"A longshot local candidate in New York, who is trying to unseat the state's Assembly Speaker in lower Manhattan, gets in on the action." (From Ben's Politico Blog)

Just to put things in perspective here, in the 64th Assembly District, where Newell is running, Hillary Clinton received 61% of the vote in her primary against Senator Obama.

While the 64th AD does contain most of Battery Park City, and some pieces of Soho, Little Italy and the East Village (though the East Village portion is predominately senior citizens living in Mitchell-Lamas developments and public housing), the district is dominated by the Lower East Side and Chinatown. And make no mistake about it; the district's Lower East Side portion almost entirely consists of a wall of housing developments full of middle and lower class Latinos, Asians, Orthodox Jews and senior citizens. Once the district gets north of Delancey Street, it carefully winds its way to take in whatever similar developments it can, while carefully avoiding picking up too many young hipsters.

Newell is studiously trying to cultivate an image of "Change We Can Believe In". But, for the people of the 64th Assembly District, "Change" is the thing they fear the most. They fear crime, they fear gentrification, they fear someone will take away an entitlement they've come to depend upon. They fear the next hip young nightspot which will replace the next Ratner's—they even fear each other, and even others within their sub-group (don't get the Cantonese started about the Fukinese).

The message of change could not be sold here by the most charismatic man in America. Does anyone believe a dweeby guy who looks like a skinny George Costanza will do a better job at it? A winning slogan for the 64th AD would be "Change We Can Avoid."

In such an environment, it is probably not helpful to be seen as the candidate who wants to radically re-alter the way things are. Paul Newell does not seem to grasp this. Likewise, he does not seem to understand that the time he will spend attending the Democratic National Convention as an Obama delegate, so close to the primary, could better be spent knocking on doors in Knickerbocker Vilage.

Paul, stay home and campaign,–let Shelly waste his time in Denver looking fruitlessly for a place that serves glatt kosher Hawaiian steaks.

But as obtuse to reality as Newell sometimes appears, he seems closer to having a grip than the third candidate, Luke Henry, whose recent arrival in the district and prior service for the mega-lobbyist law firm, Wilson-Elser, has raised suspicions amongst supporters of both Newell and Silver that Henry's presence in the race as a potential spoiler is not an accident, although, to be fair to Henry, he seems to be quite oblivious to that possibility (which is exactly the attitude one would want in an effective spoiler).

By contrast, Dan Squadron, challenging incumbent Marty Connor for a State Senate seat in an area that overlaps the entire 64th AD, does get it. It surely helps Squadron that he is not a true believer. All through his campaign he has been asked who he supported for President in the primary, and all through he has responded that no one asked him for his endorsement. This is too clever by half—he voted, didn't he? Who did he vote for? And anyway, does anyone really believe that New York's aggressive Obama operation never bothered to ask him, when he was clearly operating within their zone?

Squadron understands that to win, he must take in nearly his district's entire Obama vote—but, he also understands that this is not enough. Thus, he has been running two parallel campaigns.

In the district's affluent white areas, Squadron is running as the "Subliminal Obama", with literature literally screaming out, "Yes We Can". In the district's more traditional white areas, he is running as everyone's favorite grandson, with literature featuring a quote from Hillary Clinton praising the book Squadron wrote for his former employer, Chuck Schumer (In the district's minority areas, in whose existence he has so far shown little awareness, Squadron will put some money on the streets and buy whatever support is available for hire).

The Schumer book provides some further examples of Squadron putting his best face forward. In places like Southbridge Towers, where the elderly remains of Little Italy meet the elderly remains of the Lower East Side over mahjong and a glass of tea, Squadron's attempt to identify himself with Schumer looks something like a Borsht-Belt version of "Brokeback Mountain". By contrast, in places like Soho, Squadron analogizes his role in the authorship to that of a stenographer, as he attempts to differentiate himself from Schumer on the war, FISA, DOMA, same sex marriage, capital punishment and the one way Verazzano toll. You get the feeling sometimes that Squadron would reluctantly admit to being employed in the same office as the guy, but claim that they rarely got the opportunity to work together, and never socialized after hours.

The Obama campaign's response to efforts by candidates challenging incumbents to use the Obama name has been contradictory. Obama's campaign openly called upon potential contributors not to give money to independently operated 527's using his name, which seems at least partially motivated to demonstrate to the party establishments around the country that he does not approve of efforts by local candidates challenging incumbents to use groups operating in his name like "Brooklyn for Barack" (currently sharing space with Congressman Ed Towns' opponent, Stanley Kowalski…I mean Kevin Powell), for purposes other than Obama's election as President. This week in Georgia, Obama sent such a message by endorsing a not-too-liberal Democratic Congressional incumbent for re-nomination against a far more liberal challenger.

And yet, in New York, the Obama campaign itself has apparently given sanction to an official event where Newell and Squadron will be featured speakers. Spotlighting a candidate running against the State's most powerful Democrat seems a highly innovate, thinking out of the box way of marshalling the party's forces for a unified fall effort; but even if one concedes that Obama owes Newell for the 38% he managed in the 64th, what could he possibly owe Danny Squadron? Thanks for an endorsement that came the same day as the one he got from Marty Connor? The mind boggles.

Paul Newell deserves a vote of thanks from all New Yorkers, whether or not one would ultimately supports his primary campaign against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

One can defend Sheldon Silver’s tenure as Speaker, especially since the last time his conference nearly replaced him, it was with social Neanderthal Michael Bragman. But, sometimes those efforts require a bit of nuance; take this one from my old buddy,  “Lead Dog”:  “..you make a good point about congestion pricing, but Silver also stood up against mega developers in Manhattan, and more importantly against the death penalty during the Pataki years. There may be arguments against Silver, but questioning his progressive credentials is a bit of a stretch.”

Actually, Silver voted to restore the death penalty during the Pataki years, and even twisted arms to get it through the Judiciary Committee, where it lacked the votes to get to the floor (Clarence Norman executed an Olympic qualifying double-backflip on the matter). However, since his law was overturned by the Courts, Shelly has personally supported the reinstatement of capital punishment in exactly the same manner in which he personally supported congestion pricing. In each instance, Shelly did what he thought was in the best interest of his conference, and his conference seems to agree. Nonetheless, one can be certainly be forgiven for taking a different view of the  matter.

Moreovoer, the mere fact that there is a race against the Speaker is in itself a large and salutary dose of behavior modification therapy for all New York legislators, and for the most part, that is not a bad thing.

In 2006, Tom's Suozzi's hopeless primary challenge against Elliot Spitzer for Governor forced Spitzer to take far bolder and clearer positions on many issues involving government reform.

Of course, not every position Spitzer took in response to Suozzi's presence was an improvement. Almost immediately upon Suozzi's entrance, Spitzer moved to cut Suozzi off at his knees in Suozzi's suburban base by coming out against restoration of the Commuter Tax, an issue which might not even have been raised during the primary season but for Suozzi's presence.

Still, even a landslide defeat for Newell would still send a signal that the usual Albany activities by the usual Albany suspects may very well act to chum the waters of electoral opposition, when the whole point of acquiescing to such anathemas was to create exactly the opposite effect.

Dude, that would be huge.