In a race that is being watched by Democrats and Republicans alike,
Eric Schneiderman, incumbent State Senator for the 31st Senate District,
is being challenged by former City Councilmember Guillermo Linares. The
following is the transcipt of a debate between them that took place on
New York 1's "Inside City Hall"
INTRODUCTION: CANDIDATE STATEMENTS
Guillermo Linares (GL): My opponent has not really delivered for his
constituents because he's been too busy fighting partisan fights
throughout the state and it has to be at the expense of something and
it's been at the expense of his constituents.
Eric Schneiderman (ES): I've actually found a nice niche for myself
as the chief dissident and agitator forcing the Republican leaders of
the Senate to pass bills they don't want to pass. I've won every time
I've run with the overwhelming support of African Americans and Latino
voters and I expect to do very well in those communities in this race
GL: It should be about the issues and it should be about who is best
qualified and the voters are the ones who will make that decision.
Moderator (to Linares): He hasn't delivered for his
constituents, you say about Eric Schneiderman, what do you
GL: Well first of all his district has critical needs that have to
be addressed and in order for you to address those needs you would have
to have ears in those communities that you represent and you need to be
there going to bat for them. You can't represent them at the same time
you're running all over fundraising, doing party politics throughout,
and that's what's been the case here. I believe this new district which
has now taken hold is a district that brings even more challenges than
the district he had before.
Moderator: Is there a specific issue in which you think he
failed to deliver?
GL: I believe that whether you look at education, health care or
housing needs in this district or quality of life, and when you look at
my district and how I approached representing that district -- my
district has the highest drop in crime. I brought to my district 500
million dollars to improve schools, parks and libraries. I fought hard
to reduce overcrowding and schools were built in my district. That's
the kind of representation you need to have.
ES: I did not hear a specific thing I have not delivered on. The
fact is that the New York State Senate is very different than the City
Council. You don't get big pots of capital money to give out. You
fight over state policies that affect everyone in your district and
around the state. I think I have an unequaled record of accomplishment
in such a short period in the Senate -- in delivering for my
constituencies on issues like forcing the Senate's Republican leaders to
pass gun control laws, forcing them to require their friends in the
insurance industry to cover mammograms, cervical screening and
contraceptives. That doesn't just benefit the women in our
district - that benefits the whole state. This is about state legislative
battles and Albany is a very partisan town. It's not like the City
Council where you have an overwhelming Democratic majority and you have
a Democratic speaker. You have to fight hard for your constituents if
you want the upstate Republican bosses to give anything to the city.
We've seen that most dramatically with school funding where every year
we fight to force them -- and we've had the success since I've been in
the Senate -- to restore hundreds of millions of dollars to city
Moderator: What do you think of the job Linares did as a city
ES: I think he was a competent councilman. I think it's just a
tremendously different job. It's like saying someone was a good baseball
player therefore they could go to the NFL. The Democratic minority in
the State Senate has very little power legislatively. Where we do have
power and where we've taken power since I've been there -- in our
challenge to the Republican leaders that we're going to take issues to
the streets around the state. As I've said I have spent some time
campaigning, but I am a proud Democrat and Albany is a partisan place
and I assure you if you look at the record of accomplishment since I
have been in the Senate the Republican leader has passed bills that had
been dying for years. Bills that passed the Assembly year after year,
like the Hate Crimes Bill, like the Abortion Rights Bill, like gun
control. And that is the fight we have to wage as Democrats in the
minority in the State Senate.
GL: What we have to do really is have representation that goes to
fight in Albany for the critical issues that are affecting neighborhoods
and I believe that the that's the leadership this new district has to
bring. The City Council has been the body that has elected Koch to
higher office as a councilmember. Sent to the Congress Carolyn Maloney,
Anthony Wiener and many others because it's the ground hold from which
you deliver for the community and you are effective. I bring 25 years
of service to a community as a teacher, as a college professor, as a
school board member, and as a city councilmember. Now this district
really presents an opportunity to bring that experience. I believe that
the City Council is the major leagues and we need to change the way the
State Senate is working in the legislature.
I want to talk a little about the district if I can. The district's
composition was recently redrawn. It was widely reported that it was
redrawn to include vast new numbers of Latinos and particularly former
members of the Dominican Republic in order to give you a major challenge
and you now have a major challenge.
Moderator: Is this basically an effort by the Republican
Governor, the Republican leader in the State Senate to do in a man they
obviously do not like, and if so, are you not obviously playing into
GL: Well first of all this is a new district. This is a
redistricting year. We've been fighting to get this district
established because northern Manhattan was always split. This district
was a result of that effort. However, I must tell you that the district
lines were not just approved by Republicans. The lines were approved by
the Democrats, and it takes those two parties to really come to a
consensus. So at the end of this process of redistricting the
Democratic leadership signed off on the lines on establishing this new
district then that's a process that I have no control over. And we were
advocating for a new district that all of the constituencies of northern
Manhattan would feel represented. If Mr. Schneiderman has fought over
there to really upset his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and he
now has a district that has been dismantled. He can choose to run in
his old district which is by and large the west side, south of 79th, or
he can choose to run in this district.
Moderator: Now I want to give you a chance to respond but I
want to focus it this way if I can State Senator. The man across the
table from you is the first Dominican member of the City Council. How
can you sit across from him and claim that you can represent that
community better than he can?
ES: Well I think for a couple of reasons. First of all, my opponent
is misstating my old district - my old district included the same
communities it does now, but the lines have been redrawn. Most of it
was not below 79th street -- Washington Heights, Riverdale, Inwood were
in the old district. I represented a diverse district then and I'll
represent a diverse district with the new lines. The future of politics
in New York is coalition politics. There is not going to be a district
that does not have a very diverse constituency left in the city. In
fact the fastest growing population in upper Manhattan is actually the
Mexican community, and I'm very proud to have the endorsement of the
president of the Mexican American workers association, of Isabel Navaho,
the Vice President of Community Board Six and the leaders of that
community. This is going to require us to have African American, Jews,
Protestants, Dominicans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and I think that the
difference between us is that I've shown and this is why I'm an
incumbent, I've shown my effectiveness in the State Senate. I don't
have to prove that I can get bills passed that otherwise wouldn't pass
in the Senate. I fought hard for my district, I will fight hard for my
old constituents and for my new constituents.
GL: I will respond and ask a question at the same time. You know Mr.
Schneiderman is saying how he's willing to work with the diversity and
yet he was quoted in the Jewish Week as referring to Latinos as being
not citizens and not Democrats and not voting and to me that's injecting
race into this campaign. I think it's offensive and I would ask him:
Eric, would you pledge not to use race in this campaign, let's make this
campaign a campaign of issues that matter to the constituencies of this
ES: Yes, actually I have not injected race into this campaign and I
certainly pledge not to. The comment you referred to was a discussion
of the demographics of the district, and the fact that the census
population is different than the population that votes in the Democratic
Primary. For example, the African American population in the district
by census is small, seven and a half percent. In the Democratic primary
it's more like twelve percent. You keep suggesting that there was a
racial tone to this and yet last year in an article by the award-winning
columnist in the Daily News, Juan Gonzales, you yourself commented on
the fact that many Dominican Americans were not registered to vote.
That's not injecting race, that's discussing demographics. I hope
everyone who can register, registers and votes, but this is the second
time you've raised that. In our last debate I told you that was not a
fair summary of my statement. We discussed that already. For you to
keep bringing it up reflects bad faith since you said almost exactly
the same thing in the Daily News a year ago.
GL: But the question is really for you to refer to the new
constituencies in this new district and new Americans in a way where
they vote or not or whether they are citizens, the question is, it is
implied that because of their status they will be less served as the new
representative, because my characterization as a representative in the
City Council knowing that there were high numbers of new Americans
coming in that may not have been citizens or voters or so forth was to
represent all of them well and to be a strong leader on their behalf,
and that's why I'm running. I'm running because I want to go to the
State Senate to represent all regardless of whether they are recent
arrived immigrants and new Americans or whether they've been here long.
ES: I think its pretty clear from this discussion so far, I'm trying
to talk about issues. I'm trying to talk about forcing the Republican
leaders in the State Senate to restore money for health care, to restore
education programs and Mr. Linares is the one who keeps bringing up
ethnic identity. That's not what I'm taking about. [inaudible
interruption by Linares] Excuse me Guillermo, we already discussed this
in the last debate. You refuse to accept the fact that there was a
misstatement [and that] you made almost exactly the same statement in
the Daily News.
GL: Are you willing not to use race?
ES: Of course! You're the one who keeps talking about it. I have
represented everyone in my district very very strongly on the issues
that matter most. And when I'm forcing the Republicans to provide
health insurance for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who didn't
have it before, that's not a black or white or Latino issue, that's a
Democratic issue. When I'm forcing them, as I have, to restore funding
for our public schools, that benefits everyone in the community - citizen
and non-citizen alike. And I would urge you please to stop injecting
race into this discussion
GL: I will say to you that what this new district needs is a strong
leader that is not divisive, that will work will his colleagues, that
will work to deliver for the needs of the district. That's what I am
intending to do, as I did so with Mayor Dinkins and with Mayor Guiliani.
ES: I have a question. My question is a follow-up on that. Mr.
Linares repeatedly said that perhaps I fight too hard for the issues
that I care about in Albany and perhaps I don't, he would be better than
me at building coalitions and getting along with people. If that's true
than why have the overwhelming majority of the officials that represent
this district and have worked with both I and Mr. Linares for years,
endorsed me? Comptroller Carl McCall, City Comptroller Bill Thompson,
[Manhattan Borough President] Virginia Fields, Council members Robert
Jackson, Phil Reed, Gail Brewer, Christine Quinn, Oliver Koppell,
Congressmen Serrano, Naddler and Engel - and every major union in the
state that unites people of all races all creeds- doesn't that suggest
that I'm pretty good at building coalitions, at getting along with
GL: You know what I suggest is just that you have the status quo, the
establishment, the councilmen, the organization behind you. But it also
says, when you say you have the support of Comptroller Carl McCall you
are misleading people as you use his name in your literature. Carl
McCall not supporting you. He is not, he is not your supporter. Check
it out with him and it is official and he sent you a letter clearly
indicating that he is not supporting you and I don't know how many of
the people like Jose Serrano that indicated to me that he had not made
an official endorsement of you. And I don't know how many others you
are claiming you have. But the point here is that you are the one that
is getting support of the establishment. My support is from David
Dinkins, from Betsy Gotbaum the highest-ranking Democrats from the City
of New York. My support is from Fernando Ferrer, former [Bronx] Borough
President. Mayor Bloomberg is supporting me because he believes I am a
strong leader who will fight for new Yorkers. All three Dominicans
elected officials and more to come.
ES: I hope that we will clarify this issue and that if Mr. McCall
clarifies his position that he's stated in public on numerous occasions
that I will get an apology.
GL: Why don't you go and ask all the people you think are supporting
you again. You may be surprised.
Moderator: Ok there are obvious political differences between
the two of you, but when it comes to the issues, what are the
differences between the two of you? Do me a favor, bring the issues on
which you disagree.
GL: I think that by and large we agree as Democrats. And I am a
diehard Democrat. I think that the difference between Mr. Schneiderman
and me is the way we approach. I am a person that brings people
together. I am a consensus builder.
I am not too familiar. I was his constituent by the way. I never
received any communication from him until recently until there's a race
going on. Now there's a lot of information going through the mail.
There's not too much that I can point to. I do know that he was very
busy challenging colleagues of his throughout the state, fundraising for
them, but I don't know that he was fighting the fights that needed
ES: There are a few differences. Mr. Linares was the sponsor of a
bill to repeal the term limits law. That's something I disagree with him
on. He voted for some tax cuts that I would not have voted for in the
last couple of sessions of the Council. There was in 2001 a bill that
reduced taxes and I believe three members of the council voted against
it Perkins, Quinn and Margarita Lopez, and he voted for it. But I will
say this, I think it is very important for me to respond to this notion
that I don't get along with people. I have not forced the Republican
conservative leaders of the Senate to pass gun control laws and to
restore funding to the schools by myself. I've done it because I'm the
leader of a coalition of activist, aggressive Democrats in both houses,
and I have the support of these people not because I don't get along
with people but because I do get along with people. And I think it's
sort of offensive to talk about people like David Patterson and Robert
Jackson as the establishment. They work hard for our constituents.
They're supporting me because I do work well with people.
GL: Well you have the establishment of New York County.
ES: Actually that is inaccurate. The counties have not endorsed. I
do have the support of elected officials, every interest group- NARAL,
the League of Conservation Voters, the Mothers of the Disappeared who
lead the fight to reform the Rockefeller drug laws. They've endorsed
Eric Schneiderman, not Guillermo Linares, that shows a coalition
GL: You keep saying [you are] fighting the Republicans but you forget
that in your approach you have [been] divisive with Republicans and
Democrats as well. And you say with pride how you've been an outcast.
ES: That's a false statement. I've never said I'm an outcast. You
said they're endorsing me. So let's not play this game. The reasons
the upstate conservative Republican leaders are trying to get rid of me,
it's not a matter of personality, it's a matter of issues, they pass
laws they don't want to pass. I fight for fair funding for the city and
I have a record of accomplishment that speaks for itself. And that's
what I'd like to talk about.
Moderator: You spearheaded the efforts to elect Democrats
against Republicans senators across the state. How much time did you
spend on that effort and how much time did you spend on legislative
ES: well most of my time is spent on legislative duties and you can
look at the bills I've sponsored and the debates on the floor. But I
would like to point out, and this is the most simple fact about Albany,
the only reason the next four years the Republicans have moved on bills
they've killed was because we ran candidates on those issues. The
political and the legislative are tied together in Albany.
GL: If I go to Albany I'm going to introduce legislation to really
correct what was not done with the education reform, which is to hold
adults in the education system accountable. You were there when that
legislation passed. I would also introduce legislation that makes sure
that Mitchell-Lama types of programs are introduced.
ES: We already introduced it, and if you're a Democrat in the
minority how do you get it passed, and that's what I've shown.
--posted August 26,2002
PRIMARY ELECTION - SEPTEMBER 10, 2002
With five days left before a primary that
will, in effect, determine the ultimate victor in this
year's election, state Senator Eric T. Schneiderman and his
challenger, Guillermo Linares, are hammering away at their
campaigns, and each other.
(New York Times)
Since 1991, Adriano Espaillat and Guillermo Linares, two top Dominican-American elected officials, had been engaged in a feud considered fierce even by the rancorous standards of New York politics. Each recruited proteges to challenge the other's re-election, while their surrogates, groomed in their dueling Democratic clubs, vied for control of ground-level posts within the county Democratic organization.
August 12, 2002
In what might be called the Greening of Eric Schneiderman, some local Democrats are leading the move to unseat one of the State Senate's most effective young leaders. For one Democratic primary, the Republican mayor has chosen to interject himself by making an endorsement-- a very rare development. Denny Farell, the state Democratic chairman, is officially neutral, but he grasps that the contest is less about which of these ideologically similar Democrats represents this district than about State Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno's drive to maximize his political power. "If we allow Schneiderman to lose this race," Farrell says, "we allow Joe Bruno to control the Democratic party." If Bloomberg were merely interested in empowerment, well, there's a Republican candidate for this seat, too, and he is also Latino. The mayor's backing of Linares fives away the game. The Republicans' goals wasn't really minority empowerment, but rather a "get Schneiderman" district. And, mirabile dictu, they've got Democrats helping them.
(New York Magazine)
July 10, 2002
For the last several years, Schneiderman has been the point man for the Democratic Party's effort to increase its numbers in the State Senate. In the last three years, Schneiderman's ritual has been to identify promising candidates throughout the state, raise money and help guide their campaigns. This year, however, Schneiderman finds himself unable to devote much attention to the campaigns of others. He is facing a primary battle of his own, against Linares, that is viewed as the most challenging of this election year in New York City. Mr. Linares says that he is not really facing an incumbent, since the newly drawn district barely resembles the one Schneiderman has been representing for four years. (New York Times)
This year, Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat from
Manhattan, is facing a primary battle of
his own that is viewed as among the most challenging of this
election year in New York City. His challenger is Guillermo
Linares, a city councilman from northern Manhattan for 10
years before term limit laws prevented him from running last year.
The district in which Mr. Schneiderman is running has a
population that is nearly 60 percent Hispanic - principally
Dominican - compared with his old district, which was less
than 20 percent Hispanic. Linares was formerly a city councilmember
from the neighborhoods now sitting squarely in Schneiderman's district.
(New York Times)
July 8, 2002
State Senator Eric Schneiderman now faces a serious primary challenge from former City Councilman Guillermo Linares, who is Dominican and has picked up several strong backers, including Mayor Bloomberg. In the interest of peace with Riverdale, Rivera has declared the Schneiderman-Linares contest, despite the heavy Latin influence, "mostly a Manhattan fight" and is keeping the party neutral, "as of now." (Daily News)
June 25, 2002
Mr. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor, and who has since worked assiduously to curry the favor with his new party, threw his support behind Linares. Theories about the move have abounded. Maybe the mayor was reverting to his Democratic roots. Mr. Bloomberg, however, was hardly likely to incur the wrath of fellow Republicans by backing Schneiderman's challenger. The Republican candidate for the seat is Bienvenido Toribio, a district leader form Washington Heights. (New York Times, Newsday)
May 23, 2002
Under the redistricting plan, Schneiderman was placed in a seat that held a majority of Latino voters, a move that observers saw as a punishment doled out by the Republican party for coordinating opposition to several Republican held legislators, including Guy Velella, in state senate elections two years ago. Linares has been mulling over a possible run, but may have a hard time finding support for his campaign, with Schneiderman already picking up a large mass of support. Linares says that he has worked with Schneiderman and has had and continues to have a great relationship with him. He prefers that another district be created in an attempt to foster diversity and admits to having a slim chance of winning the race had the old district lines remained intact.
May 16, 2002
Former Washington Heights Democratic City Councilman Guillermo Linares said yesterday that he would resign his senior post in the Public Advocate's office to explore running for public office. "The reason for my exit... I am getting a lot of calls from friends and people who have supported me, urging me to consider running," Linares said. "Working full time, I don't have the time to be able to consult with them and to really do what I need to do to make a final decision." (Newsday)
May 10, 2002
Democratic sources said "political pressure" was on community liaison Fred Lewis to step down after he clashed with another senior staffers, Guillermo Linares, the deputy of community relations. The source said the rift between the two developed when black staffers complained to Linares, who is Latino, about not having enough input into the planning of a Black History Month program. Lewis' departure raised eyebrows because Linares, the well-regarded former city councilman from Washington Heights forced out by term limits, is expected to challenge incumbent State Senator Eric Schneiderman for his seat. (Newsday)
April 29, 2002
State Senator Eric Schneiderman is reviled by his Republican colleagues because of his energetic campaign to put them out of work. The Republican redistricting plan has made him vulnerable to a challenge from a Hispanic Democrat, Linares. And some Democrats see in the possible Linares candidacy a multi-layered plot-- one involving leaders of both major parties-- to sink Mr. Schneiderman. Mr. Bruno was dismissive of any such plot. Mr. Schneiderman is now resigned to facing a primary. "The first day after the lines were released, I called Guillermo," he said. "He had sworn up and down that he would never run against me. He immediately started to back-peddle."
(New York Observer)