Having just shot my wad on giving the Greg Meeks race the attention it might have gotten if he had more well known, better-financed opposition (though please take note, the Rockaways’ hometown paper, "The Wave," no particular bastion of left-liberalism, has joined me in endorsing Mike Scala), I am now preparing my pieces on the races that have been covered to death by everyone, including me (and in two of which I’ve telegraphed my punch in from the get go).
But before I deliver my endorsements of Chuck Barron, Dan O’Connor, Robert Mittman and Craig Schley (just kidding), I though it worth noting that there are two other contests (making seven contested primaries in the 13 Congressional Districts covering NYC—not too shabby).
Since these contests are worth so little attention, much (but not all) of what follows is a repeat of stuff I’ve said before, but even a Gate clips-show usually beats what is on the other channels.
CD #10 (Brooklyn): As I’ve said before, I have a problem with Yvette Clarke on the matter of Israel. As someone who is a pretty outspoken supporter of Israel, but also a pretty outspoken supporter of a two state solution and an extremely loud critic of the messianic Zionist right, I think I can put this in the proper perspective.
Gary Ackerman is a strong supporter who has nonetheless not shied from expressing constructive criticism when merited (he has also been a critic of some of the more naive members of the Zionist left).
Nydia Velazquez has, in infrequent instances, been less than perfect in her support of Israel, but it would be surely be unfair to call her an enemy
Charles Barron is an enemy of Israel and probably it would probably be fair to call him an anti-Semite, except that he even refuses to acknowledge that we are Semitic.
Ms. Clarke’s record on Israel is decidedly more problematic that Velazquez’s but does not require alarms in the manner of Barron’s.
Ms. Clarke does not have a virulently anti-Israel record of a Charles Barron; she does not even have a record of anti-Israel statements which could be said to equal that of Brad Lander (who has since had a sincere change of heart on the matter).
Ms. Clarke put her name on a resolution unfriendly to Israel at the City Council. She voted "no" on a resolution condemning the Goldstone report (Ms. Velazquez merely abstained). She put her name on two letters critical of Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip (Ms. Velazquez did not sign these letters–the complaint against her is that she didn’t sign a pro-Israel letter which was apparently never submitted to her).
Ms. Clarke and other critics of Israel’s conduct in the Gaza (and generally) have chosen to ignore the salient fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza (even Netanyahu voted for it, putting him far to the left of Rory Lancman) and has since been the victim of rocket attacks sanctioned by a bunch of theocratic thugs, and has therefore chosen to defend and protect itself.
I would be the first to admit that Israel's response has at times been excessive, wrong-headed and ill advised.
BUT IT IS A RESPONSE, A RESPONSE WHICH WAS EXTREMELY WELL-PROVOKED.
Ms. Clarke was ill-advised in signing the letters and voting against the resolution.
Is she anti-Israel?
The kindest thing one can says is that she has been less sensitive to Israel’s security needs than she should be.
And now Hashem has blessed her with new lines giving her an extremely high Orthodox Jewish population.
It is hard not to laugh.
Nonetheless, I do not worry about too much about Ms. Clarke’s future conduct.
Called on the matter in her district (when it still had the old lines), Clarke immediately genuflected to the locals and sent out an abject letter of apology.
Supporters of Israel may not have a great friend here, but Ms. Clarke will probably not trouble them greatly in the future, especially given the large number of right wing Zionist voters she has since gained.
I do not consider Yvette Clarke a great intellectual, but I by no means believe Clarke is so dumb she'd purposely take anymore stupid votes on Israel, though I admit she might do so sometime without realizing it.
But, I'm utterly convinced she does not feel strongly enough about the topic to take a principled stance, which appears in her case to be a good thing (although I do worry that, in her mindless zeal to prove herself, she might move to far in the other direction).
To say Yvette Clarke’s apathy and sheep-like behavior constitutes her being an enemy of Israel drains the term of any real meaning. Chuck Barron is an enemy. Brad Lander used to be an enemy.
Yvette is just a cipher.
I would advocate casting a protest vote against her, just so she gets the message, but, given the extremely low turnout her extremely low profile race is likely to attract, I feel compelled to avoid an embarrassing accident.
Even as regards ciphers, for me the question is always "compared to what?"
And, in this case, we must compare Ms. Clarke to Sylvia Kinard.
In Congress, Sylvia Kinard would be an embarrassing accident; her campaign is little more than that. Let me quote the first and last paragraph of Ms. Kinard’s bio on her website:
"Rev. Sylvia Gail Kinard, Esq. is a well-respected attorney, entrepreneur and community leader. Her demeanor is one of confidence and grace. She has distinguished herself as an expert in faith based community development, and advocate for the formerly incarcerated and for expanding small business opportunities for women and children....
...An entrepreneur and writer, she is the owner of Sheya Hair and Beauty Products and a family business, Imani Entertainment, which develops children's and family friendly entertainment products. She resides in Brooklyn, New York with her daughter --Kellie Alexis. "
When properly coached, Yvette Clarke can sound articulate and intelligent and gives the appearance of familiarity with a wide range of issues and having coherent views concerning them.
By contrast, Sylvia Kinard seems unable to adlib a fart after a 12 course Hungarian banquet.
She is most famous for being called “crazy as a loon” in open court. At a campaign forum held earlier this spring, Kinard was bereft of any vision other than that we had to work better across party lines.
Well she not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.
Kinard had a wonderful answer for why she worked for Republican George Pataki:
"He offered me a good job"
What was Billy Thompson thinking when he married this woman?
And how did she end up with the credenza?
According to Sylvia's lit, she worked for the "New York City Counsel (sic)." Three months have gone by since I have initially pointed out this error, but it remains uncorrected on her website.
Apparently, Sylvia worked under her opponent's mom, Una Clarke, a fellow supporter of George Pataki.
What follows is the entirety of the substantive things Ms. Kinard has to say about anything on her site (other than to note she has endorsed the re-election of Barack Obama):
"I am running for the 9th Congressional District because I want "A Better Brooklyn for Everyone." Better schools for all children, decent housing for all families, increased employment opportunities, affordable health care and safe streets. A utopia? I don’t think so. But it will take hard work and all of us working together. I hope you will work with me to ensure that the 9th Congressional District gets its fair share of the resources that continue to make this country great, and that the diversity of our community is respected and celebrated. Together, we will make Brooklyn better for everyone!"
One page on the site is called "Electorate." It consists entirely of the following notation: "THIS SITE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION"
The election is Tuesday.
Maybe she’s saving it for the general election.
I have read Ms. Kinard’s literature, heard her speak and trawled her website and can say conclusively that has not articulated any reason for why she wishes to serve in Congress, other than that it would be “a good job.”
I think a protest vote is too big a risk to take (but, if you want to take, I won’t argue too hard; just don’t say I didn’t warn you).
Gatemouth endorses Yvette Clarke.
CD#16 (Bronx/Westchester): Eliot Engel is most famous for being a bit of a doofus--what else do you call a guy who always stakes out an aisle seat for the State of the Union so he can get his smiling mug on national television?
Further, he has what we can now refer to as a couple of Meeks issues.
I articulate them here not to bust Mr. Engel’s chops (well, maybe a little bit), but to differentiate his issues from those of Mr. Meeks, so that no one can say that I have a double standard.
It’s not a double standard; it’s a sliding scale, and Mr. Engel and Mr. Meeks are at different ends of it.
In 2008, Mr. Engel and a friend/campaign contributor bought a small apartment building in The Bronx, but Engel failed to disclose his 24% ownership stake on his financial disclosure form for two years. He amended the reports only after inquiries by the Daily News.
It should be noted that this appears to be Engel’s only failure to disclose, as compared to the multiple examples I cited for Meeks.
Engel also refuses to disclose the terms (interest rate or repayment schedule) of the loan he secured (in a manner resembling multiple loans involving Meeks) from the same friend and campaign contributor (Meeks has never been able to produce any documentation detailing the terms of some of his loans).
It should be noted that the loan was disclosed, and was apparently approved by the House Ethics Committee (The Committee is not allowed to confirm this). This varies sharply with much of Meeks’ practice.
It is further to be noted, that the organization which authored the report critical of Meeks, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), while calling Engel’s arrangement potentially "problematic", said that Engel did the proper thing by going to the ethics committee in advance for approval.
So there are significant differences.
Further, Engels is has not been accused of receiving improper gifts, has not been the object of suspicion of receiving bribes or doing improper favors, has never been under investigation for looting a not-for-profit organization, nor has he ever been accused by anyone of asking Hugo Chavez to put someone in prison.
The CREW report concluded that Meeks may be guilty of "False Statements on Personal Financial Disclosure Forms," "Acceptance of a Bribe," "Illegal Gratuity." asking for anything of value from someone who "who seeks official action from the House, does business with the House, or has interests which may be substantially affected by the performance of official duties," exerting improper influence, taking official actions for the prospect of personal gain, "dispensing of special favors or privileges...," Gift Rule Violations and "Conduct Not Reflecting Creditably on the House."At worst, Mr. Engel appears to have done only one of these things, perhaps inadvertently and in a very limited manner.
Nonetheless, Engel’s minor ethical issues do leave a bad taste. And Engel has attracted a challenger.
In a district now nearly 54% black and Latino, represented by a dorky white man embodying adequacy, and giving the appearance of minor ethical smoke (though probably no fire), Engel’s sole opponent is Aniello Grimaldi, an Italian American most famous for getting 21% against DA Robert Johnson in 1999.
On his website, which features photos of Martin Luther King and Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, we learn that Grimaldi is not merely running for Congress, but for President of the United states as well (unlike Sylvia Kinard, he has not endorsed Barack Obama).
Here’s some more of what we learn, verbatim (except where indicated):
Background: Neil Grimaldi has been a lawyer since 1974.Mr. Grimaldi has been an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County and a New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor. He has taught Social Studies in New York City Junior High Schools and a remedial reading teacher in Roman Catholic grammar schools under Title 1.
Neil has practiced criminal law, civil rights law, personal injury law, matrimonial law, immigration law election law,and real estate law.
Neil is also a nondenominational ordained reverend since 1999, and has written a monumental book on wisdom and religions called The Book Of Life And Love. (Attached). He has studied every major religion for many years and has participated in their services.
Neil has been a candidate for U.S. Congress based on a platform of peace and establishing a U.S. Department of Peace (an idea which originated with President George Washington). He has also been a candidate for Bronx District Attorney for which he received over 13,000 petition signatures, and New York City Civil Court.
He presently is writing a book titled On Education, in which he places emphasis on a holistic, moral, happy child. His educational policy is that schools must be concerned with the spiritual and personal transformations of the individuals to become the best persons possible. (see educational platform)
He opposes our present federal policy of no child left behind which emphasizes educating children to pass a reading and math test which puts too much pressure on students and teachers.
Neil has worked in the New York State Senate as an assistant to former New York State Senator John D. Calendra (sic) [Note from Gate: Calandra was a sleazeball], Neil has also been a political staff member in the NYC Council. He is well acquainted with the legislative process.
Neil has represented many insurgent political candidates in efforts to get on the ballet in the Bronx and Queens. He has continuously fought the establishment forces in an effort to give voters a political choice in New York City elections, especially after candidates have been removed unfairly from the ballot.
Neil has also had numerous civil rights cases fighting for victims of police brutality and police abuse in the United States District Courts. Nevertheless he has great respect for the police, firefighters, and all civil servants.
Neil Grimaldi has been a journalist for The Jewish Post and the National Black Network covering international and domestic news, including issues related to children, international affairs, and world hunger, and international political issues at the United Nations.
He has also been a sports journalist for the United Press International.
In High School he was a cross country runner competing in two and a half mile races, and a half mile distant runner in track and field. He was awarded the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award by Salesian High School. While at Georgetown University, he was a star wide receiver on the football team in his senior year. He also was part of the track team that broke an intramural Georgetown University record.
Neil Grimaldi has also produced and hosted television shows regarding political issues, women's issues, and issues of human concern.
Neil Grimaldi is theologian who is about to publish a book called God, Jesus, And Christianity which highlights the politics of God and Jesus with emphasis on helping humanity by fulfilling the Laws of God regarding love of God and love of all human beings. It emphasizes the need to develop and establish the standards of a sacred and dignified life for all people.
All are children of God and thereby innately sacred having been born in the image and likeness of God as stated in the Bible at Genesis 1:27.
Neil Grimaldi has also written over 100 song lyrics and poems. He has also helped create a successful television show.
While attending Law School Neil created a program for youth called S.T.O.P., which worked to stop drug use in the Bronx.
While attending Georgetown University he developed a program called The Winner's Club which worked to help alcoholics in the inner District of Columbia. He was assisted by his college classmate and friend former President Bill Clinton.
Neil was also creator and director of a program called the African Famine Relief Fund during the famine crisis in Africa. The program was recognized by U.N.I.C.E.F...
I think sanity should be a minimal requirement for membership in Congress.
Eliot Engel is sane (albeit, at times a bit eccentric).
Gatemouth endorses Engel.