martin Connor (other aspects resemble legislation currently being sponsored by Connor).
To be fair, Squadron’s implicit and sometimes explicit criticism is that it does not matter what Connor proposed, because very little of what Connor proposed ever passed.
Of course, that is one of the consequences of being in the Minority.
By contrast, Stringer served in the Majority his entire time in the Assembly, and the only aspect of his vaunted reforms which ever saw the light of day was the elimination of "empty seat voting", a worthy change, but one with about as much substantive impact on the process as the elimination of room service on the Titanic.
Subsequently, Stringer’s career as a "reformer" included being Denny Farrell, Tom Manton and Clarence Norman’s 2001 candidate for Public Advocate, but to be fair, it should be noted that, with most candidate’s he endorsed when he was county Leader, Clarence gave Scott little more than a handshake and a bill for services he never rendered. To Scott’s further credit, the Bronx machine which produced his step-father, former City Clerk Carlos Cuevas, preferred the Latin rhythms of salsero Willie Colon to Scott’s "reform" song and dance.
Still the Stringer endorsement puts one in mind of a little more ancient history.
Certainly, Stringer, then running for District Leader, had a strange pedigree for a West Side Reformer. His parent were both regular Democrats of the old school, his father Counsel to ultra-hack Mayor Abe Beame; his mother a regular District Leader, and City Councilwoman for about 15 minutes, before she was beaten by the late great Stan Michels, who Scott later beat for Borough President. Then again, Scott was also a cousin of Bella Abzug, although she was always more a radical than a reformer (and would be proud to say so).
The meeting was rife with balloting irregularities. Nuchow was initially declared the winner over Stringer by a vote of 9,918 to 9,900 (using weighted ballots).
Little of this history, some of it very colorful, especially the incisive and sometimes biting commentary of Stringer’s steady-handed election lawyer, is accessible on the internet. Somewhere, I’m pretty sure, exists a Gail Collins column that tells the story a hell of a lot better. I’ve done my best to piece the story together from what little survives on the web (mostly Times articles), and from personal memory.
Oh yeah, I forget to mention the name of the election lawyer who made Mr. Stringer’s career in the Assembly, and all that followed, possible:
If Bill Nuchow were alive, he’d be turning over in his grave.
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