Friday, September 12, 2008

Taking a look at the primary; was AY a factor in the District Leader race?

What to make of the primary election? Well, as it's clear that the three Atlantic Yards opponents (see the Atlantic Yards Voter Guide) didn't win, but in only one race Atlantic Yards was likely a factor and it's unclear how much.

Similarly, after the 2006 primary, I wrote that the results certainly weren't a referendum against the project--as many AY opponents sought to achieve--but they weren't a referendum for the project.

The Towns-Powell race

The New York Times's CityRoom blog on Wednesday, in an article headlined Winners and Losers in the Primary, declared that one loser was the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID), which endorsed writer and activist Kevin Powell, "who lost overwhelmingly to the longtime incumbent Edolphus Towns." (Powell criticized Atlantic Yards, while Towns is a supporter. CBID is led by AY opponents Chris Owens and Lucy Koteen.)

Towns, who outraised Powell by a significant factor (including contributions from the Ratner family), won 22,586 votes (67.2%), versus Powell's total of 11,046 (32.8%), according to the Brooklyn Paper

In 2006 Towns won 19,469 votes, while rival Charles Barron (an AY opponent) got 15,345 votes and Roger Green got 6,237 votes. The difference is more likely attributable to Barron's greater profile in the district and Towns's more significant campaign effort.

The 57th District Leader

The Times observed that CBID also lost in endorsing Bill Saunders, longtime incumbent Democratic 57th District leader, who was defeated by challenger Walter Mosley, who has ties to Towns and others in the Brooklyn Democratic organization. (I haven't seen the vote totals.) CBID cited "Mosley’s tepid criticism of Atlantic Yards" as a factor in the endorsement, though CBID said members were impressed by him.

Saunders was backed by City Council Member Letitia James and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, both AY opponents, while Mosley was supported by (and campaigned with) Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Eric Adams, a mild critic and a supporter of the project. (The Times declared Jeffries and Adams winners in the primary.)

Mosley, a lawyer, is part of a well-known political family and is two generations younger than Saunders, so there were likely multiple factors at work, well beyond AY. Still, if the race reflected the relative power of James/Montgomery vs. Jeffries/Adams, at least in the 57th, the edge goes to the latter.

The Squadron win

Challenger Daniel Squadron's narrow victory over incumbent State Senator Martin Connor likely had little to do with Atlantic Yards. Note that Atlantic Yards Voter Guide expressed skepticism about Squadron, citing his support from AY backers Sen. Charles Schumer and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Still, it's worth noting that Squadron's camp positioned the challenger as a critic of Atlantic Yards, compared to Connor's caution.

The Silver win

Veteran Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver easily defeated challengers Paul Newell and Luke Henry, even though Newell got endorsements from the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post. The power of incumbency, as well as a history of delivering pork for his neighborhood, was clearly more important to constituents than criticism of the "three men in a room" political arrangement in the state.

Newell criticized Silver on a number of fronts, including his coziness with the powerful. On Monday's Brian Lehrer Show, Newell, at 19:15, brought up Forest City Ratner:
When someone is as powerful as Sheldon Silver has been, the people who get into that room are other powerful people. It's not that he's a bad guy. I think he does care about the fact that we have overcrowded schools. But what's his solution? He goes to one of his largest donors, Bruce Ratner, gives him millions and millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to build a 76-story luxury tower that we need like a hole in the head, and build a school in the basement, ostensibly, that we're going to get, maybe, in five years, if we're lucky. He's already pushed it back two years, and the market's going to push it back again."

Newell suggested that a school could open in September 2009 by converting office space. Note that Ratner has given big to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account, but I haven't found evidence he's given directly to Silver. (His brother Michael Ratner and Michael's wife Karen Ranucci each gave Silver $3000 two years ago.)

The main tax breaks for the Beekman Tower include Liberty Bonds and a convoluted approval of 421-a subsidies. (I'm not sure of Silver's role.)

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