This Years Primary Races In The Home Stretch – QNS.com

This Years Primary Races In The Home Stretch

While this may seem like it is not exactly an exciting primary year, there are a few primary races next Tuesday, Sept. 12. There are no Republican primaries this year. With the exception of the Independence Party primaries, every one of the primary contests described below is a Democratic Party primary. Several important primaries were voided when the courts eliminated the insurgent candidate from the ballot. However, in one case, the insurgent will nonetheless appear on the November general election ballot as the candidates of other parties. Heres a primer on the primary races this year:
MAJOR PRIMARIES RESULTS UNCERTAIN  Had Councilman Walter McCaffrey not dropped out of his primary challenge to incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley, that contest would have led this section.
9TH CONGRESSIONAL WEINER VS. DEAR Whenever I think of Noach Dear the word "fine" comes to mind. No, I dont mean "fine and dandy." I mean the kind of fine given by a judge when a court finds someone guilty of wrongdoing. Noach Dear has been fined for more wrongdoing in more places over a longer period of time than anyone else in my memory. His first fine was eleven years ago for embezzling money from a Jewish charity. His last fine was just last year for campaign finance irregularities in his 1998 Congressional campaign. Dear is proud that he has now fully paid all his fines and terms a smear campaign any discussion of his very checkered past. I mention it here because I think it relevant to the role of a Congressman. Dear is a very engaging sort; he combines rascality with chutzpah and always has a twinkle in his eye and a joke on his lips. He is also a serious candidate for the Congress.
Two years ago, Dear was the favorite in a four-way primary to succeed Charles Schumer. Schumer eventually wound up beating incumbent Republican Senator Al DAmato and spent most of the campaign as a neutral in the race for his Congressional seat before eventually endorsing Tony Weiner a couple of weeks before the primary. Weiner won, spending only about $350,000. Dear raised more than $1.9 million and outspent everyone else combined. That only bought him fourth place in a field of four, as Dears base constituency, Brooklyns Orthodox Jewish community, failed to vote in large enough numbers to permit Dear to beat his three opponents. We now know that much of Dears huge campaign warchest was raised illegally and spent ineffectually. Dear had to pay a huge fine after being found guilty of funding irregularities by the Federal Elections Commission. Right now, Noach Dear is once again running for Congress against first-term incumbent Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner is the total opposite of Dear. Hes scrupulously honest, a policy wonk who always has the facts of Congressional legislation at his fingertips, and is in the Democratic Party mainstream. As a Congressman, Weiner has made gun control, womens rights, and airline noise abatement his key issues. A Brooklyn Councilman before his election, hes given Queens issues special importance (much as Gary Ackerman, a Queens Congressman, made the Nassau and Suffolk parts of his district special when he began to represent them eight years ago).
Dear has run to the far-right, strongly criticizing Weiners support for abortion choice and gay rights. For this reason, Dear has been given the essentially-meaningless Republican and Conservative Party nominations and will appear on the November ballot even if he loses the Democratic nod. That conservative appeal may help Dear with the Catholic one-third of this Brooklyn-Queens district as well as with his own Orthodox Jewish constituency. But although it might make the contest close, running as a strong conservative is unlikely to make Dear the favorite with most Democrats, who tend to be left of center. The contest could be close if Dears Orthodox Jews come out in large numbers. Dear lost last time because the vote in places like Borough Park was dishearteningly small. My best guess is that Weiner wins by a 55-45 margin even with a strong Orthodox Jewish turnout. Dear wins if Brooklyns Borough Park comes out in record numbers for him. But if this is a repeat of 1998, when Dears conservatives dribbled into the polls, Weiner could win in a landslide.
36th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT GIANIS VS. THERMOS The retirement of Assemblyman Denis Butler this year means that the seat will move from an Irishman to a Greek. Butler was one of the old-line Irish politicians who, together with Italian political leaders, have dominated the politics of Astoria and Long Island City for the past half century. The new majority of Greek immigrants has been struggling for many years to gain acceptance by the Astoria political in-group, which coincidentally includes two political powerhouses County Leader Tom Manton and County Clerk Gloria DAmico.
The first serious Greek candidate to challenge Butler was Kimon Thermos. For the past four years, he has come within 150 votes of Butler (thereby winning 49 percent plus of the primary vote). He looked likely to overturn Butler this year when Butler joined Manton in his attempt to overthrow Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The failure of the Bragman-Manton coup attempt may have been what pushed Butler to retirement.
In typical Manton fashion, the Democratic Organization announced Butlers retirement at the same time that it announced that Michael Gianis would be the Organizations choice to succeed Butler. Gianis, 30, went to Fordham and then became a 1993 Harvard Law graduate. After Fordham, he worked briefly for Mantons Congressional office. He went on to become associate counsel to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and a stalwart in the powerful Tamiment Club. His nomination to replace Butler became the first fruit of the new alliance between Silver and Manton following Mantons failed coup against Silver (see Nolan vs. OMalley later in this column). That may be why he has now become the first candidate of Greek ancestry ever endorsed by the Queens Democratic Organization for any office.
The Organization has done a splendid job in supporting Gianis. They hired the Parkside Group (Bill Driscoll, Evan Stavisky, Harry Giannoulis) as consultants to Gianis, and raised almost a quarter million dollars in his behalf. This, plus the endorsement of just about every Organization leader boroughwide, has made Gianis the favorite. But if he wins, that victory is not likely to be a big one.
Kimon Thermos is an underdog now, but could easily come back to win. He has strong name recognition throughout the district, has raised enough money to make a credible race, and has significant labor support and still retains strong support in the local Greek community. Last week, he received the New York Times endorsement as well.
Bet on Gianis, but dont be surprised if Thermos winds up edging out the Organization favorite.
PRIMARIES INCUMBENTS VS. TOKEN OPPONENTS Many incumbents are challenged by opponents who have no real chance to win. Sometimes, they represent specific regions or ethnic groups. Sometimes they are running on issues. Sometimes they are running because they want to feel important. Whatever their reason, they almost certainly wont win.
12TH CONGRESSIONAL NYDIA VELASQUEZ VS. MILDRED ROSARIO – Nydia Velasquez deserves to lose. Shes not even tried to reach out to her Queens constituents in this Brooklyn-Queens district, much less the local Queens press. But shes not going to lose to Mildred Rosario.
Rosario, who lives on Manhattans East Side and whose professional life centered on the Bronx, is running against Velasquez mostly because the district is Latino, Rosario is Latino, and Velasquez is the weakest Latino Congressmember in the state. Mildred Rosario, for her part, is a candidate with unique and very controversial credentials. Two years ago, Rosario was a sixth grade teacher in the Bronx who was fired because she asked her class to "Let Jesus Save You." She continued her religious proselytization even after she was warned many times that this was a violation of policy and law, thereby forcing Board of Education authorities to fire her.
Rosario continues to defend her view that acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the most important part of the education of any child and now has made it into a political issue. Rosario has won some court battles, including a struggle over the continuation of her pension. But, given the Constitutions prohibitions against religious indoctrination in public education, she cannot win her ultimate battle until and unless the Constitution is amended to make her brand of Christianity the only State religion.
As a result, Rosario is an unlikely winner against an incumbent who at least supports the Constitution and especially the First Amendment thereof.
7TH AD CATHY NOLAN VS. PATRICK OMALLEY Twenty-year Assembly veteran (and head of the powerful and prestigious Labor Committee) Cathy Nolan is being opposed by newcomer Patrick OMalley.
OMalley began his campaign as the protg of Democratic County Leader Tom Manton. At OMalleys campaign announcement, the 34-year-old lawyer was hailed by Organization insiders as a major new force in Queens politics. He was given Mantons own Anoroc Club as his headquarters and Organization bigwigs began to run his campaign.
Why was OMalley the choice of the Organization over Nolan? Mostly because Nolan was one of the Three Allies who supported the Congressional campaign of insurgent Councilman Walter McCaffrey. Supporting OMalley was one way that Manton could get back at the Three Allies. Then two things happened that hurt OMalleys campaign badly.
The first event was the failed attempt by Tom Manton to oust State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and put Assemblyman Michael Bragman in Silvers place. When that coup failed, Silver had the option to take revenge on Manton and, conceivably, oust him. Instead, Manton and Silver made peace. Silver withdrew his support for the candidacy of McCaffrey and Manton pledged to withdraw his opposition to one of the two (out of sixteen) Queens members of the Assembly to support Silver from the start Cathy Nolan.
This rapprochement between Silver and Manton meant that Manton now had to oust OMalley from his Anoroc offices and, at least officially, to stop supporting OMalleys campaign. There even developed a cordial relationship between Nolan and Manton which remains to this day. But it is a cordiality that papers over a serious rift. In fact, Democratic Organization officials stayed in OMalleys camp and have helped OMalley campaign against Nolan.
They helped OMalley get the endorsement of former Mayor Ed Koch, who on August 23rd stood with OMalley in front of City Hall to announce that he was supporting the insurgent. "Ed Koch cites OMalleys Pledge To Fight For Commuter Tax As Vital To The Citys Financial Interest." Nolan did in fact vote for a repeal of the City commuter tax and OMalley has made that vote his main thrust of attack. The only problem with OMalleys concern is that every single one of the Queens delegation in the Assembly voted for the repeal of the tax and went along with Assembly Speaker Silver in what became a party line vote. What is more, by attacking the Commuter Tax bill, OMalley continues the attack on Silver that Manton began six months ago despite the official Manton-Silver alliance.
Why is Ed Koch endorsing OMalley? It is hard to ignore the fact that there has been a personal feud between Cathy Nolan and Ed Koch for the past twenty years. Nolan was a friend of Mario Cuomo and remained a loyal friend of Cuomo even though Koch beat Cuomo for Mayor in 1977 and lost to Cuomo for governor a few years later. Nolan refused to endorse Koch in every one of his campaigns and Koch in return endorsed every opponent to run against Nolan. When Pam Fisher ran against Nolan several years ago, there was Ed Koch out in front of City Hall endorsing Pam Fisher. If John Doe or Jane Doe ran against Nolan, Ed Koch would endorse that candidate. Kochs endorsement of OMalley clearly has nothing to do with the qualifications of OMalley. It has to do with the fact that Nolan wouldnt endorse Koch.
Will OMalley win now? Not likely. However, he is being loyal to Manton to the end and will, almost without question, be endorsed for some office at a later date.
34TH AD IVAN LAFAYETTE VS. WILLIAM SALGADO VS. GENARO HERRERA Incumbent Jackson Heights Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette has two Latino opponents, neither of which has a serious chance to come close to Lafayette. Even if there were one opponent against Lafayette, it would be very difficult to unseat Lafayette, a long-serving assemblyman nearing retirement age. But two candidates from a similar voter base opposing an incumbent makes the task of beating Lafayette almost impossible.
The Latino base in the district is large and growing perhaps now a majority of the district population. However, the Latino voting population is relatively small in comparison to the population. This is because, unlike Puerto Ricans who are born U.S. citizens, most other Latin Americans are immigrants and nationals of their native countries when they come to the U.S. They must wait for years until they become citizens. Then, too, the existence of dual nationality means that a Colombian can live in the U.S. but vote and participate in Colombian elections so long as he/she is not a U.S. citizen. All this helps limit U.S. citizenship and thereby Latino voting in Queens.
The result is that, although there are several hundred thousand Latinos in Queens, there are no elected Latino Democratic district leaders (though three are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Democratic County Leader). There are also no Latino elected officials. This may change with next years Council elections a number of Latino (mostly Puerto Rican) Queens-based candidates look as if they will win seats in New York Citys legislature.
Here, also, you meet the divergence in nationalities that characterizes Queens Latino population. Those Anglos who think of Latin America as a unit will no doubt be shocked to find that Colombians and Dominicans and Brazilians and Argentines and Salvadorans dont often support the same candidates. There is as little Latino unity as there is pan-Arab unity. There are also strong rivalries and splits within each national group.
William Salgado is Colombian, an appointed Democratic district leader who leads a good-sized political club in Jackson Heights/Corona. However, he does not speak for all Colombians in the district; another major Colombian group is supporting Lafayette. Salgado, however, is someone who could reasonably become a competent elected official. If he can thread his way through the political pathways of his own base group, he can aspire to better things.
Herrera is from the Dominican Republic. He is active in a local Dominican social agency and his wife is a member of the local community board. Like Salgado, he aspires to lead his ethnic community. But like Salgado, he is faced with a split Dominican political community. One major Dominican group gave Lafayette their endorsement this year. And, two years ago, Herrera himself endorsed Lafayette and gave him a plaque in appreciation of Lafayettes achievements.
Not only does Lafayette have these local Latino community endorsements, but he picked up a big one – Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. Ferrer, who will be a major candidate for mayor next year, is an important power in Latino affairs citywide and has tremendous prestige. Lafayette is therefore all but unbeatable this time out.
31ST AD PAULINE RHODD-CUMMINGS VS. TAJ-PETRAB KUMAR Two candidates started off running against south Queens incumbent Democratic Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings. One, Michael Duvalle, was taken off the Democratic ballot because an obscure provision of the New York State Constitution requiring five years continuous residency in the State was applied to him to get him off the Democratic ballot. In 1998, DuValle moved briefly to Florida. That was enough for the State Supreme Court to disqualify him for running for the State Legislature until the 2004 elections.
Somehow, this same provision did not apply to the Independence line, and DuValle will remain the Independence Party candidate and could, in theory, be elected to a position which Supreme Court Justice Herbert Posner has ruled he cannot hold. In theory, if you are legally barred from holding office under any circumstances, you cannot be the candidate of one minor party and at the same time be barred from being the candidate of the majority party in Queens. Barred from one should mean barred from all. But legality and logic in attempting to bar politically viable insurgents from the Democratic ballot was never a strong suit of the Democratic Organization and their friends in the judiciary. Watch for an upcoming column on the long-term meaning of Posners ruling. A third candidate, a Guyanese Indian named Taj-Petrab Kumar, remains on the ballot.
Kumar is a professor at Manhattan Community College, and is a representative of a growing and increasingly active Guyanese community. The Guyanese, perhaps numbering 75,000 in the South Ozone Park region, are from the small nation of Guyana on the Caribbean shore of South America. Guyana used to be a British colony and the residents speak English and were once part of the vast British Empire. The Guyanese in South Ozone Park are mostly Hindus (with some Muslims) of Indian nationality who were forced from Guyana by a majority black nationalist government. They do not take kindly to a black assemblymember from the Caribbean like Pauline Rhodd-Cummings. The next Assembly redistricting in 2002 had better separate the two groups lest there be serious political warfare.
The Democratic Organization is unlikely to support Guyanese political ambitions. It was a stretch for them to support Rhodd-Cummings, an immigrant from Jamaica. It is hard to imagine anyone in the Democratic Organization even knowing where Guyana is, let alone the political struggles between Guyanas two key leaders, pro-Indian Cheddi Jagan and pro-black Forbes Burnham, that led to the Guyanese migration to Queens.
Kumar is unlikely to win (even though hes spending a lot of money in his campaign), given the fact that Rhodd-Cummings is backed by the Democratic Organization and is an incumbent with a strong local following. Right now, most Guyanese are not citizens and cannot vote, though that is changing every day. The Kumar candidacy will help galvanize the local community to get citizenship, register, and vote. Guyanese leaders have spoken to me about the need to find someone to run who will help bring the local Guyanese community into the polling booth. Expect a similar candidacy for the Council next year from the Guyanese community and expect that candidate to lose as well. One day soon, the Guyanese candidate will win because there will be enough of a voting constituency ready and willing to come to the polls for their champion.
But that day is not yet. Rhodd-Cummings will win big.
29TH AD WILLIAM SCARBOROUGH VS. SAUNDRA POPE William Scarborough is a three-term assemblyman so secure of his seat that he is seriously considering running for borough president in next years municipal elections. He is facing Saundra Pope, an opponent with no real campaign and no significant hope of winning.
Pope is not political at all. She is an individual entrepreneur who sells "natural oils." She belongs to no political club, has no experience in government and seems motivated primarily by her unhappiness at the dumping of animal waste from the Queens Zoo in a site in the 29th AD. "I wrote letters and tried to get government to act. I got no help from anyone. It is clear that everywhere there is a complete disrespect of our community. How could it be that easy to dump toxic waste in our neighborhood?"
Pope and a few friends got 1700 valid signatures and she is therefore on the ballot against Scarborough. But thats where her campaign ends. She cannot win here. But she is someone who should be encouraged to more mainstream civic and political action. She impressed me as educated, articulate, and someone who could, with time and experience, become a meaningful voice in her community.
INDEPENDENCE PARTY BATTLE: ADVANTAGE NIEBAUER FOR NOW The struggle for the soul of the Independence Party keeps going on. Right now, the advantage is with former party head Michael Niebauer. But the Sept. 12 Independence Party primary will determine more than any parliamentary maneuver who is going to run the Party and who will be ousted.
To set the stage, it is important to remember that the Independence Party in New York is the Reform Party elsewhere. Its original leader was Ross Perot, a centrist Republican. Its candidate for President is currently Pat Buchanan, a former Republican with a right-wing agenda that is often termed both anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner. The national Party has in consequence split down the middle, with the original Perot faction on one side and the Buchanan faction on the other. That split is mirrored in the New York State Independence Party battle and in the Queens struggle as well.
Earlier this year, a faction controlled by black radical Leonora Fulani (who has entered into an alliance with right-wing Buchanan) captured the Queens Independence Party and ousted its leadership. The old leaders, Michael Niebauer and William Struhs, were dismissed and a new leadership, entitled the Queens Interim County Organization, under the direction of Gerald Everett, was installed.
On August 23, however, Niebauer and Struhs staged a coup of their own and retook the Queens Independence Party leadership. They had worked for months trying to win over members of the Independence Party State Committee pledged to Everett. Eventually, they came to represent State Committee members with two-thirds of the weighted vote of the county organization. This was adequate for them to issue "notice of a meeting of recall" which was held on August 23 at the Latino Action Center in Jackson Heights. At that meeting, Niebauer took back control of the party.
The problem for Niebauer and Struhs is that the term of office of all State Committee members ends with the Sept. 12 primary. In order to retain his control, Niebauers group must win the Sept. 12 primary. If they do not, control goes back to Everett and the Fulani group.
The Niebauer group was aided by the legal counsel of Jerry Iannece. Iannece, the 1997 Democratic candidate for City Council in Northeast Queens 19th Council District, is an active candidate for the Council seat in next years Democratic primary. Ianneces political and legal skills added appreciably to the ability of Niebauers group to win their struggle against Everett even if temporary.
However, the continuing struggle leaves many Queens officeholders uncertain about what to do. The Independence Party nomination has helped many elected officials from other parties Democrats as well as Republicans solidify their vote and their base. They really do not care much for the internecine warfare now being waged within the Independence Party. All they want is to support the winner. The main question these people are now asking is "whom should I support? Do I call Everett or do I call Niebauer? Or who?" Hopefully, those questions should be answered by the results of the Sept. 12 primary.

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