Wednesday, June 16, 2021

New York Note


Maya Wiley, via Gothamist.

Early voting started over the week for the local primary elections in New York City, selecting candidates for mayor, city council, and so on in the November general election, but given the overwhelmingly Democratic character of the electorate, the party primary's winners are all more than likely to win then, so this is probably the more significant contest. I'm waiting for Election Day, personally—I've always liked the celebratory aspect (though I understand it's not convenient for everybody and won't be unless unless and until they make it a holiday) and feeling it this year in particular because it's another mark of the conquest of the pandemic that we're going to feel safe (masked, of course). 

And of another kind of renewal: New York, for all its progressive reputation, long had some of the most restrictive voting regulations in the country, thanks to Republican domination of the State Senate (in which, in recent years, Governor Andrew Cuomo collaborated), but the Democratic waves of 2018 and 2020 have given them not only control but a supermajority, which they have used for election reform among other things, including the early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots (not officially in effect yet but Covid-19, including not wanting to catch it, serves as a temporary universal excuse), and a good deal more to come.

And this year inside the city we've introduced ranked-choice voting, where we can list up to five candidates in order of preference. The vote count will proceed in a series of rounds: in each, if no candidate scores over 50%, they drop the candidate with the fewest votes, re-rank everybody's ballots accordingly (so that if your first choice was the dropped candidate your second choice is now first) and try again, until there's a winner. Even if we're not really excited by the candidates, we're all a little pumped, and daunted, by the novelty of this—the possibility of strategizing between getting the best chance for the candidate you really like and excluding the one you really hate, the need to inform yourself more than usual to this end, and the unpredictability of the outcome, which is said to favor diversity.

Actually the strategy is pretty simple: you will get the result closest to the one you're looking for if you do what they tell you and put the one you like best on top, the one you hate least on the bottom, and the other ones you hate not at all, and don't vote for anybody on more than one line which is just a pure waste.

This is New York, and the Democratic Party, so there isn't a huge range of differences on policy issues, though there are definitely progressive and liberal "lanes": everyone agrees that housing and schooling need to be integrated, gun violence needs to be stopped, police need to be restrained, with the liberals inclining more than I like toward neoliberal or privatizing answers to the integration problems, and the progs more reckless on the last than is maybe politically wise. My personal endorsements (everybody here including the five or so readers in the neighborhood is too obsessed with national politics to know local issues the way we should, but I make an effort at election time and I always do this):

1. Manhattan District Attorney

We're only allowed one choice on this; it is not a city office but a county one, New York County, aka the island of Manhattan, is losing its longtime DA Cy Vance, unpleasantly remembered for his failure to prosecute rapists Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Jeffrey Epstein and real estate frauds Ivanka and Junior Trump, though there are excuses at least for the last of these, but to be remembered, I hope, for his triumphant prosecution of Harvey Weinstein and Donald J. Trump (still working on that one, with the invaluable assistance of NY attorney general Letitia James).

There are a lot of appealing candidates from backgrounds that seem bizarre for a prosecutor, including most particularly Eliza Orlins, who is actually a public defender, and one that really puts me off, the hedge-fund–driven Tali Farhadian Weinstein (who just donated $8.2 million to her own campaign) but I'm just saying stop on this one: a former US attorney endorsed by an unbelievable number of organizations and individuals including my representative Jerry Nadler, and a big anti-corruption record, Alvin Bragg.

2. Manhattan Borough President

Honest to God I don't care. Front-runners Mark Levine (city council member from northern Manhattan) is officially bilingual (English-Spanish), having taught math and science bilingually in the South Bronx in the beginning of his career, and state senator Brad Hoylman is not, as far as I know, though he is same-sex married which is also cool, but I'm voting for the former first. I'll list Hoylman as second choice, I guess, but I'm not sure I want to take the ranked-choice any farther than that.

3. City Council Member district 6

An unexpected consequence of term limits legislation is that some people who would have like to stay in the city council forever and got booted out after term limits were passed are now running again in the form of a return from exile. One of these is my old council-lady, Gale Brewer, an acolyte of the marvelous Ruth Messinger (who I voted for as mayor in 1997), who has been serving as Manhattan borough president for the past eight years after being term-limited out of the legislature. I'm totally delighted she's wanting to go back to the council, like John Quincy Adams retiring from the presidency to serve in the House. In a robot phone call, Nadler noted that she could provide a useful corrective to the inexperience and stupidity of other candidates and I don't like to say so but I think it's more than a little bit true. Also in the most dramatic issue of nimbyism in recent times, she stood by my current councilmember Helen Rosenthal in various struggles over integrated schooling and integrated housing. I think she'll probably win, too, so I'm not naming a no. 2.

4. Public Advocate

Theo Chino is a French-born former bitcoin entrepreneur and system engineer who joined the Democratic Socialists of America in 2018, according to his campaign website. He ran for public advocate in 2019 as a nonpartisan, but was disqualified from appearing on the ballot. 

The candidate who will unquestionably win, the incumbent Jumaane Williams, is fine with me.

5. Comptroller

There are nine, count 'em, nine Democrats running for comptroller, including an 18-year-old college student from Ozone Park called Alex Pan, and I haven't even heard of all that many of them. I got a lot of help from the rundown at Gotham Gazette

Brooklyn City Council member Brad Lander is the officially prog candidate, with endorsements from AOC and Senators Warren and Sanders and prioritizing a "just and green recovery" for the city from Covid-19. He's not afraid to use the term "defund" in relation to NYPD, and talks about disinvesting the city's $240 billion in pension funds (the comptroller's main responsibility) from the fossil fuel industry. Rashma Patel, president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, hasn't run for office before but has an intimate knowledge of the comptroller's office from her work as a financial adviser, and seems to be really well prepared. City Council president Corey Johnson is the favorite, as the most famous, and I have no objection to him, so I'll end my list with him, to forestall the candidates I really don't want, the more or less conservatives, old veteran David Weprin and former CNBC journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a Republican until she turned Democrat to primary Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year.

6. Mayor

There's a brilliant interactive feature at the online paper The City, Meet Your Mayor, giving you a way to match your issues with all the candidates.

My first choice is Maya Wiley, of course, civil rights lawyer who served in the de Blasio administration as his counsel and then chair of the Civilian Complaints Review Board that oversees the police, and familiar to MSNBC watchers as a legal analyst. The other two stars of the prog "lane" have had some bad campaign problems: Dianne Morales, perhaps the only real radical in the race, really bad, though it's not evident how much personal responsibility is hers, over accusations of discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile work atmosphere leading to the attempt of staffers to unionize and the firing of more than 45 employees. I'd like to disbelieve the allegations of sexual misconduct against Scott Stringer (The Intercept has found serious holes in the first accuser's story), but he's just not that attractive a candidate anyway, another charisma-challenged white man.

Among the "moderates", I've found myself impressed by Kathryn Garcia, the civil servant—she's been sanitation commissioner and chaired the New York City Housing Authority—who got the New York Times endorsement (in her video interview, she told them, "I get shit done"). It shouldn't be all about ideology, and she really knows what she's talking about. I really want to like Eric Adams, the Brooklyn kid who went from getting beaten up by cops to becoming a cop himself (a founder of the reform organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care) and eventually to the Brooklyn borough presidency, but sometimes he just seems too slippery on subjects ranging from how he intends to work with police to where he even lives (in Brooklyn in what seems to be his son's apartment, crashing in Borough Hall, or at his girlfriend's apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey?). The other thing about Adams that's important to me is that he has enormous strength among Black voters around the city, especially older ones, and Dominicans in the Bronx, people who really don't want to defund the police at the same time as they really don't want the police killing people, and he's looking more and more likely to win the primary on the strength of that vote; even when I'm not respecting him as much as I want to, I'm respecting those voters.

The candidate with a chance of winning that I really oppose is, as you've probably figured, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, with his slogan-ideas and certainty that he's better at thinking than anybody else and chronic failure to do the homework. As of now, I'll be voting for Wiley first, Garcia second, and Adams third or fourth (with Stringer possibly somewhere in there as well)

No comments:

Post a Comment