Monday, September 12, 2016

New York note

Micah Lasher appearing for tenants' rights.
For New Yorkers, another primary tomorrow, which makes three in total this year, which I think may be some kind of record. This one is for the state legislature candidates, and some judges, and I don't have much of anything to say about what's going on outside my own neighborhood (except if you're in downtown Manhattan in the 65th Assembly District, Lower East Side and Chinatown and the money places, please do not vote for Alice Cancel, Sheldon Silver's picked woman who replaced him in the special election last April as he was getting sentenced to federal prison for selling favors through imaginary legal fees; vote for Yuh-Line Niou, who has a cool website), but there is something important going on, which is the question of control in New York's dysfunctional State Senate.

For many years, New York was perfectly gerrymandered so that the Assembly would always be run by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans, which is where the famed Three Men in a Room system came from, where most important decisions were made by three men (and I don't mean men or women), the governor, the Senate majority leader, and the Assembly speaker, while I don't know exactly what the others were getting paid for. Except you could always find reasons to like your own people and keep voting for them.

Then the increasing Democratization of the state, going along with the increasing deplorable-ization of the national Republican party (it's a basket case!), led to an imbalance in this traditional situation, in which Democrats started getting elected to the State Senate in larger numbers than they were supposed to, and kept threatening to do stuff, which would be a serious violation of our sacred New York tradition in which legislators do nothing, and something had to give. So Democratic Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx and some minions stepped up to the plate and started refusing to do Democratic things, ultimately (in 2012) constituting themselves as the Independent Democratic Conference and joining the Republican minority to rule the Senate as a semi-bipartisan (one-point-something-partisan) vehicle for obstructing things like the Dream Act, an abortion component to the Women's Equality Act, campaign finance reform,  New York City tax dedicated to schools, and that vile tax credit for donations to private schools, a way to sneak around the state's constitutional prohibition of state funding for religious institutions. And refusing to bring a fracking ban to a vote even though all the members of the conference including Klein himself supposedly favored it.

Meanwhile an East Harlem assemblyman named Adriano Espaillat whose ambition was to be the first Dominican congressperson, not that there's anything wrong with that but it was clearly the only thing that was actually resident in his mind, in the interval between his first two attempts at unseating Charlie Rangel, took some time out to run for a State Senate seat instead, in my district, from which the great Eric Schneiderman had resigned to be attorney general and sue Donald Trump (among many other wonderful things). He ran for the Democratic nomination against a particularly sweet and education-sensitive ex–City Council member from Harlem, Robert Jackson, and won. Then he ran for Congress against Rangel again and lost again and for State Senate against Jackson again and won again at the same time, in 2014. Then Rangel resigned, and Adriano Espaillat gave up his Senate seat to become the Democrat Congressional candidate for sure this year, which means he will almost certainly realize that ambition, and I hope he finally thinks of something he wants to do with it.

Jeff Klein has apparently been a big backer of Espaillat's congressional runs, for reasons best known to—well, I don't really know who they're known to, but I assume he has some. He also has a favorite in the race to succeed Espaillat in the State Senate seat, a protégée of Espaillat's called Marisol Alcántara, who we are told is likely to join Klein's IDC if she wins the election, though she's making it a big secret whether she will or not.

That's all I really need to know. I want her to lose. Of her two major opponents, I would happily vote again for old Robert Jackson, if he hadn't lost it twice already, and equally happily for the new character, chief of staff in Attorney General Schneiderman's office, Micah Lasher. Lasher seems like the person of privilege in the race, with the endorsement of most of the city's progressive establishment, and the New York Times, but he's young, and he seems a little like a second coming of Schneiderman (did I mention I really like Schneiderman?), an attorney who's not too rich to have his kids in public school (the oldest is in kindergarten).

That's an undeniable factor in why I'll be voting for Lasher tomorrow, but the other is just that thing of defeating this creeping Bronx thing. If everything goes wrong tomorrow, there's a good chance of increasing Jeff Klein's no-labelsy Joe Liebermansch slimy power, and if everything goes right there's a hope of diminishing it.

For the two readers in the district (maybe more!), you know what I want you to do, which may include telling others, or telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, as the case may be. For everybody else, I hope this wasn't too boring, but especially that as we continually get more and more obsessed with the White House race, we will give just a little bit of thought to state government, which is where the worst corruption exists, because people don't bother to vote.

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