By Larry Gordon
The long-discussed political season is about to reach its first peak, that is the September 10 primary day for selected important positions in New York City as well as here on Long Island. After 12 years and a shaky stability that was brought to the city by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it is time to move on. In a sense, those who live in the five boroughs may have to bid farewell to a type of constancy that the city experienced for the last three decades under Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani, and Mr. Bloomberg.
The choices in the New York primary are difficult to make, for a combination of contrarian and problematic reasons. Most of those running are so flawed that voters who look to leaders for leadership rather than excuse-making about why things are so bad or getting worse are forced to choose from the least objectionable of the candidates.
That was the point made by former congressman and scandal-plagued candidate Anthony Weiner a few weeks ago when he met with a cadre of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn. He essentially said that if we look at the candidates, we will discover that despite his foibles and drawbacks, if we can look beyond his personal failings, we will realize that his repugnant behavior as detailed in the media for way too long might be the least objectionable type of conduct among the major candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor. I don’t disagree with him, but neither do I agree that the greatest city in the world needs someone so toxic and politically damaged as Mr. Weiner to be its mayor.
After all, this is New York and this is a Democratic Party primary, so each of the candidates is going to keep trying to be more liberally appealing than the other. That’s why current Comptroller John Liu is calling for the legalization of marijuana. That stance got him a little media attention (about one day’s worth), but besides the financial problems and the taint of illegal contributions to his campaign, the Liu candidacy is not realistic, not even a blip on the political radar screen anymore.
It’s a little funny that the Daily News as well as the New York Post and the New York Times this week endorsed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor. If there is a front-runner today, it seems to be her. However, I suspect that other than believing that she may be competent enough to be mayor, the press in New York desperately wants to be able to focus on a story that features a once-upon-a-time unacceptable personal life story, displaying a so-called alternative lifestyle that is increasingly being legitimized. The press wants to do wall-to-wall coverage of potentially not just New York’s first female mayor—which for some backward reason is still breaking news—but of the first woman to possibly become mayor who has another woman as a wife. And therein lies the crux of the problem. True, it is an unpopular thing to say or write, but it still needs to be said.
This situation obscures Ms. Quinn’s extreme liberalism, though her supporters believe that she is coming across more liberal than she really is—especially on issues of security like stop-and-frisk—for the benefit of the campaign, so as to attract more of the minority voters deemed essential to victory in what is expected to be a low-turnout primary.
Also in that same extremely liberal category is Bill De Blasio. I don’t know that the city can absorb such a shocking political shift and what could very well be a rapid return to the sad days of the administration of Mr. Dinkins. De Blasio is what one would refer to as hopelessly liberal and an Obama-type tax-and-spend politician. He has already said on the campaign trail that he would be aiming to raise taxes considerably on the wealthiest New Yorkers in the Obama tradition (which is not working out too well).
So it is for these and a host of other reasons that we urge New York City members of the Democratic Party to vote on September 10 for Bill Thompson. Mr. Thompson is a known entity with deep and effective relationships from his time as comptroller in the first Bloomberg administration. “He’s someone we can talk to about all kinds of issues,” said political activist Chaskel Bennett of Brooklyn. Sure, Thompson is a liberal Democrat but, as Bennett pointed out, he’s a man that listens and that you can reason with. Former New York senator Al D’Amato said of Bill Thompson when commenting on the mayoral race, “He is the only adult in the room.”
Thompson understands issues such as the controversial metzitzah b’peh, which Bennett points out is not just about a centuries-old tradition amongst many Orthodox Jews, but more about religious freedom and the idea that government should not be encroaching on religion. When that happens, it is usually a precursor to a difficult and potentially dangerous situation.
Thompson is a seasoned political leader who understands the complexities that challenge New York in these changing times, and that is what New York needs, especially now.
As to who is going to oppose the Democratic winner in November, we hope that it is the Rudy Giuliani protégé Republican Joe Lhota. Mr. Lhota is facing off in his own primary against supermarket magnate and billionaire John Catsimatidis. The 5TJT favors Mr. Lhota because he is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in New York City government during good times and not-so-good times. He was the man in charge at the MTA, where he oversaw a $13 billion budget and 65,000 employees. Earlier in his career he was the budget and finance director for Mayor Giuliani, where he oversaw a $36 billion budget.
In order to get elected in November, he will have to reach way across party lines in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one. The question down the road will be whether New Yorkers want the city run like a circus featuring a variety of acts or like a no-nonsense business that serves the interests of most of the city’s seven million residents.
Mr. Catsimatidis seems like a well-meaning individual trying to take a chapter out of the Bloomberg billionaire playbook, but we’ve already seen that show and it is time to move on. Republicans should vote on September 10 for Joe Lhota.
Here in Nassau County we have a great race for the Democratic Party nomination for Nassau County executive between former county executive Tom Suozzi and a political newcomer, businessman Adam Haber. Both men seem to have a plan to breathe life into the Nassau County economy. Haber says that we have to encourage and generate tourism in the county and that motivating people to shop here is vital because 40 percent of the tax income in Nassau comes from sales tax. Suozzi wants to encourage young people to move into Long Island communities. He says that building up the towns and villages and revitalizing the downtown areas will generate important income and attract business, and that this is the hope and future of the county.
Both men are aligned with the Democratic Party on social issues, with Haber claiming that he is much more fiscally conservative than Suozzi. Mr. Suozzi has finally agreed to debate Mr. Haber, reversing his previous refusal, which was made in reaction to the personal attacks Mr. Haber was leveling at him.
Both men are eminently qualified, Mr. Suozzi because of his former eight-year stint as county executive and Mr. Haber because he is an outsider and businessman who would bring a breath of fresh air to county business. It’s a tough choice to make, as the challenges that lie ahead for the county are immense. The 5TJT feels that we need governmental experience to wade through the bureaucratic maze and that if the Democrats are successful in November, it should be Tom Suozzi who takes office. We therefore recommend that you vote for Suozzi in the Democratic primary.
I suppose we can say that aside from the Day of Judgment lurking just up the road, there will be a more mundane day of decision as well on September 10. There are numerous other races, and we will address and comment on them next week. In the meantime, the most important thing is to make your voice heard and to vote on primary day. v
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