Friday, September 04, 2009

Looking at the weekly newspaper endorsements: James, Thies, Skaller, plus some contradictions

Well, the endorsements from Brooklyn's major weeklies (Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, plus Ledger/Star and Caribbean Life) are out and there are some (relative) surprises:
  • three endorsements for incumbent Letitia James in the 35th District and none for challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa
  • two endorsements for Even Thies in the 33rd District and one for Steve Levin
  • two endorsements for Josh Skaller in the 39th District and one for John Heyer (and none for Brad Lander).
Clearly, the Atlantic Yards issue isn't dispositive; otherwise the Brooklyn Paper would not have endorsed AY opponent James as well as proponent Heyer.

Clearly, the issue of independence from the county Democratic Party isn't dispositive; otherwise, the Courier-Life wouldn't have endorsed reformer Skaller as well as Levin, chief of staff to party boss Vito Lopez. (Skaller's an AY opponent, Levin a fence-sitting supporter.)

While these endorsements surely have influence, and will be cited in last-minute mailings and campaigning as the September 15 Democratic primary vote approaches, endorsements from the New York Times and (to a lesser extent) the New York Daily News probably have more weight.

The 35th District

While James has been challenged by AY proponent (and recipient, via her nonprofit organization, of Forest City Ratner funds) Hunley-Adossa, the latter's campaign performance and accessibility has been questionable, and even the AY-promoting Courier-Life chose not to make an endorsement.

The Brooklyn Paper called James "a talented community leader who has shown gutsy independence by breaking with the city’s power elite when appropriate" and said she was "running against two unqualified challengers." (The other is Medhanie Estiphanos.)

James "has consistently been ahead of her colleagues in criticizing much-hyped development projects that don’t create as much affordable housing or community benefits as promised." And the newspaper criticized Hunley-Adossa for running a "secretive campaign" and being uninformed.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star said James "established a reputation for personal and political integrity, guts, and hard work. With those tools, she has taken on developers, the Bloomberg Administration, and the state (over, among other issues, the Atlantic Yards project, which James vehemently opposes)."

Also Caribbean Life endorsed James as “a tireless advocate for change and a fighter in the mode of her predecessor, James Davis, not only for her constituents but for embattled city residents.”

The 33rd District

The Courier-Life endorsed Steve Levin, saying he was "the candidate who has most pounded the pavement."

As for concerns about his ties to the machine, the newspaper said, "While Levin formerly worked for and is a favorite of Kings County Democratic boss Vito Lopez, he has also shown to be a clear thinker with an independent streak."

By contrast, the Brooklyn Paper said that Levin, as well as District Leader Jo Anne Simon, would be qualified but not independent. "Thies would be a break from insider politics and a step towards the kind of progressive leadership that the Council desperately needs," the newspaper said. "He showed that in his committed, hands-on work as a member of his local community board, a body that too many members treat as nothing but a place to whine about something every month." (Broadway Triangle was omitted.)

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star, which circulates more in the northern part of the district, pointed out that the previous three council members, including current Council Member David Yassky, came from Brooklyn Heights, and a new focus on North Brooklyn is needed.

The newspaper endorsed Williamsburg resident Thies for his willingness to focus on that part of the district and saluted his experience working for Yassky and serving on the CB.

The newspaper criticized Levin for a lack of independence and said interviews "showed very clearly that [he]... knows the least about the details and day-to-day issues that define the district."

The newspaper also criticized Simon, a "talented candidate," as lacking independence and said that "a candidate of true integrity like Doug Biviano" would be good in an ideal world, where Council members don't have to work within the system while maintaining core principles and values.

The 39th District

In perhaps the biggest surprise, the Courier-Life endorsed Skaller, calling the former president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats a "reformer in every sense of the word."

"As we face another four years, we need someone who will shake things up and fight not only for his constituents, but for what’s right," the newspaper said, in something of a contrast to the Levin endorsement.

The Brooklyn Paper endorsed Heyer, noting that Lander, Skaller, and Bob Zuckerman were all well qualified.

While the newspaper criticized Heyer's stance on gay marriage and abortion rights,it said he had the right temperament and a focus on nuts-and-bolts issues.

"And he’s the only candidate in the race who is not ashamed to say that he wants the Atlantic Yards basketball arena built at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, a position that we share," the newspaper said--though it didn't criticize James and Thies for their opposition to the project.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star praised Skaller for "hard work, passion for detail, and personal interest in residents across the district," saying he was undaunted by the challenge from Lander, who's been preparing longer for a run.

(City Hall News has a very interesting article on the battle between Heyer and Lander for votes in socially conservative Borough Park.)

Comptroller and Public Advocate

The Courier-Life endorsed David Yassky for Comptroller, saying "he is not only a fighter for important causes, but can 'think out of the box' and create new approaches when tackling some of the city’s oldest problems from garbage pick up to local traffic concerns."

It endorsed Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate, saying he was "promoting a comprehensive reform proposal expanding the position’s watchdog powers this week and standing up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his move to eliminate term limits earlier this year."

The Brooklyn Paper endorsed Yassky, as well, saying (in a nod to flip-flops over term limits--and, perhaps, Atlantic Yards), "Being comptroller — the dry, bean counter of the city — will free Yassky from the mundane pursuit of popularity or his desire to seek the politically expedient nuance, and allow him to focus his intellect and considerable skills on the job."

It stepped away from the pack to endorse Norman Siegel (an AY opponent) for Public Advocate, noting that former Public Advocate Mark Green "has approached the campaign with a feeling of entitlement," and that the energetic de Blasio and Eric Gioa "see the advocate job as a stepping stone to higher office."

"As a longtime civil rights lawyer and head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Siegel has led principled fights whenever society runs the risk of being unjust," the newspaper said.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star endorsed John Liu for Comptroller, saying he "Liu understands and is committed to improving the lives of all New Yorkers, not just to protecting the assets of the wealthy and privileged."

Caribbean Life termed all four Comptroller hopefuls “very strong candidates,” but it preferred Liu, “a former actuary for a major accounting firm, with extensive experience overseeing the books of the MTA.”

It endorsed de Blasio for Public Advocate "because of his unwavering advocacy for disadvantaged New Yorkers on issues such as affordable housing, education and health care.”

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