BACKLASH!!! IND Rebels Against State Convention... (Minorly Updated)
Well, I wasn't going to write about today's meeting of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats. Sure, Brooklyn politics has become a Daily Gotham staple in some ways, but what more can happen at IND that will interest readers?
Well, without much fanfare or contention, this was the most unexpected IND endorsement vote of the year.
First off, the expected results: candidates for Civil Court Judge spoke. I found all three of them sounded very good, very dedicated, very articulate. However, two were declared qualified by the county's independent judicial board and one was not. This, I think, determined the vote almost completely. The two candidates who had been declared qualified won the endorsement. Deana Douglas, who also won the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats endorsement, won IND's endorsement easily. She combined both excellent qualifications and a qualified status by the independent board. Jacqueline Williams had the least impressive presentation style, but had excellent qualifications. Being a graduate of Yale and, more importantly to a Californian at heart like me, Berkeley, Ms. Williams was clearly qualified and indeed received a qualified status from the independent board and also received the IND endorsement. The third candidate, Robin Sheares, in some ways came off the best with an assured presentation style and considerable confidence. Even when she admitted that she received a "not qualified" status from the independent board, she said it with confidence and assurance! But she received a "not qualified status" for a reason. She is probably an excellent lawyer and would make an excellent judge, but is under investigation for allowing someone from New Jersey to use her address, possibly illegally, to get their kid into a Brooklyn school. Now this is a mixed thing to me. On the one hand, she may have done something illegal, which is not good in a judge. But, on the other hand, someone from New Jersey used her address to send their kid to a Brooklyn school! Well, THAT is something to be proud of! I wonder if it was PS 321...? Congratulations to Deana Douglass and Jackie Williams. To Robin Sheares: I hope your current issues can be cleared up eventually because I did find you impressive and competant.
Now...the other two endorsements were Governor and Attorney General. And BOY were these interesting.
Tom Suozzi spoke to IND. And he spoke amid impressive thunder and lighting outside! At times his points were punctuated by flashes of light and booms of thunder. I liked a great deal of what he said. He definitely got screwed at the State Convention and deserved better. He came off passionate, competent and an excellent candidate...for a Republican. He struck me like Bloomberg--someone who kind of is on the border between Democrat and Republican. He came out solidly against Atlantic Yards and the misues of eminent domain and that is not a Republican stand. But his speech was otherwise almost completely taken from the Republican book of talking points: run like an outsider even if you are an insider, talk about cutting taxes, run as a CEO, denegrate "Bloated Unions." Honestly, I think Suozzi has done wonders in Nassau and I am with Michael Bouldin that he would be DYNAMITE running against King for Congress in that district. If he ran for Congress we'd have a hell of a shot at ousting a nasty Republican who can't even stand up for New York State when it comes to Homeland Security funding with a borderline Republican/Democrat who is competent and passionate. But he isn't running against King. He is running against Spitzer.
Now, I have been a good member of IND in the past, but there is no question that I have been a controversial member recently. Well, I can deal with that. But tonight I spoke with the IND insiders in favor of Spitzer. I described Suozzi as an excellent quasi-Republican who I could respect...but wouldn't like to vote for. I argued, along with Alan Fleishman, Jo Ann Simon, and Joan Millman, for a Spitzer endorsement because we Suozzi was uncomfortably close to a Republican in style.
[UPDATE 1] I should add that one of the main points against Suozzi for club members, and I apologize for leaving this out, was his anti-marriage equality stand. He expressed respect for gay rights in general, supports "civil unions," and supported benefits for gay partners fairly early on. But he is against "gay marriage" for religious reasons. When asked where he stands on choice he came out solidly pro-choice. He was challenged how his religious beliefs seemed more flexible when it came to choice than to gay marriage his answer was to focus on the idea of making abortion safe, legal...and rare. I think his point was that abortion is something where there is a way to respect rights of women while also making abortion rare, a middle way, if you like. He would probably argue that civil unions would be the equivalent "middle way" with marriage equality, but I think most club members see this as more equivalent to "separate but equal."
Three camps argued for Suozzi. One pointed to his excellent record of taking a junk bond district to good standing as a sign of extreme competence. Then there was a horrendous Spitzer strongarming campaign against Suozzi that alienated many, combined with Spitzer never actually bothering to send anyone to talk with the club. Finally, there was the fact that Spitzer pretty much is, in words that upset some, "an asshole" who told activists opposing Atlantic Yards that he "didn't care" about their concerns. Jo Ann Simon pointed out that he DOES care enough to stand against the current Ratner Plan, but I think the basic message was that Spitzer was assuming victory and no longer cared enough for the concerns of actual voters...or even of local Democratic clubs.
[UPDATE 2] Some people remember Jo Ann specifically indicating that Spitzer had stated that he wasn't happy with the existing Ratner Plan but overall solidly supported it. However, some remember her saying that Spitzer solidly supported the plan AS IS and merely was willing to hear out opponants, but wasn't swayed. Since Jo Ann even specifically clarified what she had said this shouldn't be in dispute, but there does seem to be some uncertainty as to her exact words. Sorry if I am misrepresenting her words. I think the jist of what everyone agreed on was that Spitzer DOES support Ratner's plan overall. To what degree he pays attention to opponants (not at all, enough to spend half an hour listening but otherwise ignoring or actually wanting some minor changes) is minor because no one disputes that he is a very solid Ratner supporter. That is not at issue. What was disputed was to what degree he paid attention to voters and community members. The fact that Spitzer never bothered to even send a surrogate to speak to IND perhaps indicates how much he pays attention to the little people as much as anything else.
I supported Spitzer over Suozzi. But, to a collective gasp when it was annouced, Suozzi won the IND endorsement pretty soundly. I think this was a combination of anti-Atlantic Yards new comers who could, for the first time, vote at IND combined with IND old timers who were sickend by the Spitzer strongarm tactics at the State Convention. I, and many IND insiders, were the losers in this, but it DID represent the first solid agreement between some of the newcomers and some of the old timers. And, in all honesty, may well be a needed wakeup call to the State Party.
Then came the Attorney General race. There was a massive anti-Cuomo backlash. Again, Atlantic Yards interests teamed up with a majority of old timers to reject the massive strong arm tactics of the State Party and reject Cuomo. Cuomo, along with King, was rejected on the first ballot. The nasty tactics used at the State Convention were discussed and weighed heavily against Cuomo. People who read my stuff here know that IND insiders and newcomers have just had a massive civil war. But both pretty much agreed that they could not supprot Andrew Cuomo. Backlash time! The State party overplayed its hand and that has united IND to some degree.
On the second ballot Mark Green was eliminated. Let's face it. Green would make a good AG, but no one really likes him. He has been his own worst enemy for years now with temper tantrums and a style that alienates pretty much everyone.
It came down to Denise O'Donnel and Sean Patrick Maloney. Now at this point I was happy. I don't like Green or Cuomo. But I was resigned to either of them. I LIKE both Maloney and O'Donnell. They both strike me as EXTREMELY competent and passionate. They don't come off like "ordering leftovers" as one person put it in reference to Green and Cuomo. They come off fresh and well qualified. Sean comes of the more passionate of the two, with what seems like a brand new passion to fight Atlantic Yards (I intend to write about that later). Denise comes off slightly more solidly qualified that the others. And, according to a recent survey, 70% of lawyers in the state agree that she is the most qualified, State Party be damned. Well, I voted for Maloney through three ballots, though always felt a pull towards O'Donnell. On the second ballot, Maloney almost won, but didn't make the 50% plus one mark. So it went to a third ballot. On that third ballot, Denise O'Donnell won the IND endorsement soundly and I think that is just fantastic. Those who spoke for O'Donnell spoke most elequently and, despite my liking and respect for Maloney, O'Donnell just might well be the most qualified.
IND rebelled against the state party and endorsed Suozzi and O'Donnell. Without all the contentious arguement and infighting that occurred in the last two endorsement votes, IND delivered a surprise. Some of this may have been due to the fact that for the first time, the disenfranchised newcomers could vote and are making themselves felt. But I think a larger factor was the fact that many IND members were pissed at the State Party and it's arrogant, dirty tactics.
To me, this meeting was the first time that newcomers and oldtimers worked well together and I think great things are ahead if they can stay more or less together.