The State Senate Primaries (Part One): Play it in the Key of Be Sharp
For Democrats, liberals, “progressives” and reformers, this year’s elections for New York State Senate usually are thought to involve achievement of three goals:
1) keeping the Democratic Majority
2) Actually making the Democratic Majority Democratic (with a large “D,” though small “d” would be nice too).
3) Ensuring the passage of same-sex marriage.
There are surely other aims as well, but (4) general liberal public policy goals (provided we can agree what they are, and (5) process reforms, get talked about far far less, though they are usually thought to go part and parcel with goals (1) and (2).
Let us stipulate for the sake of this argument that all these goals are worthy. Given the record of the Senate Democrats on (3),(4) and (5), number (1) is itself is a big hump, as are many of members of the Senate Democratic Conference.
However, if goal (1) seems of less importance than it used to, it is at least in part because goal (2) has not been achieved, as was demonstrated with last year‘s various Amigo imbroglios.
One could argue that things could not be worse under the Republicans, but that would require that we pretend that the world began in November of 2008.
Yes, the Senate Dems are fiscally irresponsible, have members who are personally corrupt and are sometimes even socially reactionary.
In which of those measure did the Senate Republicans prove themselves as superior?The Democrats failed to pass same sex marriage. Can anyone believe the Republicans would even bring it to a vote? In fact, when they were holding negotiations during last year’s month long “Time of Troubles,” the Senate Republicans promised Tom Duane a vote on the bill, but would not promise to pass it.
This year, various groups independent of the Senate Democrats have been working to achieve the three goals I outlined. “Progressives” have hailed these efforts as if they were united in purpose.
But sometimes they are at cross-purposes.
In Buffalo, Bill Stachowski, though often fairly conservative, has been a steadfast party loyalist (or at least as much of one as any of his colleagues), while his opponent, the fairly conservative Tim Kennedy is an open Republican collaborator, as well as the hand-picked choice of Steve Pigeon, a upstate fixer who was one the architects of last year’s Coup.
But Kennedy, a staunch “Right to Lifer” (even in comparison with the anti-choice Stachowski), does support same-sex marriage.
In three NYC races, incumbents are being challenged by opponents supported by a network of Charter School supporters with heavy ties to Mayor Bloomberg, who is the Senate Republicans’ main financial backer, while the Working Families Party and other labor tied groups have rallied to the incumbents
This is a stark contrast with two years ago, when the WFP joined with Bloomberg in helping to elect the Charter School Movement’s sock-puppet, Daniel Squadron.
There is no indication that any of the Charter Democrats is a potential Amigo. In fact, there is no particular one to one correspondence between being a charter school ally and being a potential deserter. Long Island’s Craig Johnson, a Charter School supporter, has been as loyal as any member of the Democrat’s conference, while Amigo Carl Kruger is seemingly a pretty steadfast ally of the Teacher’s Unions.On the other hand, we know that during the worst days of the Coup, Dan Squadron was seen late nights in a hotel bar in an animated discussion with the Mayor’s consiglieri, Kevin Sheekey, and Tom Golisano’s butt-boy, Steve Pigeon, though we can only guess whether it was by accident or design. However, as he proved with Al Sharpton, the Mayor’s money buys access.
In that regard, is it the “progressive” choice to support anti-same sex marriage, but anti-charter school incumbent Shirley Huntley, or .pro- charter and pro-marriage challenger Lynn Nunes? Meanwhile, the most likely to be defeated (and most worthy defeat) target of “progressives” is Pedro Espada, whose defeat will not add one vote to the Senate’s tally in favor of same-sex marriage.
Topping this all off is the very real possibility that regardless of who the Sen Dems nominate in their contested races, the Republicans will end up controlling the Senate anyway. For instance, in Buffalo, the likely victor is neither Stachowski nor Kennedy, but Republican Jack Quinn.
The bad economy may not be the Sen Dems’ fault, but they did have something to do with the late budget and their record has often been quite abysmal; top that off with legal problems, scandal or the whiff thereof (sometimes quite real and sometimes just stink and fury signifying nothing real bad) surrounding Senators Sampson, Smith, Espada, Diaz, Peralta, Kruger, Huntley and Parker and the Republicans can paint an ugly (and not totally inaccurate) picture, even if their own housekeeping was no better.
Still, the Republicans never promised to improve the place, and the Democrats did.
It is with all that in mind, that I begin a series of endorsements in this year’s often sorry series of Democratic primaries for State Senate.
And it is with that in mind that I endorse in a race, the results of which will have almost nothing to do with what would seem to be the sine que non of this year’s primary season, the aforementioned goals (2) and (3).Kevin Parker supports same sex marriage, and, as I’ve noted before, Kevin Parker has never made common cause with Republicans.
Twice, despite Kevin’s multiple failings as a legislator, a community ombudsman and a human being, I’ve felt compelled to endorse him for Senate.In 2005, Parker was charged with punching a Capitol traffic agent and was ordered to undergo anger management counseling., but I endorsed him against Former City Councilman Noach Dear (now a judge), because of Dear’s right wing positions, his own ethical issues, and because I believed that, if Dear was elected, and the Majority in the Senate was ever at stake, Dear would surely have conference with the Republicans, and his vote would have always been available for their purposes in any event.
Dear was a disreputable reprobate who made Parker look a solid citizen. By contrast, in 2008, Simcha Felder was Parker’s clear superior in every way but his stance upon the issues, while Kendall Stewart pulled the neat trick of combining the worst features of both his opponents, so I endorsed Parker again. I’dpreviously predicted that, given the state of Brooklyn politics, I’d probably have to endorse Parker again this year, but God smiled and gave Kevin a one-on-one primary against a candidate with decent civic credentials who will not conference with the Republican, nor vote against same-sex marriage, so there is no chance of doing worse, and probably a good chance of doing better.
As such, I am endorsing Wellington Sharpe. He may be a perenial candiate, but he is a good man whose time has come.
So let me outline why I want to get rid of Parker.
As an elected, Parker seems to fly from the seat of his pants. He projects an air of being unfocussed, and he’s categorically refused to face up to why voters might be concerned about his issues of personal behavior. Many observers say that Parker often seems over his head legislatively, less than aggressive in bring home the bacon and less than zealous in delivering constituent service.
But that's not why voters should dump him.
Voters should dump Parker because he is an embarrassment to the Senate, The Party and the State of New York.
Despite the fact that I’d do it again under the same circumstances, I am personally embarrassed to have supported Kevin Parker.Back in 2006, while pulling together a well deserved last minute diss of pretentious woman-beating psychopath Kevin Powell, I made a Freudian slip and called him Kevin Parker. Even in endorsing Parker, I had felt the need to make the distinction between Parker and Powell, which was made somewhat more difficult by the fact that Powell, if anything, seems more willing than Parker to face his demons.
At the time, I admitted with small comfort that while Parker clearly had a bad temper, unlike Powell, there seemed no evidence of gender issues. Then, shortly after that piece ran, a female staffer accused Parker of shoving her and crushing her glasses when they fell to the ground.
In June 2009, during the “Times of Troubles,” State Senate Republicans said they might file criminal and ethics charges against Parker for allegedly threatening one of their lawyers. Attorney John Conway said he was on the Senate floor when Parker, who then (and currently) faces felony assault charges, (which I will not discuss, because the man is entitled to his legal presumption of innocence and his days in Court, and because I find it far less relevant than the matter I will discuss) tried to disrupt a farcical Republican-controlled Kabuki proceeding which was disrupting the Democrat’s similar commedia d’ell arte.
According to Conway, "He said to me, 'What are you looking at, punk? Do you know who I am and don't you read the newspaper, punk?"
Conway was intimidated. I guess he read the papers.
But Conway shouldn’t feel the victim of excessive partisanship, for Parker seems far harsher with Democrats than Republicans. Remember, his staffer worked for a Democrat. Then, there was the matter of our Governor.
Parker has been admirably free of the race card. In fact, Parker’s early made clear in no uncertain terms his complete contempt for David Paterson, his joy at Paterson’s dismal re-elections prospects, and his desire to be well rid of Paterson (and who can really blame him for holding such sentiments?).
Then, Parker gilded the lily by calling Paterson “a coke sniffing, staff-banging Governor.”
Well, perhaps Parker's never considered the fact that there‘s something to be said for banging with your staff, rather than banging at them.
For hours, Parker stood by his words, and then, after cooler heads with bigger muscle prevailed, Parker changed his mind.
Parker’s statement of contrition began with these poignant word:
"My conduct today was reprehensible and regrettable. I apologize…"
Not unexpectedly, Parker found expelling a Senator convicted of a violent misdemeanor to be a frightening prospect.
Still, he went above and beyond the call of duty; behold:
“[the Senate will have engaged in ] double jeopardy by punishing (Monserrate) a second time."
But surely that made no sense. If convicted instead of a felony, Monserrate would have lost his seat by operation of law.
Was Parker saying that that would have been double jeopardy as well?And when a cop in a case like Amadou Diallo‘s or Sean Bell’s is acquitted of police brutality, because of a finding that his conduct was not criminal, was Parker saying that the officer should then be exempt from job loss or other departmental discipline for non-criminal misconduct and/or incompetence which may have or may in the future endanger the public?
Was Parker saying that that was double jeopardy too?
And then there was the matter that Monserrate is appealing his conviction.
"I don't see how it helps this conference or the state of New York to rush to judgment when the legal system hasn't rendered a final verdict,"
Nonsense. There was once an Assembly Speaker named Mel Miller, who once represented a good deal of Parker’s district in the Assembly, until convicted of a felony. Despite the fact that Miller also appealed his conviction---successfully, in fact, he was forced to forfeit his position by operation of law.
Was Parker advocating a double standard, did he really believe that convicted felons should also be allowed to keep their positions until they’ve exhausted their judicial remedies?
But Parker had no clue, while Monserrate has and is using his right to appeal, his presumption of innocence ceased to exist the day he was convicted.
In opposing expulsion, Parker also cited the sacred nature of the Soviet style election (no opposition in either primary or general election) which ordained Monserrate as his district’s Senator.Some of Parker’s other comments on the case have shown he’s just got no clue at all. In fact, Parker was so clueless that he fails to understand that, by elevating the importance of the conviction, or lack thereof (which the Select Committee which recommended expulsion specifically stated was NOT the reason for its recommendation) Parker was actually potentially undermining his own position,
As someone who could theoretically be convicted of a misdemeanor, by plea or trial, Parker would actually have set a better precedent for himself by adopting an analysis in which actual conviction for a misdemeanor was irrelevant. And, such a rationale was only provided by the Report calling for immediate expulsion, and not by the Sampson compromise Parker supported, which, by postponing any expulsion until after Monserrate’s appeals were exhausted, actually would have made such a conviction dispositive.
But most ludicrous were Parker’s self-serving descriptions of his concern about violence against women, even as he voted to spare Monserrate:
“Historically, I have stood with women’s groups and groups fighting against domestic violence, and for women’s issues. I am a member of the Majority Task Force on Domestic Violence, and I have introduced several bills aiding victims of domestic violence, including one that provides victims of domestic violence with anonymous telephone listings, so their batterers will not be able to track them down through the telephone book.”
I think that such an assertion would be unfair. It is clearly narrower than that.
First, there was that incident where a female staffer accused Parker of shoving her and crushing her glasses when they fell to the ground.
Then there was his conduct in the Senate Democratic Conference meeting leading up to the Monserrate expulsion vote.
In an incident no one denies, and for which Parker has since apologized, Parker is said to have charged towards State Senator Diane Savino during a Senate Democratic Conference set up to discuss the potential Monserrate expulsion.
Parker is said to have taken several steps toward Savino (D-S.I.) as the two argued over Monserrate‘s expulsion.
Senator Parker apparently used the word ‘fuck,” a word not unknown to Senator Savino’s vocabulary, or necessarily offensive to her delicate sensibilities. Parker is also said to have called her a “bitch,” which may have offended her far more than would the word “fuck.”
Rock Hackshaw has also raised the possibility of Parker’s use of the “C” word as well, but there is no verification of this, so why raise potentially false rumors when the truth will suffice?
According to one witness, Savino attempted to explain why Monserrate would be immediately expelled with Republican votes, and Parker "went a little ballistic, swearing and screaming that the Republicans have no right to dictate what goes on in our house."
In a moment fraught with irony, three opponents of immediate expulsion, Eric Adams, Ruben Diaz, and Carl Kruger - started yelling and egging Parker on.
And I thought it would be a cold day indeed when Ruben Diaz and Carl Kruger started to complain about Republicans dictating what went on in the New York State Senate.
Maybe, their objection was to the Republicans doing so without their own personal cooperation.
Savino then apparently told Parker to stop interrupting her, followed by the exchanged of reciprocal "Fucks yous.”
Senate Jeffrey Klein then jumped up. Parker responded by swearing at Klein and asking, "Do you want a piece of me?"
"If that's what it takes to stop this," Klein answered, while Parker was held back by John Sampson (perhaps sparking Diaz‘s complaint that day about Sampson‘s leadership).
I think it is therefore fair to conclude that Parker’s concerns is not all violence against all women, but ONLY Domestic Violence. Parker not only lacks concern over violence against women in the workplace, he seems to favor it.Then there was the time Parker blew a gasket (minutes 19-23 on the attached video) during a confirmation hearing being conducted by the Senate Finance Committee.
Parker objected to the way Republican Senator John DeFrancisco was treating a nominee to the Power Authority, Mark O’Luck, who was not only black, but who had made some strong and controversial statements in favor of affirmative actions programs.
Parker described DeFrancisco’s the treatment of the nominee as racist. Some may object to the substance of Parker’s remarks here; I will leave that be. In the year 2010, to say Republicans are engaging in racist tactless is often to speak the truth, and DeFrancisco, while not being racist in my view, was at least being patronizing, and perhaps being clueless in whining about the hurdles faced by working class white men like his father, especially since the remarks DeFrancisco so objected to were quite obviously talking about “well connected” white people.
Some will object to the lack of euphemism in Parker‘s choice the of word “racist” (as opposed to some less inflammatory synonym for bigot), which could be called inappropriate and counterproductive, but I will leave that be. In his mind, Parker was calling a spade a spade (perhaps not the best choice of words).
It is the volume of Parker’s remarks that is so striking and disturbing. Committee Chair Carl Kruger, perhaps shocked that such an outburst was taking place in public, rather than behind the closed doors of a Party Conference, suddenly found distressing the sort of Parker cuteness for which he’d previously expressed his enjoyment. He told Parker to calm down and Parker responded rudely. Kruger reprimanded Parker for showing him disrespect.
Now, I am certainly not going to criticize anyone for showing disrespect towards Carl Kruger, but when Kruger told Parker he might need to step outside, and Parker responded that Kruger should bring some people for that, things had clearly gone a bridge too far.
Parker is actually a perfect illustration of a point I‘ve made before. Senate sanctions do not necessarily need to be imposed in every case of misdemeanor criminality, but there are other times when they should be imposed for behavior that is not criminal at all.
Parker’s conduct in the DeFrancisco/Kruger incident was certainly not criminal. His conduct in the Savino and Conway incidents was probably not criminal, at most rising to the level of a violation.
But all this conduct was both in the course of Parker’s duties, and ethically reprehensible. One of these incidents alone might not justify sanction (though I think the Savino incident does, all by itself), but all three (along with the one with the one involving the traffic agent, which was also arguably in the course of Parker’s duties) taken together are probably clear and convincing evidence of a pattern of official misconduct.
On the basis of this conduct, Parker should be expelled from the State Senate, or, at the very least, censured. Since the Senate refuses to even inquire into such matters, it is up to the voters do this instead.
Be sharp, vote Sharpe.
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