Make State Seats More Competitive
Jun 07, 2011 | 7449 views | 0 0 comments | 107 107 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The seat held by Audrey Pheffer (New York State Assembly, District 23) for many years in South Queens will now be vulnerable to a change in party representation. But would that seat be more open to the policy concerns of the district if the special election was a nonpartisan special election? We know that most people tilt toward one party or the other; people are either Republicans or Democrats, liberal or conservative to some degree. If the elections were nonpartisan, however, there may be less of a need for a candidate to garner the support of party leaders.

The nonpartisan special elections in the City Council allow candidates to be who they are, and not who the party might want them to be. District leaders are important, and those in the 23rd serve a good purpose, but state special elections would be better off reflecting the style of our City Council special elections.

The upcoming special election in the 23rd District will be competitive. The likely GOPer is Jane Deacy and the Democrats will most likely go with Phillip Goldfeder, an aide to Chuck Schumer. This would be a fitting race for the district, and the district deserves two candidates who are both viable.

The critique of nonpartisan special elections is that there is a low voter turnout. But there is a low voter turnout in all special elections – which are often in cold weather months. This is something that the state should consider for special elections, and if it appears to work well, perhaps it could be part of a bigger reform project. Parties are important, but good candidates are more important. The way the system is set up now, the most conservative candidates are often squaring off against the most liberal. There is nothing wrong with that if it reflects a particular district, but for most areas of the state, people are relatively centrist. This could be the answer to getting Albany to work together with a larger degree of consistency.

Bronx Disarmament

When the Bronx held a one-day gun buyback as a way to get guns off the street last week, it was using a tactic that is almost always worth the effort. The government cannot do this every week, but it is a useful way to pump money into the economy – by offering bank or gift cards – in exchange for guns. The mayor has made getting guns off the street an issue from his first term, but this is a way to make a difference without changing the current laws.

The gun problem in New York City may not be as fixable through laws as it might be through creativity. The buybacks are important in times like these, and the $600 gift card that was given to Bronx residents was a good amount of money. District Attorney Robert Johnson and Commissioner Ray Kelly deserve credit for this, and it needs to be a bigger program.

Rudy, Stay on The Short List

There are few political figures with the legacy that Rudy Giuliani has to his credit. He turned New York City from an anemic political machine into a responsive government. That legacy is his to build on if he wishes, but the idea of running for president might be past its ripeness. If a non-national candidate makes a run such as this, it has to come right after leaving office. A decade later, Rudy is still respected, but there looms that last, unsuccessful run for the presidency that would hurt him.

Could a Giuliani-type of candidate get elected nationally? Despite what pundits might say, a centrist pragmatist can be elected, but there would little room for mistakes. That 2008 run for the presidency was a bad campaign for Giuliani. In order to make a serious run, the former mayor would have to first show signs that he would do things differently this time. That means getting started early (something he did not do even as a mayoral candidate). His campaign would need to operate less like a private club and more like a, well, like a campaign for public office. He would have to go to Iowa this time.

What is wrong with taking a policy position in government and not being in the cat-bird seat? I am one person that feels that Giuliani would have been a great president, but he is not a great campaigner, and you cannot get there without campaigning. Like Mario Cuomo said, “You campaign in poetry, and you govern in prose.”

Rudy writes great prose, but he would have to learn to write poetry – and fast. And he would be going up against a very good poet this time around if he were to get the nomination. Would Rudy be a strong vice-presidential candidate? Let’s put it this way: all of those wisecracks that Joe Biden aimed at Giuliani and his 9/11 references would now have to be answered – face to face. Now that is poetry for which I am willing to tune in.

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