The State Assembly Race: A Pre-Election Primer


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Gus Christensen


Resume


? Former investment banker and hedge fund manager for 20 years


? Wife, Courtney, pregnant with first child. "We're very excited," said Christensen.


? Has never run for elected office


? Endorsements: Lenox Hill Democratic Club, New York Times, Citizens Union


Strengths


Christensen's main advantage is his deep understanding of the world of finance, which could serve him well in the state legislature. He clearly knows a lot about the finanical and legal issues that affect New Yorkers on the state level, and has smart proposals regarding campaign finance reform and job creation. The argument can also be made that his personal wealth and ability to finance his own campaign makes him more immune to the outside influences of donors.


Weaknesses


The candidate's greatest strength could also be his downfall; while he speaks with authority on many topics, he can also come off as gruff, and we see a possibility of Christensen alienating both constituents and Assembly colleagues. While he may have the facts and smarts to back up his proposals, nothing gets done in Albany without an ability to collaborate, and Christensen will have to find the finesse required to form those necessary alliances.
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David Menegon

Resume


? Marketing executive at Xerox, Iraq War veteran in the U.S. Army Reserves


? Has never run for elected office


? Endorsements: Four Freedoms Democratic Club, the Sierra Club


Strengths


His business experience and military service give him obvious leadership chops, which is evident in debates and interviews. Menegon can also be refreshingly frank when it comes to prickly East Side issues; during the Our Town debate, he was the only candidate to bluntly assert that the Marine Transfer Station was going to be built. Other candidates likely agreed with him, but were unwilling to take the risk of saying so.


Weaknesses


Menegon has no political experience, and can sometimes seem adrift when discussing the process at work in Albany. In the Our Town debate, he also rankled some listeners with his attacks on Seawwright as a "PTA mom" and his comparison to political battles in Albany to fighting in Fallujah.
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Ed Hartzog

Resume


? Attorney specializing in insurance, employment, and commercial law


? Wife, Nalika; son, Alex


? Ran for City Council in 2013


? Endorsements: Former Congressman Peter Kostmayer; Americans for Economic Justice


Strengths


Hartzog possesses an affable, of-the-people countenance and has wet his feet on the Upper East Side community board for several years. He knows the local issues well, and also strikes us as someone who could find middle ground for compromise at the state level, which is vital.


Weaknesses


While the ability to compromise is admirable, it can also work against Hartzog. During the Our Town debate last month, Hartzog hedged his answers to several questions about hot button issues, such as bike lanes, and spoke somewhat generally about other topics. He knows the issues of his district, but it is less clear that he knows the ins and outs of Albany, which could make it tougher for him to fight for constituent concerns.
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Rebecca Seawright

Resume


? Attorney specializing in contract law


? Husband, Jay Hershenson; son, Brad; daughter, Haley


? Has never run for elected office


? Endorsements: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; State Sen. Liz Krueger; Comptroller Scott Stringer; Public Advocate Letitia James; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Assemblyman Dan Quart; Councilman Dan Garodnick; former Assemblyman Pete Grannis


Strengths


Despite her lack of political experience, Seawright has won impressive endorsements from across the political spectrum. She is passionate about educational issues, having sent her children to public school, and is a welcome female candidate in the all-male race -- not to mention the male-dominated Assembly.


Weaknesses


Seawright can seem adrift in some policy details, and has a tendency to resort to talking points. Her uncertainty with the issues was most tellingly clear in last week's NY1 debate, when she clearly seemed not to understand the meaning of "right to work," despite receiving endorsements from a number of large unions. A campaign spokesperson was later forced to step in and clarify her stance.


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