We Endorse… West Side Spirit’s picks for the Sept. 14 primary election.

Written by admin on . Posted in Editorial, News West Side Spirit, Opinion and Column, Politics.


Read our picks for attorney general, State Senate and Congress.

New York Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman

New York has recently had top-notch attorneys general in Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo. The next attorney general must be able to match their stature, their skill in taking on complex issues of national importance, and their ability to extract reform. The next attorney general must also be adept at addressing Albany corruption and protecting consumers.

Of the five candidates seeking to be the state’s top cop, we endorse Eric Schneiderman, a state Senator from the Upper West Side.

As Albany disappointed New Yorkers for decades, Schneiderman has been a prime example of a smart, effective, reform-minded legislator. He has crafted legislation that promotes equal justice under the law and ended discriminatory practices. He led the fight to end the harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws, which disproportionately targeted blacks and Latinos. He introduced the Fraud, Enforcement and Recovery Act, which closed loopholes in the state’s False Claim Act.

Although Gov. David Paterson vetoed Schneiderman’s ethics reform bill for being too weak, the legislation would have brought much-needed change to Albany. The fact that his legislation was introduced and passed by a nearly unanimous vote is a major accomplishment.

Each candidate is talking about cleaning up Albany. But Schneiderman actually did it when given the opportunity. Against the wishes of his chamber’s leadership, Schneiderman convened a bipartisan panel to expel his colleague and fellow Democrat Hiram Monserrate after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend. These accomplishments occurred after the Democrats took the Senate majority in 2009. He has spent the rest of his 12 years in the State Senate fighting Republican senators that blocked his progressive reform-minded legislation.

We are concerned that Schneiderman lacks an investigatory background, but we are confident he will hire an accomplished staff that can follow his vision for the attorney general’s office, which separates him from his competitors. Schneiderman’s core philosophy of equal justice will ensure that the interests of all New Yorkers are heard. He has a broad agenda that protects consumers, prevents the pollution of the environment and fights discrimination.

The other candidates in the race are well-qualified and have strong ideas for the office. Sean Coffey has an exemplary legal background as a federal prosecutor and lead lawyer in the WorldCom fraud case, in which he won more than $6 billion for burned investors. Coffey fashions himself as an outsider, but can speak on the issues passionately and eloquently with the knowledge of a seasoned elected official. If spending time in Albany is a disqualifier for voters, Coffey is a welcome alternative.

Eric Dinallo, former deputy to Spitzer in the attorney general’s office, has an accomplished government background. He also was head of the state’s Insurance Department. He knows the job and how to wield it for powerful results. But we feel Dinallo’s vision—that the attorney general should focus on kitchen table issues—is too limited.

We extend that feeling to Richard Brodsky, an Assembly member representing parts of Westchester. As attorney general, he said he would focus on unfair or hidden fees New Yorkers pay for energy. But his temperament makes him ill-suited for the attorney general’s office, evidenced by his stance on the Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan. He unnecessarily waded into the debate and, despite saying he would defend the center as attorney general, proposed a “compromise” in which the center moves for the sake of appeasing its detractors.

Kathleen Rice, the district attorney for Nassau County, Long Island, has been a superb local prosecutor. She has tackled a drunk driving scourge, sexual predators and fought Medicaid fraud. But many of these—save for Medicaid fraud—are quality-of-life issues. She is under-qualified to be the state’s highest law enforcement official.

We support Eric Schneiderman for attorney general in the Sept. 14. Democratic primary.

State Senate—30th District: Bill Perkins

Although many New Yorkers may be angry about political deadlock in Albany and calling for reform, that doesn’t mean that all incumbents need to be ousted in this election cycle. For example, Bill Perkins has been a positive force for reform in his district, which covers Harlem, Washington Heights and part of the Upper West Side. While Perkins has criticized the way charter schools operate within existing public schools—and suffered some backlash for questioning this fairly new practice—it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a strong force in the Legislature, addressing constituent concerns and, in fact, supporting a bill that would increase the number of charter schools.

His challenger, Basil Smikle, is an impressive candidate who has worked as a top aide for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention. Smikle has his own ideas for improving affordable housing and job creation in the district and will undoubtedly continue to be an imaginative and expressive politician who we hope to see continue his drive to better the city for everyday New Yorkers.

We are certain Perkins, however, will continue his progressive work concerning affordable housing issues and public education and therefore endorse him for re-election.

State Senate—31st District: Mark Levine

When State Senator Eric Schneiderman announced his candidacy for attorney general this year, it meant that his seat in the 31st District was wide open. There are four strong Democratic candidates in the primary, and the district—which covers parts of the Upper West Side, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood and Riverdale—calls for someone prepared to tackle the constituent concerns of a wide swath of New Yorkers in an area undergoing profound changes—especially in regards to housing and job creation. For this reason, we support Mark Levine in the Democratic primary.

Levine, a Washington Heights resident, represents the possibility of new leadership for the district and has a broad background of community building and activism. He has the fresh ideas and independent background that voters want when it comes to reform in Albany. He plans to support campaign finance reform as well as assist constituents in navigating state government hurdles in dealing with health, housing and transit issues.

Levine began his career as a bilingual science teacher and later served as executive director of Teach For America-New York. He understands, firsthand, the issues facing our public school system. Levine went on to found Upper Manhattan’s first and only community development credit union, Neighborhood Trust, which has helped many lower-income residents. In 2007, Levine won a Democratic district leader position, campaigned for Barack Obama’s presidential primary and created the Barack Obama Democratic club uptown.

Levine’s strongest competitor in the primary is Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, also from Washington Heights, who has served 14 years in the state legislature and possesses a stellar background when it comes to constituent concerns, and is a strong candidate.

On immigration reform, tenants rights, urban education and economic development, Espaillat has always been on the right side of progressive legislation and would most likely continue to be a strong advocate for the district’s constituents. Espaillat has strong support from other incumbent politicians, including Senator Schneiderman, but for voters looking for a new perspective at the state level, it’s difficult to make the argument for Espaillat.

A former Democratic district leader and the only Upper West Side resident in the race, Anna Lewis is an attorney with 25 years of experience; she knows the law. Lewis has a legacy of drafting legislation supporting constituent concerns, and she wants to continue her efforts in that direction, especially concerning health care and consumer rights. We also think her idea for housing reform—in particular to start a new housing initiative modeled after the Mitchell-Lama program—is the best we have heard and hope that she continues to advocate for such a program in the future and that others support similar ideas. The fact that there are so few elected women running for state political positions should change, and we hope that Lewis will run for a position in the future.

The other woman in the race, Miosotis Muñoz, has very heartfelt ambitions for the district, and her background in social work and grassroots organizing for various community causes should be applauded. Her compassion, leadership and enthusiasm for neighborhood concerns, however, seem better suited for on-the-ground community efforts, rather than the bureaucracy of state politics.

We endorse Mark Levine for the State Senate in the 31st District for his promise of reform, new ideas and a background that seems exceptionally suited to this vibrant and transforming district.

15th Congressional District: Charlie Rangel

Representative Charles B. Rangel is seeking his 21st term, and we endorse him in that effort. Despite the recent controversy surrounding his office due to the charges of ethics violations, Rangel still deserves the support, and votes, of his constituents after years of dedicated political service.

Although Rangel has relinquished the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, which he had waited since 1981 to take over and finally did in 2006, he still holds quite a bit of power after 40 years in Congress and letting that pass away at this point would be a mistake for New Yorkers. Although many have called for his retirement, Rangel continues to work with indefatigable strength and dedication for his constituents and the nation as a whole.

Even though Rangel will most likely win re-election to the House, we will still need a new generation of qualified and eager candidates to fill his estimable shoes. One of the more fascinating aspects this year was meeting the group that had the pluck to run against the incumbent. For those seeking a change, they will find an excellent candidate in Vince Morgan. The community banker is new to political campaigning, but we found that he had a winning personality and many ideas for where the district could position itself in the 21st-century. In particular, his involvement as the chairman of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and the chair of the 125th Street Business Improvement District will give him a valuable perspective as he continues his political career in the district.

Adam Clayton Powell IV may have many bona fides, most obviously sharing a name with the man who preceded Rangel as the Congressman for the district and serving as a New York City councilmember and in the State Assembly. But Powell’s record in the Assembly has been spotty, his attendance poor. Overall, we think if there is indeed going to be change in the district, we should be looking to the future, not the past.

The other two candidates, Joyce Johnson and Jonathan Tasini, should both be commended for entering the race. Johnson has dedicated many years to public service in various capacities, as well as being a pioneer for women of color in the corporate sector. We hope that she does continue in her unremitting efforts to create a world that supports the efforts of women and minorities to achieve their dreams on an equal playing field. Tasini’s career as a gadfly when it comes to labor and economic issues is needed in politics. Lending his ideas and energy to the race is much appreciated.

We look forward to the next primary for the district, which will undoubtedly have an even stronger and diverse pool of candidates, but in the meantime, we endorse Charlie Rangel for Congress.

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