Tag Archive: Democrats

Feb 26 2014

IDC Move Leaves Avella Vulnerable to Challengers

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Benedict Arnold eat your heart out.

Say it ain’t so Tony, the people are outraged.

Tony Avella was sent to Albany with a clear mandate by the Democratic Party to tow the line yet what he did was disgraceful and self-centered.

The good people of the 11th Senatorial did not vote for Tony Avella just to give the GOP another seat and get another chairmanship; he was sent to do work as a DEMOCRAT, and many people in this community supported him for years, yet now he turned his back on us? That’s disloyalty.

According to a Democratic insider, “The IDC is about 5 senators crying over spilled milk by joining Dean Skelos –it’s about getting more money, more staff and a committee chair – it’s not about people it’s about self-interest.”

Tony’s betrayal will not come without consequences. Much of the Democratic establishment have already turned their eyes to seeking out a challengerThe sudden switch could hurt the efforts by mainstream Dems to reclaim control of the Senate in this year’s election cycle, and no one will just forgive that. However, in this district, Tony has some name recognition and he’s loved by many, that is, the many that can’t look past the cheap headlines. 

Nevertheless, with Tony switching sides, he’s vulnerable now more than ever for a worthy primary challenger to arise — especially when County leaves him hanging in the dust… Or will they?

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/idc-move-leaves-tony-avella-vulnerable-to-challengers/

Feb 26 2014

Avella Says Farewell, Joins Rebel IDC

From True News From Change NYC: Avella joins Albany Rebel IDC Democrats 
Realignment Buzz: Avella’s IDC Move Triggered by Queens Machine Losing Speakers Race. 
Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) is set to announce that he’s joining a dissident group of four Democrats that runs the state chamber with the GOP in an unprecedented bipartisan arrangement. The switch could be a serious blow to the effort by mainline Dems to reclaim control of the Senate in this year’s elections. * Avella moves to I.D.C., and Democrats grimace(Capital) Democrats, who are trying to reclaim control of the Senate in this year’s elections, were quick to criticize the move: “It’s unfortunate that progressive policies continue to be stymied because of divisions created by Senators who choose to empower Republicans,” said Senate Democratic Communications DirectorMike Murphy in a statement early this morning.* @TonyAvella is joining the #nysenate IDC. This will frustrate Democratic attempts to regain control of chamber (NYDN)
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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/avella-says-farewell-joins-rebel-idc/

Feb 18 2014

Meet Steve Israel’s Challenger

grantlallyRepublican honcho Grant Lally will tackle Congressman Steve Israel for control of CD-3.

From LI Politics:

Grant Lally is the managing partner of Lally & Misir, LLP. A top ranked attorney, Mr. Lally is an experienced practioner with an extensive background in commercial and corporate transactions, federal and state litigation, administrative proceedings, and appellate practice. He has practiced law for over twenty years in the New York metropolitan area, and is also a Solicitor in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Mr. Lally is an expert in legal and media crisis management and has handled many high profile matters, including those involving international jurisdictional conflicts. He has counseled and represented Heads of State, Government Ministers, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and appears regularly on radio and television.

Mr. Lally’s past practice has included successfully representing President George W. Bush before the Miami-Dade and Orange County Boards of Election at the 2000 Florida Recounts; handling numerous complex corporate reorganizations involving multi-jurisdictional assets; recovering priceless stolen art from an international auction house; restructuring of clients’ business affairs to reduce their tax and liability exposure; successfully litigating major elections cases and appeals; representing media groups in domestic and international litigation; handling complex domestic relations, divorce, and custody matters; serving as general counsel to numerous corporations in the health care, media, manufacturing, and hospitality industries; and representing parties in multi-national litigation.

Lally’s partner, Deborah Misir, has filed legal briefs and participated in the most important litigation before the US Supreme Court in 50 years – the Obamacare case.

Mr. Lally graduated with his B.A. with honors from The Johns Hopkins University; his J.D. from Boston University, School of Law; and an LL.M. in International & Comparative Law from Georgetown University, Law Center.

At Lally & Misir, LLP, Mr. Lally specializes in handling complex civil litigation and transactions, including business transactional work, corporate and business litigation, international arbitration and litigation, multi-jurisdictional conflicts including business and divorce proceedings, and the media management of these conflicts and transactions.

Mr. Lally was Founding Chairman of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, Long Island chapter, and served as Founding Chairman of the New York State Republican Lawyers Association. He served on the National Board of Governors of the Republican National Lawyers Association (1990-2008), and on the Board of the Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506 Museum in Miami (2004-2006). He currently serves as National Co-Chairman of The Irish American Republicans, and serves on the Boards of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, the Plattduetsche Home Society, the Institute for US-Cuba Relations, and the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County. He is a member of the Irish American Bar Association of New York, and the Nassau and Suffolk County Bar Associations.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/meet-steve-israels-challenger-grant-lally/

Feb 14 2014

Paul Vallone: Ready To Serve At A Moment’s Notice

Newly elected City Councilman Paul Vallone D-19.

Newly elected City Councilman Paul Vallone D-19.

It’s been little over a month since the new class of City Councilmembers were sworn in and while they’ve had just a short time to acclimate to their new responsibilities and duties, sometimes it’s not so easy getting a fully functioning office up and running ready to serve the community without delay, but newly elected Councilman Paul Vallone has done just that, and he’s ready to serve.

Located on a busy intersection off Bell Blvd. Councilman Vallone’s office held their first open house a few weeks ago inviting the entire community inside to see the progress. Once a dark and aging outcrop, Vallone relied on donations and volunteers, particularly Marsha Khan, Vice-President of the Clinton Democratic Club who helped design an ergonomic office by utilizing every inch of space. It’s truly impressive, yet what’s even more impressive is the work that goes on in here.

Beginning with a trained staff, Vallone hired brilliant advocates from the community that know the people and neighborhoods they are their to serve. Utilizing talent from his brother’s office, Jonathan Szott, now Chief of Staff helped ensure a smooth transition of Vallone’s neighborhood activism into a full service Council office. He’s even appointed local cultural and community liaison to get ears on the ground into every corner of the neighborhood.

In the meantime, while some candidates – even elects – disappear after an election (like his opponent Dennis Saffran who has not been seen since his loss), Vallone has been at every major event in northeast Queens, especially at the commitments he’s made before seeking election. It’s inspiring and hopefully will rub off on his colleagues in City Hall and all candidates to come in the future. Some people say he’s continuing a legacy, but we like to think he’s beginning his own.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2014/02/paul-vallone-ready-to-serve/

Oct 31 2013

Simon Says: It’s Go Time!

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 8.28.21 PMLongtime community activist, Lew Simon has all the pieces in play to take back the 32nd City Council District.

This evening I had the chance to chat with Democrat Lew Simon about his path to victory. While Simon has run before and lost, this year he is more organized by hiring an experienced campaign staff from Red Horse Strategies. 

“We’ve been on the phones, going door to door and we will be pulling them out on Election day,” Lew said describing his campaign’s strategy as focused – not only having identified the support he intends to pull out but concentrating on a large-scale ground operation.  

Lew is running against incumbent Eric Ulrich, a one term Councilman who Simon said failed to serve the entire community during his tenure. Simon cites Ulrich’s poor attendance record at Borough Board and stated Council meetings, as well as his reputation for ignoring constituents pleas for help, as grounds for removal.

“He has one of the fifth lowest attendance at meetings! That’s unacceptable when you’re being paid,” said Simon who went on to explain that if elected as a member of the Democratic party, he would be empowered to chair a committee (Simon set his eyes on Parks and Recreation) unlike his Republican rival that while in the minority party cannot chair any committees thus limiting his ability to accomplish an agenda.

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Lew Simon speaks at a local rally.

Counting on his experience as a longtime Assembly District Leader, Simon feels he’ll be better able to communicate with constituents. He mentioned the support his campaign received as proof, calling it a “fusion” including members of ethnic coalitions, civic organizations, even members of his opponent’s party.

“I never would have expected Republicans to come over and work with me and I’m proud to have them,” said Simon.

His agenda for City Hall is pretty robust. “My first priority is rebuilding after the hurricane.” Simon vowed to make sure his district gets everything available “by not playing favorites” and calling participatory budgeting “a great thing”.

Neighborhood safety is also a major priority. “There are many parts of the district that have not gotten help… We need better lighting, additional police, the old-fashioned way of police officers walking the beat, not cameras, cameras that don’t do anything,” Simon explained.

In terms of supporting the Community Safety Act, Simon said “it is ridiculous to threaten police officers with lawsuits,” and pointing to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is already in place, by giving it an enforcement mechanism by appropriate legislation.

Recently Simon had two stints placed in his heart, however the downtime had not taken him off the campaign trail entirely, in fact he made the most of it and campaigned right from his bedside.

“For the few days I was out, I’ve done more by phone, and the staff are working hard. Field operations are doing a superb job and I thank them.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/10/lew-simon-says-its-victory-time/

Oct 31 2013

Catsimatidis Campaign Responds To Queens-Politics

Queens PoliticsQueens-Politics received the following statement from the Cats campaign. The message read, “Just because Cats didn’t hire you for your “consulting” skills doesn’t mean you had to attack his campaign strategy. Remember there are no secrets in politics only truths backed by evidence waiting to come out.” 

Wow they finally understood something…. the nature of our post. I’m so glad, but maybe they took me wrong, I like John Cats, and yes I wanted to work for him. I always felt he had the money – therefore he would be the only candidate able to defeat Bill de Blasio!

But anyone who thinks Team Cats didn’t have a flawed plan should consider professional psychiatric help. Facts are simple, they really didn’t run a good campaign. That was the impetus to author that article — my disappointment in Cats ability to run a campaign on poignant issues with boots on the ground and community leaders with the resources necessary to achieve success.

Maybe if his team would have returned phone calls, or taken the advice of people who know how to win, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Yes, I wanted to work for Cats, but like most people I never got a call back. I’m glad I didn’t at this point. It’s shameful when your employees don’t support you because they work and you refuse to pay timely or at all.  So please take complicity, admit mistakes and take responsibility for your errors and yes, remember there are no secrets in politics only truths backed by evidence waiting to come out.

And here’s the evidence — CATS LOST.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/10/john-cats-campaign-responds-to-queens-politics/

Sep 11 2013

Queens Primary Election Results

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Bad news for Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.

Congratulations to all of the candidates, whether you won or lost. It was a long hard summer for everyone, and some of you really deserve a pat on the back. I especially want to give a shout out to all of the campaign workers, volunteers, and behind the scenes folks that really made this possible. Above all else, a thank you to all of the voters.

As a Democratic town, there were resounding victories all over Queens. I don’t want to rehash what you already heard, so let’s briefly go over some results:

Bill de Blasio defeated all of his opponents and put an end to Christine Quinn’s reign in city government.  A runoff election is still up in the air and is set for Oct. 1st after a recount where Bill will need to garner 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff. And runoff or not, it’s not over for Bill. In November he will still have to face off with Republican Joe Lhota, who won the Republican nomination against John Catsimatidis. A democrat has not won the mayor’s seat since David Dinkins did in 1989.

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Mayoral results courtesy of CBS
http://newyork.cbslocal.com/election-results-sept-10-2013/

Melinda Katz defeated Peter Vallone Jr. for Queens Borough President. The machine came out strong for Katz who will still have to face Republican Aurelio Arcabascio in November. Peter ran an excellent campaign, he stood up when others sat down. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. Congratulations are in order for Melinda.

Comptroller? Scott Stringer took the cake soundly defeating former governor Eliot Spitzer.

Cathy Guerreiro did not win the Public Advocate seat. I still believe she would have been an excellent P.A, her voice and thoughts on public policy were refreshing, however with the foundation planted for a solid campaign, she can make a run next time with better odds. It’s not often you win on your first try. Still too close to call, Letitia James, a City Council member from Brooklyn, will face Brooklyn Senator Daniel L. Squadron in a runoff.

Phil Ragusa defeated Sal Baccarella as the Republican State Committeeman for the 26th AD. A lot was at stake in this election and it looks like Ragusa will maintain his post and keep the power in northeast Queens. Dozens of other republican leadership races took place across town. As results come in, we’ll keep posting them.

In the 19th City Council District, Paul Vallone declared victory last night. It was a long hard battle, but Vallone won with 31%, or 2,723 votes to Austin Shafran’s 2,579 votes. A total of 98% of precincts reported leaving one precinct in College Point which did not report for some odd reason. Certainly Tony Avella must not be having a good morning, his handpicked candidate did not win. In November, Vallone will face off against Republican Dennis Saffran. It’s still a race to watch, but the first hurdle has been cleared.

In the 22nd City Council District, Costa Constantinides  defeated Gus Prentzas and John Ciafone (Gus lost by one vote to Ciafone coming in third place). Congratulations to Costa and his campaign team.

Rory Lanceman also declared victory in the 24th Council District as did Ruben Wills in the 28th, Lew Simon in the 32nd, and Donovan Richards in the 31st.

Lastly, Vito Lopez is no more. Antonio Reynoso took the 34th Council District, which is mostly in Brooklyn, but includes a part of Ridgewood so it’s worth mentioning.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/09/to-the-victor-go-the-spoils-queens-primary-results/

Status update

As a lifelong resident of District 19, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and observing all the candidates running for this office. One candidate stands above the rest. Democrat Paul Vallone is the best choice for our neighborhood. Please vote for him today.

For more information: Paul Vallone is the best choice for City Council

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/09/vote-paul-vallone-for-city-council/

Apr 01 2013

Austin Shafran Is Full of Excuses

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Austin Shafran was the official spokesman and defendant of the most dysfunctional legislative body in the United States, and he’s proud of it.

Cause everything wrong in government deserves a simpleton’s justification.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, American troops, tanks, and their guns of liberty crossed heaven and earth to prevent Sadaam Hussein’s use of nuclear weapons. As our troops rolled into the heart of Baghdad, Iraqi information officer Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf stood up, puffed his chest, and said on TV, “We are beating back the infidels… they are all crushed” as an American tank rolled through the background.

It’s worth a laugh. Around that time, The Brennan Center of Justice said it outright, “New York’s legislature is the most dysfunctional in the nation,” yet their findings haven’t stopped a few of it’s most prolific, even pugilistic defenders say to us: hey, everything is fine, and no, of course we Democrats aren’t corrupt, what a silly notion!

Like Muhammed Saeed al-Sagaf, Austin Shafran was the Democrat’s top information officer, and just like Muhammed, he used his platform to whitewash the facts with lie after lie in an attempt to exonerate democrats from any wrongdoing.

Shafran has made a career of trying to express to the world why every bit of misuse of taxpayer money, tax hikes, misuse of government resources and governmental inefficiencies were okay.

Excuse making was just a routine part of his job. This is the man who tried to tell us that the Dems in control of the Senate were not corrupt, inept, or dishonest. In fact, they were quite the opposite and it’s the Republicans fault. While Rome burned and a historic coup took place, Austin played his fiddle, pointed his fingers while high on the hog (he made a ton of cash doing this) and even worse, he proclaimed – just like Muhammed – don’t worry, we are beating back the infidels. Yea, right.

Meanwhile, the slow and steady debasement of public service in New York becomes more and more visible across the spectrum, characterized by: Brian McLoughlin, Hiram Monseratte, Malcolm Smith, Donald Manes, Gregory Meeks, Carl Kruger, Pedro Espada, Elliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiner, just to name a few. Yet while sin and corruption are not new, we have to take a look at where all of these corrupt pols got their start and then turn inward and ask how did these criminals get into office in the first place? Was it their swagger? Was it their sex appeal or charisma that won over voters? Maybe low turnout?

Despite penetrating the thin veil of scrutiny the local papers try and apply, New York still leads the nation with criminals in elected office, but its propaganda ministers like Austin Shafran who have used their persuasive rhetoric to deceive and misdirect the voter’s attention from a stark reality, and now this chronic excuse-maker is running for public office!

As voters of the 19th District begin to examine the candidates for Council, let’s look beyond sparkling appearances and into the facts. For starters, Queenscrap did a great job of exposing Austin Shafran’s sham website for Council which is totally misleading.

Shafran has had a corrosive impact in public policymaking and it could extend into the 19th if we aren’t more mindful of whom we vote for, especially if we allow him to sanitize his history with one alibi after another.

When the Brennan Center published its findings on the most dysfunctional state legislature — you know, the one that Austin represented — he was like Muhammed beating back the good government advocates as the “infidels” with his mis-truths that were so paper-thin and incredulous he might as well have held the press conference in front of his desk piled high with envelopes filled with our tax money.

It’s people like Austin Shafran that have created this crisis of public ethics and its way out of control. On this April Fools, let us remember this one thing: the biggest joke is Austin Shafran trying to make a fool out of us all.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/04/austin-shafran-full-of-it/

Mar 14 2013

Can Dems Can Learn From GOP Infighting?

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Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way?

Good for democracy but bad for parties.

Fueled in part by intense media scrutiny, the constant tug of war inside GOP party politics may have a bright side after all.

For far too long the GOP’s lack of party unity is said to be a bad thing. Factions have waged a seemingly endless war for control of limited resources between what is called north \ south alliances (which often conjure up references to a “civil war” and the token comparison to the Hatfields and McCoys).  While everyone seems to nip at each other’s heels, the media tends to reinforce a negative view with comparisons to their Democratic counterparts which appear (at least on the outside) to have far more solidarity and party unity.  Let’s set aside the present situation and look at the bright side.

James Madison said we need faction to counteract faction. Not only does faction create dialogue, but it also opens up a multi-pronged approach to the Democratic majority in Queens. Republicans have choices, real choices, at least in their primaries. Through the infighting, one fringe benefit for voters is that Republicans tend to exercise independence not only from their respective factions but also from each other, much more so than their Democratic counterparts do. The internal strife and power struggles help dilute a paralysis of views, and while the infighting continues, independents arise with a chance to stand out from the maddening crowd.

As voters, we should appreciate that pettiness, hubris – and other seemingly meaningless motivational factors — offer us differing Republican candidates and choices for leadership. As political people, we can see how harmful such aggressive efforts to seize power can weaken party structure and impede their ability to win elections.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/03/dems-can-learn-from-gop-infighting/

Mar 14 2013

Dem Endorsement of Shafran Could Hand Election To Halloran

Democratic Donkey

Shafran’s lack of any community service within CD19 notwithstanding, the only candidate with enough name recognition and campaign experience to beat him is Vallone.

The Barkan Report mentioned it this week that Paul Vallone and Austin Shafran are frontrunners for CD 19 and I agree, this is an absolute truth, but whispers in the air still hold that County will shy away from endorsing Paul Vallone. To do so will come with a little egg in the face.

If Shafran should face off with incumbent Dan Halloran in a general election, he’ll lose. Dan is too strong for Shafran, whom despite adequate fundraising, still needs to work on basic name recognition.

While it’s still a little too early to tell, one thing seems to go unnoticed: the organization will do what’s best for the organization and long-term planning cannot ignore the dismal prospect for democrats in a Shafran vs. Halloran general election.

Hopefully they won’t lose sight of this when it comes time to make their pick.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2013/03/dems-endorsement-of-shafran-could-hand-election-to-halloran/

Nov 02 2012

Congresswoman Grace Meng thanks Queens-Politics

A special thanks to Assemblywoman Grace Meng for accepting my endorsement of her bid for U.S Congress with kind words that reflect the mission of Queens-Politics to restore accountability in government and politics.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of Queens Politics – a blog that stands for the issues I believe in, including transparency in government and electoral reform. My thanks as well to Queens Politics Editor in Chief, Adam Lombardi, for his community activism and parish volunteerism in Auburndale and throughout Queens.” -Grace Meng

Grace, we know what you are altogether right. Your platform is right, the place is right, and you are the right person for that place, and when the right time comes, we will be right on the spot with our right hands raised to cast our ballots and usher in a new era of good government. When elected I know you shall bring to Congress an earnest desire to perform your duties efficiently and honorably. When you are successful at the polls, it will not be a personal triumph, but the triumph of those principles which you represent.

Cheers to the people’s victory on November 6th. Vote Grace For Congress!

Grace Meng

Grace Meng and I.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/11/kind-words-from-grace-vote-grace-election-day/

Oct 30 2012

With Ulrich territory underwater, could Sandy have tipped the balance in Addabbo’s favor?

Breezy Point is absolutely devastated after Hurricane Sandy.

In Albany, state senate dems and republicans are in disarray because the dynamics of South Queens may have been changed due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The Rockaways, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach – these are the neighborhoods that helped elect Councilman Erich Ulrich but with these neighborhoods devastated and partially submerged, insiders are predicting the destruction may physically stop Ulrich’s base from voting on Election day.

Everyone is worried - what’s not on fire is underwater. Questions are being raised by both camps. Who will come back by Tuesday, and if they do will they vote? How will we perform a pull operation? By boat?

The stakes are extremely high and all eyes are on this race because this seat will decide control of the Senate and that’s why so much money has been poured into Ulrich’s and Addabbo’s campaign war chest.

If the battle shifts the fight to the northern section of the district including the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village. Glendale and Forest Hills, Ulrich could be at a major disadvantage as the conservative leaning neighborhoods that support Ulrich are unlikely to be concerned about voting when their homes have been destroyed, according to a source familiar with the situation.

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Update 12:34PM: Crain’s New York Confirms that the homes of Rep. Bob Turner and Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long have burned down.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/with-ulrich-territory-underwater-could-sandy-have-tipped-balance-in-addabbos-favor/

Oct 29 2012

THE MAN WITH THE “CAMPAIGN MIND”

The 3rd Congressional District was reapportioned with sections of northeast Queens, a part of town where U.S Rep. Steve Israel needed to build name recognition.

The redistricting of 2012 opened the door for New York Congressman Steve Israel to step into the political consciousness of northeast Queens, but despite conventional wisdom his national job as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) wasn’t enough to raise his name recognition, it was a strong grassroots campaign initiative which helped ensure victory on Election Day.

He didn’t grow up in Queens, but he spent every Sunday here with his grandparents and his dad in the shadow of Shea Stadium, dreaming of someday playing centerfield for the New York Mets.

Being new to the area, over the summer his campaign team launched a concentrated effort to raise name recognition in Queens. Virtually overnight, campaign signs peppered the neighborhood, bumper stickers were given out, and soon civic groups and political organizations met members of his campaign team.

Israel’s iconic green and blue “Steve Israel t-shirt” became ubiquitous throughout the new parts of New York’s fifth CD running from the tip of Whitestone and as far South as Glen Oaks.  But some questions remain, who is Steve Israel, what does he stand for, and what will he do for Queens?

Steve grew up in Long Island, deep in Nassau County in Dix Hills, so naturally the question arises, does Israel know what he is getting into with us Queens folk? We don’t know for sure, yet, but what we do know is that Israel hit the campaign trail with style and it’s been hard to ignore.

To put his ear to the beat of the neighborhood, Steve began visiting the Democratic clubs, including the Clinton Democratic Club, where he was welcomed with much fanfare. Upon meeting Israel, the club’s president, Paul Vallone, concluded, “He’s an exemplary leader for New York.”

Israel made further rounds at the FDR Democratic Club, and then with a plethora of civic groups and senior centers all the while meeting one on one with community leaders. Last week Israel was greeting voters at Waldbaum’s in Bay Terrace.

Who is he, where does he stand? Steve Israel has a strong progressive record. “Steve Israel is a champion of progressive values in the United States Congress and has done an excellent job to restore the Democratic Majority in the house,” according to Steve Behar, a community advocate for northeast Queens and a national figure in progressive politics.

The eastern edge of Queens now in NY3 (in blue) includes Bay Terrace, parts of Bayside, Beechhurst, Little Neck, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Bellaire, and Floral Park. Map from CUNY Center For Urban Research.

But with a fickle constituency like in northeast Queens – a place where large pockets of voters register as Democrats but tend to lean Republican – Israel will have to remain cordial and open to a sense of pragmatism to transcend these differences and win the hearts of this odd mix.

So far he’s off to a great start. “I don’t care if they’re Dems or Republicans – for me before I was taught to be a Democrat, I was taught to be a Mets fan,” joked Israel – a sound bite that will bode well with voters in northeast Queens.

The political world might see Rep. Israel as the chairman of the powerful DCCC, but first and foremost comes the needs of his constituency. “My primary job is to be the representative and my part-time job is to try and take the majority,” said Israel. His statement expressed the dichotomy of his role as both a member of Congress to provide services for the new constituency and as DCCC Chair to help elect Democrats across the nation, however the line between the two can sometimes be blurry. During the interview he emphasized that the needs of the district will be his primary objective but in regards to strategy to retake the majority (which he believes will also serve not only the district, but the entire country) Israel said it’s very straightforward. It’s mostly raising awareness. “We want to remind people under the Republican majority a budget was passed that ends Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for millionaires…the Republican majority for 24 months has been trying to shut down Planned Parenthood instead of trying to open up small businesses.”

He continued, “big corporations that want to outsource jobs to China and receive tax breaks when instead we should be making it easier for middle class families to afford college in New York.” Israel believes we should expand student assistance programs, including amending the tax code. “Middle class families should be able to write off a big part of their college investments. That is a much better investment to growing an economy than letting a giant corporation write off the cost of opening up a plant in China,” the influential Dem said.

The Congressman’s voting record is as liberal progressive as his talking point. On abortion he is pro-choice (NARAL gave him a 100 rating) and he supported same-sex marriage in 2010. Year after year he receives an ‘F’ from the National Rifle Association for his position on gun rights. On the economy, Israel believes in reducing defense spending and increasing income tax brackets in order to balance the budget. In the past he has advocated for federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth and he believes in providing tax incentives to businesses for the purpose of job creation.

In 2007 Israel voted YES on regulating the subprime mortgage industry. In 2009, he voted yes for senate pay raises and in 2006 a no for requiring photo-IDs for federal elections. Israel is against privatization of social security into personal spending accounts and he staunchly defends the Affordable Care Act, or what even President Obama now calls Obamacare.

Ethics reform is also a major part of his platform. I spoke candidly to him about lobbyists in their dual role as campaign managers, funneling clients and money back and forth, and the need for regulation, he raised the ethical dilemmas of Super PACs.  “I have heard plenty of concerns about ethics with respect to elected officials but I have not heard the issue of whether campaign managers should be regulated. I will say that I think this country is in need of fundamental campaign finance reform. You know have these super PACs sanctioned by the Supreme Court that can spend anything, spend any amount, not have to disclose who they are, and they’re funded by special interests who are trying to steal elections. We ought to ban them.”

In his latest initiative Israel introduced legislation to reform the electoral college which would in effect make campaigns more competitive as well as advocating for weekend voting to increase turnout in federal elections.

As chairman of the DCCC, Israel oversees a sophisticated propaganda outfit. He can dump a fortune into your campaign war chest and optimize the use of media to sway the hearts and minds of the electorate. For example last August, ahead of the House vote to repeal Obamacare, the DCCC went on the offensive with their “Drive for 25″ campaign which targeted vulnerable GOP lawmakers on healthcare ahead of the House vote.

The initiative included television ads, online videos and robo-calls, however, despite the DCCC’s best efforts, the plan was ineffective as the Republican controlled House repealed all or parts of the Affordable Care Act more than 33 times. The ads ranged from the awe-inspiring (Check out “Health Care Victory”) to the whimsical (See The Millionaires video regarding Bobby Shilling).

While the leadership position comes with such privileges as helping fellow Dems get elected, it has also cast Israel as a national target for Republicans and the far right. Recent attacks include a NY Post story that suggested Israel’s support of the TARP program is the reason he was granted a ‘bailout’ for his home in Dix Hills. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox didn’t waste any time urging an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. “The Congressman has taken advantage of his position to qualify for a debt reduction that is supposed to be reserved for hard-working families that are experiencing a financial set back,” said Cox, adding, “It is not for a congressman that wants to avoid his obligations and a personal financial loss.”

Israel said he wasn’t fazed by the scurrilous accusations. “It’s politics as usual that Republicans, who are trying to end Medicare, would find phony issues to raise against me,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when you’re one of the national leaders trying to stop Republicans from ending Medicare to fund tax cuts for millionaires, then you should expect to be a target of their attacks – it doesn’t surprise me.”

There are plenty of battles for Steve Israel to fight for in this part of Queens, but for now the Congressman from Long Island is busy building bridges on both sides of the aisle to focus on issues challenging middle class families. “Whether you’re living in Wyandach or Whitestone it’s about strengthening the economic recovery and protecting Medicare for Seniors, and stabilizing taxes.”

Visiting Queens is something he has done for his entire life, so naturally we wanted to know his favorite deli. Cherry Valley? Chrisite’s? No, the Congressman’s favorite deli is Ben’s Kosher in Bay Terrace. He told me a story about how he how he competed in a New York deli fundraiser competition in Washington – an annual tradition in it’s 30th year run by Congressman Gary Ackerman where competitors would invite the best deli to the Hill and present a full spread to Congressman Ackerman to judge the winner.  Israel chose Ben’s Deli and his competition, U.S Rep. Jerry Nadler, chose Liebman’s Deli of Brooklyn. Each won in respective categories.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/steve-israel-dccc-chair-congressman/

Oct 27 2012

Steve Israel wants to empower the popular vote

A pragmatic proposal for a constitutional amendment would make elections more competitive.

From The Huffington Post: Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would award 29 extra Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections.

The joint resolution, filed earlier this week and referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration, seeks to alter the way in which candidates campaign for the presidency. By increasing the importance of the popular vote, the amendment would theoretically encourage candidates to devote more time and money to states they are certain to win or lose.

“The election for president should be an election for the whole country, not just the swing states,” Israel said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “Obviously I have no intention of changing the rules for the campaign that’s underway now, but believe that we would be better served in the future if presidential candidates had an incentive to campaign in places like New York and Texas, as well as swing states like New Hampshire and Iowa.”

The 29 electoral votes Israel proposes to award the popular vote winner is the average of the 55 votes allotted to California, the most in the country, and three votes, allotted to the least populated states.

John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University, said he doubts other Democrats will back the measure, which he gives little chance of passage.

“It’s probably more likely that Democrats will conclude that Obama’s Electoral College advantage in 2012 might reflect a chronic advantage the Democrats will have going forward,” Sides said in an email. “If so, they have little incentive to reform the Electoral College.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2012/10/steve-israel-empower-the-popular-vote/

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