Kidney Punch: The AG’s Race (Part One of Three)

Thank to Robert Moses, New York has one of the strongest Governorships in the country. The Moses-created state budget process is actually designed to strip the legislature of its legislative powers. The legislature’s response has been to use the lemons it’s been left with to churn out the sour juice of obstruction, which is not quite the same as demanding accountability. There are, however, other places we might look for such relief. Ideally, the offices of NYS Comptroller and Attorney General are perfect opportunities to create oppositional institutions within the state’s Executive Branch which could be used for such a purpose. With that goal in mind, I became an early supporter of the Attorney General candidacy of the State Assembly’s in-house pitbull, Richard Brodsky of Westchester, in spite of the fact that he is a pompous and overbearing blowhard. My theory was that Brodsky, an unrelenting muckraker, was guaranteed to drive whoever was elected as governor stark raving mad, which they would undoubtedly come to deserve. Brodsky also plays a mean blues piano.

But Brodsky’s daughter needed a new kidney, and his wife had already given her the spare one she had. Given where Brodsky’s campaign looked to be headed (a third place finish in Westchester, if he was lucky), he might actually have been the first person to be relieved about agreeing to become a kidney donor. I don't know if doing so made him an outstanding father, because I don't know any fathers who've had to make the same choice, and I suspect that deciding is not so difficult when it's your own child. However, if Mark Green or Andrew Cuomo had made the same sacrifice, I'd be far more impressed; might actually even want to vote for one of them. As it turned out, Brodsky’s daughter’s ailment afforded him one further benefit far more valuable than a graceful exit; while undergoing the required pre-operational battery of tests, Brodsky’s own kidney ailments were discovered in time to be treated (another donor was found).   

The most promising remaining candidate was former United State’s Attorney Denise O’Donnell. The O’Donnell candidacy was not so much as a campaign as an idea named “Dolores Denman”. The fact that you’ve never heard of Ms. Denman indicates the problem with the idea.  The details of the idea were that a balanced ticket required the following trinity/hat trick: that the AG candidate be (1) a woman, (2) from upstate, (3) and the person who was most qualified for the job. O’Donnell was all three. The problem with the idea was (1) Hillary Rodham Clinton, (2) outside of Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, upstate New York produces about as many Democratic primary votes as two high turnout NYC Assembly Districts, and (3) no one cared. In 1978, Hugh Carey had the same idea, and force-fed the State Committee the designation of an upstate judge named Dolores Denman. No one had ever heard of her, and she was promptly decimated in the primary by the President of the Bronx and never heard from again.      

At the time (2006, not 1978), I wrote “the greatest dividend of the Brodsky withdrawal is that it opens up the opportunity for the argument amongst Cuomo and Green supporters as to which of their candidates had the biggest ego and most annoying personal characteristics (previously, Brodsky may have beaten both). Such arguments, if informed by the facts, are sure to be an anecdotal embarrassment of riches, and serve the further purpose of allowing each side to avoid touchy questions like which of these guys is actually qualified to hold the job. And, let's not even get into the company each of them keeps! Although I'd previously dismissed her, as "a good idea for a candidate" [giving the idea more benefit than the doubt deserved], Denise O'Donnell is looking better and better with each passing day.” The quote was picked up and headlined by “The Politicker”, my only such mention between the reigns of Ben Smith and Azi Paybarah (probably as punishment for my eyewitness account, which they zapped, of Lizzie Ratner calling Thomas Friedman, of all people, an anti-Palestinian racist). Later that day, to my embarrassment, O’Donnell, whose delusion that Eliot Spitzer would morph into Hugh Carey turned out to be her campaign’s only scenario for ballot access, dropped out of the race. I’ve since traded in my crystal balls and have reverted to brass.

Of the remaining candidates, the most pathetic is Charlie King. Charlie is a twice unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor; the first time, as the only City resident running against unknown two upstaters, he managed to get beaten by the Supervisor of the Town of Brighton (which has fewer people than the neighborhood bearing its name in Brooklyn, but more than the one in Staten Island); last time, he ran as the display window token in Andrew Cuomo’s aborted 2002 effort to prevent a black man from becoming the party nominee for Governor. This year, King has done a 180 degree turn on both the issue of Cuomo, whose qualifications no longer impress him, and the issue of minority empowerment, which has become his primary rationale.

Charlie has been "Dead Man Walking" since the day Eliot Spitzer tapped David Paterson for LG. His candidacy is less real than was his race for LG the day after he and Cuomo dropped out of the primary too late to get their names off the ballot. His accidental 2002 vote total will almost certainly trump the number he gets this year, probably by many times. Charlie’s campaign reached its high point when he called upon the party’s State Committee to grant automatic ballot access to any candidate running statewide (except, apparently for Tom Suozzi and Jonathan Tasini), a laughable position indeed for a former Cuomo Administration apparatchik. When his efforts to make this a matter of conscience failed (not surprisingly, that rationale was an alien concept at State Committee), he joined with Charles Barron in trying to make it a "black thing". Of course, it wasn’t; if Charlie King had had every black State Committee member's vote, he'd probably have made the necessary 25% to appear on the ballot without petitioning (especially if he added some support from his supposed home bases in Rockland County and the Upper West Side). If he had a majority of black members, the party would have probably felt obligated to give him the rest of the votes. If someone besides the two Charlies wanted to make it a "black thing", it might have become a black thing. But, they could barely muster a minyan for their little kabuki.  All this from a candidate who makes David Yassky look funky by comparison.

Charlie would make a great member of the Rockland County legislature. Perhaps after a couple of terms, they'd make him a town judge in Ramapo, and then the sky's the limit. But really, while dissing Charlie King may hold some slight amusement value (I'll admit I’m laughing), it has about as much of an impact as taking a gun into the morgue and shooting it at a corpse. Charlie’s presence in the race is not worth the time spent typing this paragraph. Charlie, we hardly knew ye!

Early this year, when the race still had five candidates, Sean Patrick Maloney attempted to break from the pack by releasing a poll showing him running third; at the time I joked that this was in a survey of gay men. The good news for Maloney is that, since O’Donnell’s dropped out, he’s closed the gap, and is now running third among lesbians as well.

 Maloney distinguished himself with his first ad, which promised he’d go into federal court to stop Bush Administration wiretapping. He’s also promised to stop the Atlantic Yards project. This reminds me of Joe Hynes’ (of all people) criticizing former AG Ollie Koppell for spending more time on condos and co-ops than crime (an obsession that reflected the office’s jurisdiction). The AG’s office is not a license to go hunting for unicorns and bandersnatch. Are liberal voters really as stupid as Maloney thinks they are?  Apparently not, because he’s since faded to the right; he’s now the only AG candidate speaking out in favor of executions (so ends the resemblance to Hynes). Well, unlike Atlantic Yards, the AG might actually get a chance to have something to do with executions, but that does not really seem to me a point in Maloney’s favor. Now, I’ve voted for pro-death candidates before (I’ll likely be doing so November in the Governor’s race), even sometimes against a candidate who shared my opposition to capital punishment, but a vote for Maloney would seem most appropriate as a protest which allows voters to keep their hands clean; and I, for one, do not cast “clean hands” protest votes for pro-death penalty candidates when there is another option. Since there appears to be little other rationale for Maloney’s candidacy, I’ll move on to the lesser of the evils analysis.     

However, having run out of Prozac, I find myself incapable of continuing, and will conclude for the day. Faced with choosing between the viable candidates in the race, I’ve come to the conclusion that the proper course of action is to send a big fat check to the Kidney Foundation.   

(Thanks to Rock, for shaming me into not avoiding this distasteful task)


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