The Iowa Caucuses took place on January 3rd of this year – that’s almost a full year ago. I first want to comment on just how fundamentally horrible and broken our political system is. We have a multi-year process to pick a President. It costs many hundreds of millions of dollars. We have a primary system where candidates have to ingratiate themselves to a party’s extremes before they can move on to the general election and effectively lurch to the center. The Supreme Court has legalized bribery – because money is political speech, its restriction is subject to strict scrutiny and we have barely regulated, completely non-transparent groups able to not just promote or attack ideas, but can expressly endorse or oppose individual candidates. One person can feasibly – legally – fund a SuperPAC with millions or billions of dollars and run whatever ads he wants, with no oversight, no regulation, no limits. I have a huge problem with this, and you should, too.
I detest this system, and hope we can someday fix it. I hate the way in which it has become difficult to debate opinions because we can’t agree on the facts. Other countries manage to hold nationwide general elections in a matter of weeks – not years. They limit contributions, they limit the ways in which money can be spent, they regulate the influence of money in politics and government so that policies help the people, and not special interests. To find out more about how federal electioneering can be changed to focus on people rather than the axis of corporate money and political influence, check out Rootstrikers.
As for our local races, while the Hochul/Collins race gave us a chance to understand that our votes actually count – it couldn’t be closer – It’s disheartening to see how many state races are literally (some figuratively) unopposed. Jane Corwin and Tim Kennedy should have general election races, period. Others are poster children for term limits. Our local politics remain polluted and corrupted by the legalized racketeering performed routinely and legally by the minor parties. Our system of electoral fusion serves no practical purpose and should be abolished.
Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as such. They have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. Any endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.
Obama/Biden vs. Romney/Ryan: Barack Obama
Obama. I have very strong personal reasons for this, which are none of anyone’s business. But from a macro standpoint, his leadership helped us to begin shaking off a horrific global recession, from which the world economy is still reeling. He passed a law to guarantee women equal pay for equal work. Obama advanced the cause of universal health care coverage – a goal that our country had hitherto been unable or unwilling to meet despite many attempts since World War II. Obama strengthened alliances abroad while navigating a particularly difficult set of international issues and crises. Obama may not be perfect, but he has done a tremendous job given the circumstances with which he has been faced. He deserves to continue the work he’s started, and we ought to stay the course.
Need something persuasive? The Economist endorsed Obama, explaining that he averted a Depression, he refocused our foreign policy in an intelligent way, and that Obamacare will reverse a “scandal” of 40 million uninsured. It hits Obama for inconsistent stewardship of commerce, and places blame on him for the noxious relationship with congressional Republicans (who also own it), but overall explains just how awful a choice Romney would be.
It’s no secret that I wholeheartedly endorse President Obama for re-election. Mitt Romney has completed the Republican Party’s departure from “compassionate conservatism” to “severe conservatism”, and he has run a fundamentally opportunistic and disingenuous campaign, where he promises absolutely nothing of substance to middle-class families. So, instead, I’ll offer up some graphical and audiovisual reasons to vote for President Obama.
Job growth rebounds after the dreadful global Bush recession:
Obama passed the Ledbetter Equal Pay Act:
The case for Obama now:
The Dow is up.
Employment is up.
Romney went to Europe, and came back a punch line:
We never got that “Whitey Tape“, but we got to see Romney’s.
Gillibrand vs. Long: Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand is running for her first full term after winning a special election to take over what had been Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. She has proven herself to be a capable and responsive representative in Congress, who has taken up the cause of “Made in America” in a positive, consistent way.
New York is a pretty left-center state, and the tea party may have some emotional influence within Republican circles, it’s a Paladino-fed joke among the electorate at-large. Wendy Long is a tea party candidate who has attracted all the support she deserves – not a lot. Gillibrand would have been quite vulnerable had the Republicans put up a credible, centrist Republican to run against her, but the Republican Party in New York is in as much disarray as its national counterpart will be after Tuesday when Mitt Romney’s opportunistic campaign loses. The stage is set for an epic battle between the pragmatic reasonableness of people like Chris Christie, and the reactionary, obstructionist hatred of the ultra-right tea party. This will be good not only for the Republican Party, but also for the country.
NY-26 Higgins vs. Madigan: Brian Higgins
Brian Higgins is a tireless champion for western New York. He has worked relentlessly – from the center-left – to improve Buffalo, WNY, and especially her waterfront. Mike Madigan is another tea-party candidate in a decidedly un-tea-party district. He has fallen back on a platform having to do with the poor quality of education in the inner city. He has identified an acute problem – one that he could better address in city or state government, or within the school board. The right wing agitates for de-federalization of education, and abolition of the Department of Education. I don’t know how that would improve school quality or student outcomes versus, say, promoting a 10th Amendment states’ rights agenda, but you can’t voucherize your way out of the problem. If Madigan is serious, he’ll try again for a seat where he might actually have a direct positive affect.
NY-27 Hochul vs. Collins: Kathy Hochul
Not only is Kathy Hochul a fantasic legislator who is pragmatic, independent, and votes as you’d expect a conservative Democrat to vote, but she isn’t Chris Collins. Chris Collins has a record of mean-spirited failure. Make no mistake about it – sending Chris Collins to the House of Representatives would be an utter disaster. He is a person uniquely unqualified to act as an effective legislator – arrogant, mean, rude, inflexible. He doesn’t need the job, and the people in the district don’t deserve the shambles he would cause. I know that this is a tied race, so it is incumbent upon everyone to pitch in to help re-elect Hochul and to prevent Collins from going to Washington and acting in his own best interests, rather than ours.
Think about this – when have you ever heard a single person, ever, say, “that Chris Collins – I like him. He seems to have my best interests at heart.” Never.
Gallivan runs for re-election unopposed. This is a shame. I’m sure he’s not perfect.
SD-60 Grisanti vs. Amodeo vs. Swanick: Mike Amodeo
First off – I don’t care if you self-identify as a Republican, Democrat, or Conservative – a vote for Chuck Swanick is a vote for transactional politics at their worst, for someone who was at the forefront of the great Erie County fiscal meltdown of 2005. That leaves Grisanti and Amodeo. Grisanti has ably served the district, and although he too often devolves into a cookie-cutter Republican, railing against fantasy bogeymen like “free college tuition for illegal aliens” and tougher criminal penalties for various things, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that his vote for marriage equality in 2011 was a genuine profile in courage.
Looking forward, however, one of the biggest pressing statewide issues right now is whether the state will allow hydrofracking for natural gas. It’s fair to say the electorate-at-large is pretty uninformed when it comes to the risks and benefits of hydrofracking, so this makes it unfair to force New York voters to weigh them and decide either to allow or prohibit the practice. This is something so fraught with emotion, and an issue so backed by money that the pressure will be strong; relentless to arrive at a quick decision from the top, down. Until we as citizens of New York have had an opportunity to have a full and fair, fact-based debate about fracking’s pros and cons, we should prohibit it altogether. On this point, Amodeo is stronger and the edge goes to him.
SD-61 Ranzenhofer vs. Rooney: Justin Rooney
Mike Ranzenhofer has been an elected official for 20+ years. Name one accomplishment. You can’t. His continued tenure in government is to pad his pension and lifetime benefits, which I’m sure his small law office wouldn’t afford him. Justin Rooney is young blood who deserves a chance to free eastern Erie County from the Ranzenhofer record of [blank].
Tim Kennedy is running for re-election unopposed. This is a shame. I’m sure he’s not perfect.
Assembly: Ray Walter, Christina Abt
A-140 Schimminger vs. Gilbert
A-141 Peoples v. Donovan
A-143 Gabryszak v. DeCarlo
A-145 Restaino v. Ceretto
A-146 Walter vs. Schultz
A-147 Abt vs. DiPietro
A-149 Ryan vs. Mascia (C)
Of the above, I can endorse Ray Walter and Christina Abt. I know Ray, and I know he’s actually going to Albany to try and make a difference. Walter’s opponent hasn’t mounted a credible campaign. Christina Abt is a brilliant writer, a lover of the region, and someone who has proven her ability to reach across the aisle to get things done. DiPietro has become a Rus Thompson-like perennial candidate, and his tea party ideals certainly play well on obscure Google groups and listservs, but his political inflexibility contrasts starkly with Abt’s flexible pragmatism.
I don’t know anything about any of the other races, but note that neither Jane Corwin nor Mickey Kearns deserve to be running unopposed.
Comptroller: Shenk vs. Mychajliw: No Endorsement
This is a tough one. I like Stefan, despite the over-the-top caricature of a Republican hack he played while acting as Collins’ spokesman in 2011. But he is uniquely unqualified for the hypertechnical post of County Comptroller and has no experience handling a budget of any size, much less a billion-dollar one.
Shenk’s qualifications are, to be honest, not much more impressive. He does, however, have extensive experience handling municipal finance in the town of Boston, so arguably he could expand that countywide. I don’t put much stock in the anti-Shenk argument about how he was selected to run out Poloncarz’s term – anyone complaining is merely upset because the political selection didn’t comport with their particular preference.
However, what Shenk should have done was to establish his independent bona fides at some time in the last 11 months. He did not do that, and that enabled his detractors to point out that fact to underscore their argument that he’s under Poloncarz’s thumb and would be an ineffective watchdog. That’s bad policy and bad politics, and reflects a troubling tone-deafness. On the other hand, Mychajliw should be explaining to voters how he would overcome his utter lack of experience by explaining whom he would hire to do the gruntwork.
This is a push. I would be leaning towards a Mychajliw endorsement if I knew the people he’d be hiring, and if I wasn’t so sure he’d hyperpoliticize the office. Shenk may have a marginally better grasp of what the job entails, but hasn’t used his time in the office to do much with it. I won’t know for whom I’m voting until I’m there with pencil in hand.
Polls open on Tuesday at 6am and close at 9pm throughout New York State. Some areas have propositions on the ballot – you can check the ones in Erie County here. An .xml list of all Erie County candidates is here. To find your polling place, and to generate a sample ballot based on your Erie County address, click here.