New Blood v. Old Guard
September 4th, 2008

In a packed auditorium in Brooklyn Heights last night, the quintessential political debate ensued.

It was the typical old timer, who touted his experience within Lower Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, versus the new kid — a 28-year-old former aid to Chuck Schumer who wasn’t even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes when the incumbent was elected.

State Senator Martin Conner has the know-how, the incumbent argues. But Daniel Squadron has the energy and enthusiasm, the newcomer replies.

Amidst the quick jabs (mostly involving the personal finances of Squadron, who Conner claims is a “trust fund kid”) and jeers from the crowd, which seemed pretty evenly divided between the two candidates at last night’s Citizens Union-sponsored debate, little difference could be deciphered policy-wise between the two men.

Both are for gay marriage. Both cite education and public housing as two of the most important issues to the district. Both want to see construction completed at Brooklyn Bridge Park (albeit, Squadron wants it without housing. Conner says the park can’t be funded without it).

The major difference between the two (like we said in our previous coverage of the race) is their age and experience. Squadron says Conner has not accomplished much in his 30 years in the State Senate, and its time for a younger, more energetic player to take a swing Upstate.

Conner claims it was his position in the Senate minority that has held him back — an atmosphere that was “repressive” and fueled the political stalemate that plagues Albany. He says “when” the Democrats take the house this election (which may or may not happen, but is certainly more likely than in recent years) he will be able to push through all of the progressive policies that have been stewing for years.

Conner relies on his knowledge of the neighborhood, one that he has represented for three decades. Whether intentional or not, the incumbent consistently referred to his opponent as “Daniel,” almost condescendingly, as if he were scolding a rambunctious child stepping over his boundaries.

Squadron seems to be taking advantage of the “change” that is sweeping the nation — leaning on his position as a reform-minded, maverick outsider taking on the establishment and infusing an old seat with new blood.

“In Albany,” Squadron said, “more than terrible, isn’t good enough,” referring to the minimal reforms that have been implemented in the budget process.

Conner counters: “The district isn’t just a place to land and say, ‘I can run there.'” (Squadron has lived within the district for a little more than two years. He has lived in Brooklyn since he graduated from Yale).

While both seemed a tad exhausted after two hours of sometimes-heated exchanges, each seems equally confident they will win on Tuesday.

The race could be a microcosm of this year’s election as a whole — whether Albany’s old guard really needs a change of clothes.

By on September 4, 2008, 12:21 pm
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