Last Friday, Pipe Dream previewed local legislative races in the Binghamton area. This issue takes a statewide focus, as several statewide positions will also be on the ballot in November for New York residents to choose the people who represent them in government. The following is a snapshot of the races, the candidates and the issues.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo began his political career as an aide in his father’s administration as governor during the 1980s. After being elected as New York’s Attorney General in 2006, one of Cuomo’s major acts was to launch an investigation into student loan lending practices. The investigation forced many colleges and universities to stop directing students to a ‘preferred’ lender with whom they had partnered that might charge higher-than-usual interest rates.
Cuomo’s main opponent, Carl Paladino, has drawn support from the Tea Party movement and won a surprising victory in the Republican primary over Rick Lazio to capture his party’s nomination for governor. He has accumulated a significant personal fortune over the last four decades as Chief Executive Officer of the Ellicott Development Company, a real estate company that he founded in 1973, and has spent millions of dollars of his own money on financing for his campaign.
Paladino has drawn attention to himself in this election cycle by advocating a number of proposals that resonate with right-wing Tea Party voters. He has said that if elected he will seek to take unprecedented steps to reduce the size and expenditures of the state government.
John McNulty, an assistant professor of political science at Binghamton University who studies elections and campaigns, said that the nomination of Paladino had hurt Republicans’ electoral chances in races around the state.
‘The Republicans have blown good chances of winning in races against vulnerable Democrats by nominating extremists affiliated with the Tea Party,’ McNulty said. ‘Democrats are going to be mobilized to show up at the polls to vote against him even if they’re not really for Cuomo.’
Nick Valiando, a senior majoring in political science and president of the College Republicans, defended the Republican Party’s pick.
‘The selection of Paladino as the Republican candidate shows that we’re fed up with the same old politics and want new faces. We want someone who will cut the budget and be fiscally responsible,’ Valiando said.
Democrat Eric Schneiderman, a state senator who represents an Upper West Side district in Manhattan, is running against Republican Dan Donovan, the district attorney of Richmond County [Staten Island], to become the highest-ranking legal officer in New York State.
Schneiderman is presently the chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, which oversees matters of criminal and civil law, and the Deputy Majority Leader for Policy. He has also been both Deputy Minority Leader of the State Senate and Chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee since he was first elected to the legislature in 1998.
Schneiderman’s actions in the State Senate have included the passage of hate crimes legislation and other civil rights laws, a minimum wage increase, environmental protection laws, the Clinic Access Bill protecting a woman’s right to have access to an abortion or reproductive health care, and Ian’s Law, which blocks insurance companies from dropping coverage for paying patients when they become sick.
Donovan began his career as a prosecutor as the assistant district attorney in Manhattan from 1989 to 1996. He later became the Deputy Borough President of Staten Island, before running to become Staten Island’s district attorney in 2003, an office to which he was re-elected by wide margin in 2007.
To win the election, Schneiderman is relying on his liberal base in Manhattan to a large extent, and it remains to be seen how much support he will receive among voters in more traditionally conservative areas upstate. Schneiderman is a firm supporter of abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and gun control, and took note to contrast his views with those of Donovan, who opposes abortion and favors civil unions for same-sex couples, in a debate between the candidates which aired on television on Oct. 10.
Senior U.S. Senator for New York
Incumbent Democrat Charles Schumer is running for a third six-year term in the U.S. Senate against Republican Jay Townsend, a political consultant and business owner who has never held elected office.
‘Schumer is a stalwart, he’s a household name,’ said Gregory Horowitz, a senior majoring in history and president of the College Democrats. ‘You’re just not going to be able to shift him aside. He also has a lot of seniority and power in the Senate by now, so it’s to New York’s advantage to keep him over someone new who’d have to start at the bottom rung of the Senate chamber.’
Schumer was first elected to the Senate in 1998 after spending 18 years representing a district in Brooklyn and Queens in the U.S. House of Representatives and six years in the New York State Assembly. As a congressman, he wrote the federal Assault Weapons Ban and helped to pass the Brady Bill, which mandated background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases. Schumer is presently the third highest-ranking member of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, behind Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and is Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees federal elections.
Townsend has been a partner in a marketing firm, the founder and owner of his own political consulting firm, the Townsend Group, a community and church leader in Cornwall, N.Y., a lecturer on politics and public policy at the U.S. Military Academy and other institutions and a commentator on Fox News.
In an election that has received little attention or funding from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Townsend is aligning his campaign with the Tea Party movement, which he describes on his website as ‘a wonderful, energetic movement ‘ that has caused Americans to become more engaged in the political process.’
Townsend has called Schumer one of the primary politicians responsible for blocking reform of mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prior to their takeover by the federal government in September 2008, as well as being for the health care reforms passed by Congress, which Townsend has insisted will raise costs, deny access to health care, inhibit new scientific discovery and cause health care rationing. Townsend said that one of his main goals as senator would be to repeal the health care reforms.
Junior U.S. Senator for New York
Elections for both of a state’s U.S. Senate seats normally are not held in the same year. However, Hillary Clinton’s resignation as New York Senator in January 2009 to assume her appointment as Secretary of State in President Obama’s cabinet created the need for a special election to be held in 2010 for voters to choose who would complete her Senate term through 2012.
Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic nominee and incumbent, was appointed in 2009 by New York Gov. David Paterson to fill the vacant Senate seat until the special election could be held this year. She was previously elected to serve two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 and 2008 for New York’s 20th congressional district, which comprises mostly rural areas in several counties in the Capital Region of northern New York State.
Gillibrand is being opposed by Republican Joseph DioGuardi, who represented New York’s 20th congressional in the U.S. House from 1985 to 1989, at which time the district consisted of parts of Westchester County before the district map was reconfigured after subsequent censuses. While in Congress, DioGuardi authored the CFO Act, which required that the position of a Chief Financial Officer be assigned in all major agencies of the federal government. Since 1989 he has run to be re-elected to Congress and lost four times, most recently in 1996.
Valiando was optimistic about the Republicans’ chances of capturing the seat.
‘Schumer has been in the Senate so long, he has a very large base here in New York,’ Valiando said. ‘But we [Republicans] could win against Gillibrand. Normally we shouldn’t be able to win with just a no-name candidate in such a blue state, but it’s symptomatic of the anger amongst voters here and nationally. There’s a Republican tide coming.’