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Tweed
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Primary Day -- Who Really Won? UPDATED

Now that we have all had a day or two to digest the results of Tuesday's Primary, two things are abundantly clear -- we did not throw the bums out and the electorate continues to protest the rotten state of affairs by staying away from the polls. If you take a look at the results of the races posted at the Gotham Gazette you will notice that every incumbent in this city won except Pedro Espada (the poster child for government corruption). In fact, no other incumbent in the state of New York lost other than one State Senator from Buffalo. That includes races for Congress, the Assembly and the State Senate. This list does not include a large number of incumbents who did not even have a primary, including the races for Governor, both U.S. Senate seats (except a nominal candidate against Gillibrand), and many seats in the state legislature. Could it be that all of the incumbents who ran other than Espada have been doing such a great job that we could not possibly live without them? Public sentiment suggests otherwise.

So if the voters are really as angry as we have heard over and over again, why didn't we throw the bums out? I believe the answer can be found in this list of voter turnout for all City races from NY 1. It shows that voter turnout continues to be shockingly low. For example, Assemblyman Jose Rivera of the Bronx retained his seat by garnering just 2100 votes, to his opponent's 650 votes in a district that has 130,000 people. Also, in the Bronx, Assemblyman Nelson Castro only needed 1,765 votes to keep his seat. Even in the most hotly contested contest in all of New York, the Espada race, where we saw more campaigning and press coverage than a U.S. Senate race, less than 11,000 people voted. It wasn't just the Bronx. In the silk-stocking district on the Upper East Side, only about 33,000 people voted in the heated primary involving Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Indeed, the percentage of voters who voted throughout New York State probably varied between 10 and 14 percent.

There are two reasons for this appalling low voter turnout. The first is that voters are disgusted and have little faith in government and most politicians. They feel that most elected officials are serving themselves more than their constituents. While to some extent this has always been the case, recent polls have shown that our trust in government is at an all time low. The second reason is that voters don't believe that their vote will make any difference because incumbents virtually always win. With those two sentiments as a back-drop, it is understandable, though misguided, that voters will tune out the whole process. As a form of protest, they decide to not come to the polls -- which virtually guarantees no change.

And of course, by not voting in large numbers they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low voter turnout almost guarantees that incumbents will be re-elected. All you have to do is take a closer look at the Espada race to see why incumbents win more than 95 percent of the time. Even though he was universally acknowledged to be the most corrupt figure in Albany (no small feat), it still took a unique set of factors to beat him. As the Majority Leader of the Senate, he had the ability to pass laws, dispense hundreds of thousands of dollars to local groups to try to buy loyalty, and send multiple mailings to his district using taxpayer dollars. His title also gave him the ability to hire an extra-large staff, who then "volunteered" for his campaign, providing him with a strong base of operations. Finally, despite his horrible reputation, he still garnered endorsements from some Bronx elected officials, community groups and clergy. To top that off, most other key Bronx elected officials either stayed out of the race (Bronx Boss Carl Heastie) or got into the race with only two weeks left (Bronx BP Diaz and Jeff Dinowitz). In fact, Councilman Oliver Koppell was one of the few Bronx elected officials who endorsed Espada's opponent fairly early (which was still after petitioning in June).

All of these benefits were bestowed on Espada because he was an incumbent. These are just a fraction of the benefits enjoyed by all incumbents that make it virtually impossible, as shown by Tuesday's primary results, to defeat an incumbent. The main difference in the Espada race is that he was so terrible and embarrassing that virtually the entire state-wide political establishment and major press rose up to get rid of him. But as further proof of the power of incumbency, that movement did not originate from the local political establishment. It came from strong backing by unions, the Working Families Party, the Roosevelt Initiative and community leaders. It was only after they led the charge that some local politicians were embarrassed into action. Without such a unique set of circumstances, we would have never seen Espada defeated.

So if you add all of these same benefits to a low-turnout election where the incumbent doesn't have an entire state opposing them, it almost guarantees victory. This is even the case in races where the incumbent is facing serious ethical charges such as with Congressman Rangel or Councilman Larry Seabrook of the Bronx (who although under federal indictment retained his district leader seat). Low voter turnout means that only the most ardent voter comes to the polls (known as prime voters). They tend to be older and closer to the established candidate, or a special-interest voter. They generally are not the voters who are as fed up or interested in change, and their interests have usually been well taken care of by the incumbents. For example, in the race for Assemblyman Rivera's seat, less than 3,000 people voted. Assemblyman Rivera has been an elected official for decades. So with all of the benefits of incumbency at his disposal, he was never in jeopardy of not at least targeting the paltry 1,600 votes needed to win regardless of whether he is doing a good job in Albany or not.

This is not to malign the people who took the time to come out and vote. In this climate, they deserve a medal just for doing their civic duty. But it means that too many of our politicians are being elected by only a small minority of voters, and it skews the results and opportunities for change. For their part, voters need to recognize that it is counterproductive to disengage and protest by staying away from the polls. In fact, that is exactly what most incumbents want them to do.

But we also need to give people reasons for hope that the system can change before we can expect to see them back at the polls and engaged in the political process. The state needs to join the city in passing real campaign finance reform so elections have some balance. We also need to make sure that all state legislators join Ed Koch's movement (New York Uprising) to ensure ethics reform in Albany and non-partisan, independent redistricting. Finally, there is no getting around the fact that we need term limits at every level of government. Pedro Espada's loss was an aberration as Tuesday's Primary results clearly show. The Pollyanna notion that there are already term limits at the polls is repudiated at every election when the numbers show that more than 95 percent of incumbents are re-elected and only a tiny fraction of the electorate even bothers to vote. The power of incumbency is too strong to ignore any longer, and it will always strangle real reform.

So who won this past Primary Day? It was the status quo and incumbency. So before we go patting ourselves on the back for getting rid of Espada, we need strong political leaders who are brave enough to institute real reform. Only then can we hope to regain the public's trust in government, before all the dysfunction and distrust completely strangle what is left.

UPDATE: AFTER READING HENRY STERN'S NEW YORK CIVIC BLOG I CORRECTLY LEARNED THAT TWO MEMEBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY DID LOSE THEIR SEATS--GINNY FIELDS FROM SUFFOLK COUNTY AND FRANCINE DELMONTE FROM NIAGARA COUNTY.
Here is a link to Liz Benjamin's Daily Politics with a report by NYPIRG that shows that the 2010 results are very similiar to the results of 2006 and 2008 confirming we already know -- the bums are safe for another term.

44 comments:

  1. Very well said Mr. Cassino.

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  2. "we need strong political leaders who are brave enough to institute real reform." I agree completely with your analysis of the public's loss of faith in the election process. But given the situation, I don't have any idea where these "leaders" will come from. One thing you forgot to mention-in NYC winning the Democratic primary is tanatmount to being elected. Many of my friends think it's November that counts.

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  3. Dinowitz came out a big winner and he wasn't even running.

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  4. This is exactly why we need someone like Tony Cassino in public office. I never hear any of our local elected "leaders" admitting that the whole system is basically an incumbency-protection racket.

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  5. I don't think that anyone could regard such low-level politicians as winners.

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  6. I suppose the power of incumbency wasn't an issue when you supported Mayor Bloomberg's run for his third term?

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  7. Insightful, especially coming from a community leader drenched, and some would say compromised, by hardball politics.

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  8. I wOnder what you or any of us would do if elected. We probably would act just like Koppell and Bloomberg and all the others who cling to their positions as if they were irreplaceable. Of course, Bloomberg's position is world away from the one inhabited by the disappointingly ordinary and and self-serving creatures in the City Council.

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  9. How does some like Naomi Rivera, who has one of the worst attendance for an assembly member and is also a no show in her district, still garner enough votes to win??? How does somone like Marco Crespo, who is also a no show in Albany manages to win?? Or someone like Peter Rivera, who is rumored will the next target of an investigation, still manage to win? Tuesday was a sad day for the Bronx. It was an opportunity to make history.

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  10. “disappointingly ordinary and self-serving” doesn’t begin to describe our esteemed councilmembers. the person who wrote that comment has obviously never witnessed a city council meeting. the councilmembers are embarrassingly ordinary, to the point that i’ve heard more coherent and intelligent people talking into their cellphones while waiting for the metronorth.

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  11. Don't be fooled readers. There is really no difference between Tony Cassino and Jeffrey Dinowitz. Also, there's no difference between them and the rest of the political scum who claim to represent our interests.

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  12. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell! ...

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  13. Too often, if you are a quality candidate and decide to run against an incumbent, you are either ignored by your opponent (if you are unknown and don't stand a chance) or else painted as the bad guy by your opponent (if you are a credible threat).

    The public should remember that running for office is something to be encouraged in our society. People who run for office should be admired and thanked for the great expenditure of time, effort and money, not to mention the enormous toll a campaign imposes on a candidate's friends and family.

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  14. On the front page of today’s NY Post is a disgusting example of the power of incumbency in NY politics.

    In a shocking audiotape obtained by The Post, Assemblyman Vito Lopez (now the Brooklyn Democratic boss) is heard bullying a group of eight elderly women to back a judicial candidate he favors, threatening payback if they don’t.

    Here’s the headline and a link to the article:

    Exclusive: Lopez tape shocker
    DON VITO
    B’klyn party big threatens
    little old ladies for votes

    ‘The only thing I have that’s worth something is politics. That’s how I get the money.’

    READ MORE:
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/vito_browbeats_klyn_grannies_jjecfIC1fCrMgDdw4gfOlJ

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  15. Actually there is a HUGE difference between Cassino and Dinowitz - Donowitz is in a position to affect change and has done nothing. He is guilty of supporting the politics as usual in Albany AT BEST. Cassino is rumored to be corrupt - but he's never held an elected position so how can that be? Don't know him, maybe he is a scoundrel but where's the beef? Sounds like a political hatchet job by Ben Franklin crowd to retain their strangle hold on local politics. All I know is this community is slowly deteriorating on their watch by any measure.

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  16. celebrate coz thats all i know

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  17. Lindsay Lohan Second Failed Test -- Amphetamines

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  18. I would like to know HOW Tony Cassino is corrupt exactly?

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  19. According to my dictionary:

    CORRUPT - adj. 1. Marked by immorality; depraved. 2. Open to bribery; dishonest. 3. (archaic) Tainted; putrid.

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  20. So does blindly supporting the politics as usual in Albany or using one's political position to pressure others for the good of your family constituent immorality or dishonesty? Does it taint the individual?

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  21. So which is it? Immoral, depraved, open to bribery, dishonest, tainted or putrid? Or perhaps all of these?

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  22. Hey all incumbents, is it easier to con the media or the public?

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  23. so which of the three definitions apply to Tony Cassino and what proof do you have that any do.

    he seems like a nice enough guy...his friends hold him in high regard...or...did JEFFREY send his political plants to this blog to smear a good and decent man?

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  24. Let us not forget that Jeffrey is using the Amalgamated Housing Corporation as a dorm for his family.

    Let us not forget that Jeffrey's mom was caught picking up free food from Pedro Espada...which is an indication that she is either used to getting things for free OR Jeffrey is not making sure his mother has enough groceries.

    Let us also not forget that Jeffrey - with all of his infinite wisdom and political savvy - tried to silence the voices of dissent at the Dinowitz Dorm.

    Dinowitz has been, for years, feeding off the poor and under-represented in his district. He's not fooling anyone anymore. His son was able to get a job working for Engel and the DOE...nepotism at its finest...no wonder Petey the Sword couldn't understand why they were only coming after him.

    Espada was slipping us all clues about rampant corruption in the Bronx political machine when he would appear on TV and talk about why he thought he was being attacked.

    I am no fan of Espada. He's a creep. But think about where he learned how to operate. Espada was more brazen about his order of operations. Truth be told, all Bronx politicians are slimey scumbags looking out for their own self-interests.

    And folks wonder why the Bronx is treated like a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY??? Look at our leadeers!!! Why not keep the poors poor! How would local politicians pad their pockets if real jobs and businesses were created without the assistance of the Federal government? For the most part, private developers SHUN the Bronx because our politicians stand around waiting for payoffs and payouts. EVERY. LAST. ONE. OF. THEM.

    Espada may have been a thief, but at least he had honor...and I highly doubt he'll sell folks out no matter how hard he is squeezed during a Federal investigation.

    We need a transfusion of new blood in the Bronx. Not just some guy who claims to have lived on Bedford Park for ten years...even though he worked on the Obama campaign in Florida.

    UGH.

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  25. One of your readers is just upset because Jeffrey Dinowitz has taken the title of King of the Amalgamated Housing Corporation -- a proud position if ever there was one. .

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  26. the Amalgamated houses are far from A PLACE THAT MATTERS.

    if you wish to reveal the Assemblyman for what he truly is, be the advocate you claim to be and look into the corruption, theft and fraud going on over there.

    the employees are shady...a couple of years ago a $35,000 generator was stolen from the Supply closet...there have been dozens of robberies with "no signs of forced entry", supposedly the Coop "underpaid" a water bill by over $300,000 because one of the meters was broken...but when one shareholder asked to see the adjusted bill, no one could find the damn thing, apartments arent registered to the shareholders but to the Corporation instead, which is clearly fraud.

    Yes, Dimowitz is King Nothing. And that place is a ghetto if there ever was one...not so much because of the shareholders...more so because the people who are running the joint are ignorant thieves who are getting away with everything and anything because Dimowitz detracts attention from the scene of the crime(s).

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  27. If so many Amalgamated people are upset, how come none of them are protesting outside of Assemblyman Dinowitz's office? How come they are not writing letters to the Riverdale Press? How come none of them ever complain to the Community Board when that do-nothing body has one of its endless meetings at Amalgamated House's Vladeck Hall? And how come a smart and well-connected community leader like Ed Yaker has not raised a ruckus?

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  28. Because Ed Yaker is part of the problem...as are his cronies Doris Spencer and Karen Armstrong...who ENDORSED Tony Cassino. This was, in fact, reverse psychology...if you are a good and decent person and you know Ed Yaker and his posse are full of themselves you are going to vote for the opposite party...aside from the peoples inclination to vote for the incumbent...the worse thing Tony did was accept the endorsement of the Ed Yaker/Amalgamated machine.

    Ed Yaker is the "President Emeritus" with many connection. He was an officer of the TWIN PINES FUEL OIL Company which filed for BANKRUPTCY not long after it was Incorporated.

    Look into the history of that place...the Towers were so poorly constructed and wired that the fire department usually visits the buildings on a daily basis. Ex-Cons are working there...not just any Ex-Cons...violent Ex-Cons such that a Corrections Officer who lives there now carries his gun with him everytime he leaves his house. One of the porters is reportedly the neighborhood dealer. The brother of the service manager is a pusher too, from what I understand, and he also runs a business out of the Amalgamated selling window screens...that were stolen from windows once an occupant moves.

    Most of the people who live there are unhealthy...the apartments and radiator vents are mold ridden because the bricks on the buildings weren't pointed properly.

    The shareholders have a real mess on their hands over there...and for the record...look in th CB8 minutes for the Housing Committee last year. Two Amalgamated residents appeared before the Housing Committee and nothing was done to help.

    I get the feeling the strangehold is going to break soon, though. I just feel badly for anyone who lives in that half assed tenement.

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  29. Hey Amalgamated Historian:

    So I'm a little unclear about who you hate and who you merely dislike. You support Dinowitz some of the time, but can't stand that his family has mobbed-up the complex? I'm not sure what you mean about Cassinno. And what about Koppell?

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  30. I'll ask again. If so many Amalgamated people are upset, how come NONE of them are protesting outside of Assemblyman Dinowitz's office? Maybe because it's only that CB8 lady who is upset because he "threatened" her (which I doubt he would actually do).

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  31. That "CB8 lady" is named Colleen Hanley. And why would she make up a story like that?

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  32. These people from the Amalgamated Houses are having an argument that has nothing to do with the subject of incumbency, low-voter turnout, and who really won on primary day.

    With all due respect to the residents of Amalgamated, the rest of us in other parts of the Bronx (like Throgs Neck) don't care about your very particular and uninteresting load of complaints against Jeffrey Dinowitz. You can keep him. He doesn't represent my neighborhood. So I don;t know anything about that man, nor to I care to.

    And since this is BRONX Political Chatter, how about some news about James Vacca and the 13th Council District for a change? Do you realize that places like Throgs Neck, City Island, and Pelham Parkway also exist in the Bronx?

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  33. How about some coverage of the South Bronx and Assemblyman José Rivera?

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  34. You are absolutey right anonymous @2:48pm.

    So, tell us your story. See, this blog is about POLITICAL CHATTER and when POLITICIANS do not do their JOBS because they have a SPECIAL INTEREST in not doing their JOBS properly, folks are going to TALK ABOUT IT.

    You have all the time in the world to talk to us about whats going on in your neck of the woods. Maybe someone on this board can help you...or maybe we'll put Jeffrey Dinowitz in an industrial sized slingshot akin to something you would see on Tom and Jerry cartoons and fling him over to your side of the Bronx...to add to your headache.

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  35. Regarding the benefits on incumbency, here's an article that just came out in NY Times on Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez:


    BROOKLYN DEMOCRAT IS SAID TO BE INVESTIGATED

    By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

    Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, a long-serving Brooklyn Democratic leader who is widely viewed as the borough’s patronage king, is at the center of two separate federal investigations, according to several people briefed on the matter. A third inquiry, by the city’s Department of Investigation, those people said, is focused on a network of nonprofit groups Mr. Lopez controls.

    All three investigations focus to some extent on the nexus of politics, nonprofit groups and real estate developers in Brooklyn, the people familiar with the inquiries said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

    “The name of the game” is real estate development, one of the people said, ...

    READ MORE:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/nyregion/23lopez.html

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  36. With the exception of Mike Bloomberg, our city and state incumbents are a collection of duds. misfits and creeps. Not a true leader among them

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  37. You can't really compare Mayor Bloomberg with any other politician in New York. He is a total departure from the normal order of things. In city government, a leader of his ability and expertise comes along maybe once or twice a century, if at all.

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  38. I agree that Bloomberg is an outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime mayor, and we are fortunate to have him. However, he totally reversed himself on term limits, and that I cannot forgive.

    What the city council to to enable themselves and Bloomberg to overturn term limits was a terrible thing. It was an action that spit in the face of the citizens of New York City.

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  39. Mike Bloomberg works four day work weeks. He works from "home" on Fridays...his home in the Caribbean. When the Staten Island Ferry crashed AGAIN, he was not on scene.
    Mike Bloomberg may be a shrewd businessmen, and I certainly agree that jobs SHOULD be cut...in the MAYORS OFFICE...but as far as his ability to relate to the poor or middle class is concerned he gets an F.

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  40. Despite his faults (like the flip-flop on term limits), Michael R. Bloomberg is a damn impressive mayor. He's the best I've seen in any major American city.

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  41. Mike Bloomberg rules!!

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  42. You want IMPRESSIVE?
    Try Corey Booker.
    Dedication, Intelligence, Devotion and WILL.

    Bloomberg couldnt touch Corey Bookers heart, drive, determination or values.

    Think Bloomberg would live in the PROJECTS to inspire his constituents. HA! Never that.

    And how about that campaign finance scandal he's involved in? Why aren't you writing about that at all? Bloomberg PURCHASED the last election.

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  43. Mayor Bloomberg runs the most important city in the world. Corey Booker runs what exactly?

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  44. There is a whole article about Corey Booker in the Saturday NY Times (Oct. 2nd) my friend.

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