Thursday, September 24, 2009

The People have Spoken

When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.
--Sir Winston Churchill

Last Tuesday’s Primary was an eye-opener for many of us Downtown.
The most watched contests were the CD1, CD3 City Council races and, more important the run for District Attorney.

Margaret Chin, an activist who has supported tenants in their confrontations with landlords and developers, won the CD1 seat handily.
She defeated incumbent Alan Gerson overwhelmingly. While she was not as involved in the heated controversies, as was candidate Pete Gleason, it’s clear that Gerson was damaged by the perception that his campaign had started to lose control. The loss of matching funds, the delays in being listed on the ballot and the overhang from his unpopular support of term-limit extension, were fatal to Gerson’s re-election.
While there was increasing rancor over the perception by many activists that Alan had ignored their community needs, the handling of his campaign was really the nail in his political coffin.
As always, Alan is a “nice guy.” We wish him well.
Pete Gleason always was a stand-up guy in the community. He fought hard and has supported the community as a fireman, police officer and attorney.
We look forward to his next move. For the moment his plans involve a return to his legal practice.

The CD3 race was a tough one for many. Quinn has baggage but is seen as a strong citywide City Council Speaker. Her mistakes lie with how her Downtown district constituents view her efforts for them. There are political moves afoot, however, to remove her Speakership.

Kurland fought a good fight and her challenge to Quinn was a closer call than one would have been expected. The message here is that even a strong Speaker may want to consider community outreach that is perceived as a genuine attempt to mend fences.
Especially, if Quinn plans to run for Mayor. The support of Bloomberg over Thompson (which she has alluded to by her refusal to commit), in light of the negative view of the term-limits fiasco that caused many Council members their seats, is clearly a mistake. Gerson can vouch for that.

Many clubs and Downtown activists supported Richard Aborn for D.A. He is seen as a progressive who wanted to make real changes in the criminal justice system.
Leslie Crocker-Snyder was perceived as a conservative, and despite the fact that she reached out to women (calling on her ostensible strong support) and heavily criticized Vance; it was not good enough to seal the deal. She clearly had the advantage going into the race – especially, on the heels of a better than 40% share of the vote against Morgenthau from 4 years ago.
As Vance pulled up in the polls, the strident content of her message started to scare a few people. Not just the criminals.
Vance will be a breath of fresh air, especially in his desire to build on Morgenthau’s successes and focus on the major problem of recidivism.

Cy Vance’s campaign was handled very well. His momentum grew slowly and his message of change did not criticize Morgenthau but alluded to the fact that he wanted to further expand certain efforts. Of course, it did not hurt that “Morgy” heavily supported him. Or, that the Kennedys endorsed him. Even Gloria Steinem helped get out the vote.

Gradually, the well-placed media blitz garnered endorsements from the NY Times, Daily News and NY Post. Even downtown’s prescient niche publication, The SoHo Journal, featured his images and interview with a Warhol-styled cover reproduction – the magazine’s first cover featuring a politician.

Ultimately, Vance’s easy manner, firm stance on crime and innovative ideas, seeped into the voter’s consciousness and took hold. He was elected in a landslide.

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