By Dan Rivoli
The Upper West Side will participate in the city’s hottest races, such as embattled Rep. Charles Rangel’s re-election campaign and the six-candidate primary for an open State Senate seat.
But there is a three-way primary that will likely attract attention from the most die-hard Democratic voters.
That is the race for Democratic State Committee.
Officially, the Democratic State Committee member gets to cast votes at the convention to place candidates for statewide office on the ballot, nominate a slate and develop the party platform. In Manhattan, there is one state committee member from each Assembly district. The three candidates would represent Democrats in Daniel O’Donnell’s Assembly district. (One candidate, Rolando Rodriguez, could not be reached for comment.)
Larry Hirsch has only been a committee member for two years, but he is giving up his position to move his family across the Hudson River to New Jersey. In 2008, Hirsch narrowly beat Robert Ginsberg, a 30-year member of the Democratic Party State Committee.
In his three decades on the state committee, Ginsberg was known for trying to draft Al Gore for president in 2008 and supporting Ralph Nader in 2000.
Hirsch argued that the state committee member could be more active in the community. After being elected, Hirsch collected petition signatures to end the harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws and assisted residents of Park West Village manage development near their apartments.
Hirsch is supporting Daniel Cohen, the former president of Three Parks Independent Democratic Club, to be his successor. Cohen also has the endorsement of Upper West Side elected officials and the three Democratic clubs in the area.
“He believes the state committee position should be active in the community as well,” Hirsch said.
The 39-year-old Cohen wants to continue in Hirsch’s footsteps. He says he already has been organizing opposition to natural gas drilling in upstate New York near the city’s water supply and was part of the group that tried to tamp the proliferation of chain drug stores in the neighborhood. He is also running to support independent, nonpartisan drawing of legislative districts.
“I want to continue Larry’s activism and injection of new energy into the position,” Cohen said. “Bob [Ginsberg] has served the community well for the last 30 years but it’s time for a change.”
Ginsberg, however, believes he has the appropriate vision for a state committee member: passing resolutions and shaping the party’s beliefs, rather than focusing on community issues.
“The state committee is not the place where this is done,” Ginsberg said.
During his time at the state committee, Ginsberg preferred to pass resolutions like criticizing those who voted for the Iraq War, or supporting single-payer healthcare. If elected again, he plans to propose a resolution to support eliminating the property tax in lieu of a tax on “rich people’s stocks and bonds.”
Though he personally likes Cohen, his opponent, he frames the campaign as a race between an “independent pain-in-the-ass radical”—referring to himself—“or a go-with-the-flow moderately liberal guy who will listen to orders.”
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