The following appears in the June 18-24 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Angry voters throughout the nation are coming out in droves to punish incumbents they believe have betrayed them. Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Bob Bennett of Utah are just two of the political heavyweights that the electorate has sent packing.
A USA Today study released in early June claims that the Tea Party populist movement has also inspired record numbers of political novices to seek public office. In 33 state primary elections, there has been a 35 percent increase in the total number running for congressional seats. Of the 1,500 candidates, Republican outnumbers Democrats two to one. In North Carolina, for instance, 66 people battled it out for house seat nominations – double the number of two years ago.
New Yorkers have also been expressing their wrath at the ballot box. Last fall they voted out a slew of local incumbents including the Nassau and Westchester county executives.
I have not seen New York voters in such a state since 1970 when James L. Buckley was elected U.S. senator on the Conservative Party line beating Republican Charles Goodell and Democrat Richard Ottinger. Back then, voters were furious over crime in the streets and college kids rioting against the Vietnam War. This year their anger is very different; it’s directed toward shameless, corrupt tax-and-spend pols who are captives of public-service employee unions.
Since Democrats control every branch of the state government and every statewide office, one would think that anti-incumbent sentiment would bode well for New York’s Republican Party. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.
At their June convention, which was rife with vicious infighting, the Republicans proved they have not recovered from 12 years of Gov. George Pataki’s deliberate smothering of the state GOP organization. Pataki, who abandoned principle in favor of cronyism and patronage, preferred an impotent party to one that would train new talent not subject to Pataki control.
Convinced the GOP political bench was bare, the party’s desperate novice chairman, Ed Cox, talked a Democrat, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, into seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination only weeks before the party convention. Both were humiliated when the convention roll call revealed that Chairman Cox delivered only 28 percent of the vote for Levy, far short of the required 51 percent. Cox, who was expected to pump new life and funds into his moribund party, has proven to be a political empty suit.
The poster boy for the financially and intellectually bankrupt New York GOP is its designated candidate to face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – Bruce Blakeman. In 1998 Blakeman was creamed in his statewide run against Comptroller Carl McCall, receiving only 33 percent of the vote. The next year, Nassau voters booted Blakeman from his county Legislature seat because he failed to grasp that voting to raise property taxes was not the best way to fix the county’s fiscal woes.
Blakeman, who has been campaigning since last fall and has raised very little money, boasts he is well qualified to sit in the U.S. Senate because he has a certificate in Homeland Security from Long Island University. I recently learned that anyone can audit this program, including Osama bin Laden, because it’s offered online.
If the Conservative Party Senate candidate, former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, successfully petitions himself into the September GOP primary, expect him to beat Blakeman. If DioGuardi runs solely on the Conservative line in November, he could very well receive more votes than the hapless Blakeman.
New Yorkers are demanding strong, bold leadership to fix a broke, dysfunctional state. By failing to meet those demands at their convention, the Republicans have squandered an opportunity to take back control of state government and may have consigned themselves to a permanent minority status following redistricting. Overtaxed New Yorkers deserve better.