Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Mapmaker Jonathan Cervas

Some Campaigns In Final Stretch, Others Gear Up For Next Round

This Tuesday, June 28, candidates for governor, Democrat lieutenant governor, state Assembly, some court positions and Democratic party positions will know their fate. They will either proceed to the next round of voting on Tuesday, November 8, or enter the ranks of the also-ran. There are 40 primaries among the 150 Assembly posts; 36 Democrat and four Republican.

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Most of the primaries are due to retirements by incumbents and left-wing hopefuls wanting to unseat more moderate Democrats. Of the 40 primaries, 15 involve incumbents choosing to retire or to move up the political ladder in trying to win a Congressional or state Senate seat, or become a county executive.

On Tuesday, August 23, two special elections will be held to fill vacant Congressional seats in the 19th and 23rd districts, both upstate. The winner of those races will have to run again in the November general election. All contested primary races for state Senate and Congress will also be held on August 23.

This convoluted election season was thrown into disarray because of one-party rule in the Senate, Assembly, Congress and the Executive Chamber. The Democrats who rule the roost in Albany and Washington’s New York delegation drew new district lines based on the updated U.S. Census numbers. The districts were skewed so that Democrats could create a deeper foothold with their majorities and bury Republicans for decades to come. Governor Kathy Hochul signed the new lines into law.

It took several lawsuits and appeals to various courts to rule that the new district lines were indeed an unfair representation of the census numbers. The initial ruling by a Republican judge in a rural upstate county, Steuben County, stood the test of appeals to various courts, including the state Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

The Steuben County judge, Patrick McAllister, was elected in 2017 to a 10-year term as a county Surrogate’s Court judge on the Republican, Conservative, and Independent party lines. Due to a shortage of Supreme Court judges, many Surrogate’s Court judges serve as acting state Supreme Court judges. It was in this role that he made his ruling to have the lines redrawn by a specialist in redistricting, after the appeals processes were exhausted. McAllister chose Jonathan Cervas, a political scientist at Carnegie Mellon University.

While Cervas could only bill the state for up to $90,000 for his services, he procured the services of five others to assist him. He chose Bernard Grofman as a consultant. Grofman is a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine and a redistricting expert. Also, as part of his crew were three research assistants and a data scientist. McAllister approved the invoice totaling $147,123.25.

To justify the added expense of more than $57,000, Cervas cited the short time frame to prepare the maps, reviewing materials submitted by the state-adopted Independent Redistricting Commission (which failed in its mission), review of testimony from several hundred email submissions as well as those provided in person to the court, suggested map submissions by good government groups such as Common Cause and 3,000 comments sent to the court.

In his 18-page decision McAllister noted: “The current maps are void and unusable. New York has a long history of gerrymandering when it comes to the creation of new voting districts. It is compromise that is the safest way to avoid the plague of partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering discrimination hurts everyone because it tends to silence minority voices.” He also called the practice “a scourge” plaguing New York.

 

Debates and More Debates, Now Go Vote

For someone in a position of power (such as governor), one important component of being successful is the ability to communicate a message clearly with proper English grammar.

Former governors Andrew Cuomo and his father Mario had that impeccable ability down pat. You knew what they were saying and the meaning behind their words.

During the recent debates on June 7, 13, 15, 16 and 20, Democrats Tom Suozzi and Antonio Delgado, as well as Republicans Lee Zeldin and Rob Astorino, held their own, effectively countering attacks by their opponents. In a moment of bravado, at one point army veteran Zeldin said to his three opponents, “I’ll take on all of you,” as the attacks persisted. Suozzi, Delgado and Zeldin are all members of Congress. Astorino is a former two-term Westchester County Executive.

Aside from Delgado, who was born and raised in Schenectady, the English language skills of the other lieutenant gubernatorial hopefuls, Colombian-born Ana Maria Archila and Dominican-born Diana Reyna, leave a lot to be desired. During the debate they had trouble pronouncing their talking points.

Governor Hochul tends to begin a sentence with the conclusion and then go back to summarize the rationale of her conclusion. At one debate she was criticized in the mainstream media for not being definitive about congestion pricing in New York City due to federal roadblocks. During the next debate she was absolutely definitive that she unequivocally supports congestion pricing. That’s not a good practice when trying to communicate policy. Between the two debates, her handlers and advisers most likely got to her to fine-tune her message. Hochul also tends to exhibit a tough-as-nails persona who won’t take a backseat to anyone, yet she talks about wanting to get along with legislative leaders and local government officials. In some distorted rationale, maybe the two are not connected – but you can’t say one idea publicly and be completely different privately. Hochul also talks about being absolutely transparent to the public and the media, yet she held a recent cabinet meeting barring cameras and reporters from the room. Previous governors allowed the media to attend these meetings and record them.

Will the real Kathy Hochul please stand up?

It appears money can’t buy an election, as in the case of billionaire Harry Wilson, who is mostly self-financing his campaign. He is positioning himself as the turnaround king. At the Republican and Conservative party conventions earlier this year, the party leadership told the turnaround king to turn around and go home. Wilson wants to be the outsider who will make state government officials honest and professional. Apparently, while that’s a laudable goal, the people he needs to support him are not buying into his message.

As for Andrew Giuliani, the only thing he appears to have going for him is his father and Curtis Sliwa. Stumping around the state, the younger Giuliani, a former aide to President Trump, has Giuliani senior at his side every step of the way. At New York City campaign stops, Sliwa joins them for any message the 36-year-old political novice has to say.

A light turnout is expected, so just go out and vote. Early voting has already commenced. The last day to vote in the primary is Tuesday, June 28.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.
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