Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2330 Thu, 24 Oct 2019 05:54:44 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) In Democratic Senate Primary, Barkan Criticizes Gounardes for Embracing 'Anti-Immigrant' Reform Party Leader https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7821-in-democratic-senate-primary-barkan-criticizes-gounardes-for-embracing-anti-immigrant-reform-party-leader https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7821-in-democratic-senate-primary-barkan-criticizes-gounardes-for-embracing-anti-immigrant-reform-party-leader barkan handshake

Ross Barkan (photo: @RossBarkan)


As the contested Democratic primary for a southern Brooklyn state Senate seat heats up with less than two months to go, reporter-turned-candidate Ross Barkan is calling out his opponent Andrew Gounardes for accepting the endorsement of the Reform Party and its local leader, Bob Capano, who has a history of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Barkan and Gounardes are competing ahead of the September 13 primary for the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 22, hoping to unseat Senator Marty Golden, one of the few Republican elected officials in the city. The district covers swaths of southern Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach.

Immigration justice is a prominent part of Barkan’s policy platform, and one that has taken on added significance under the Trump administration with its “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal immigration and some asylum seekers. Barkan has called for abolishing ICE, the immigration enforcement agency, and supports the passage of the New York Liberty Act, the DREAM Act, and giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, among other immigrant protections.

Gounardes, who is the general counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and a longtime Democratic presence in the area, including a 2012 bid to unseat Golden, has a similar platform and has backed some of the same policies as Barkan, including driver’s licenses and the Liberty Act. Gounardes is in favor of removing ICE from courthouses in the city but has not called for doing away with the agency entirely. He has the backing of the Working Families Party (WFP), prominent labor unions, and Democratic clubs. His previous boss, former City Council Member Vincent Gentile, has endorsed him as well, and he is close to the current Council Member in the area, Justin Brannan.

Gounardes’ outspoken support of immigrant rights, however, conflicts with his embrace of Capano, the Brooklyn Reform Party chair. Gounardes’ campaign website notably does not tout the Reform Party endorsement, which he received last month after being handed a Wilson Pakula certificate to obtain the party’s ballot line. He is running unopposed in the Reform Party primary and therefore is guaranteed both the Reform and WFP lines on the November 7 general election ballot (it is unlikely he would run a campaign in the general if he loses the Democratic primary to Barkan, however).

Capano, an adjunct political science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, unsuccessfully ran as a Republican to replace Gentile in the 43rd Council District, when Gentile was term-limited out of the City Council last year. Capano and his branch of the Reform Party skew conservative, and he has been vocal in his anti-immigrant positions. He has been a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump and endorsed him in the 2016 Republican primary. He opposes Mayor Bill de Blasio’s progressive policies and recently supported ICE’s detention of Pablo Villavicencio, the undocumented pizza delivery worker who was taken into custody when making a delivery at Fort Hamilton army base.

“Political correctness can’t be allowed to determine which laws are worthy of prosecution and enforcement. The law is the law, and must be followed by all,” Capano wrote in an op-ed for Brooklyn Daily. Last year, Capano was heavily critical of Khader El-Yateem, a Democratic primary candidate for the 43rd Council District, calling the faith leader, who is a Lutheran pastor, a “radical cleric” and insisting that the nonprofit organization where he serves as treasurer, the Arab-American Association of New York, should be investigated for delving into political activities. Capano donated $125 to Gounardes’ campaign, and Curtis Sliwa, the chair of the state Reform Party, donated $100, according to campaign finance filings with the state Board of Elections. While the Reform Party has very few enrolled members, it has a ballot line to offer and a name that signifies good values to many voters.

On Monday, a few hours after Gotham Gazette asked Gounardes’ spokespersons for comment about his embrace of Capano, his campaign sent out a press release touting his immigration platform.

gounardes subway“To equate support with the Reform Party's agenda with anti-immigrant views is spurious,” Gounardes (pictured left) said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Throughout my entire career, I have been outspoken in my support for and in defense of immigrants and refugees. I was one of the first people in my neighborhood to vociferously condemn the NYPD's illegal surveillance in mosques, cafes, and bookstores. I have given speeches urging for more to be done to help refugees around the world...I am running a campaign based on action and issues that affect the community, and that is both how and why I will win this November."

Gounardes also noted that he is sponsoring a bystander training session later this week with The Accompany Project, an initiative of the Arab-American Association. The session comes in response to a recent incident of a Muslim woman being verbally accosted on a Staten Island-bound bus.

Barkan, in a phone interview a few hours before Gounardes’ statement, said it was “quite frankly confusing” that Gounardes chose to accept the Reform Party endorsement and align himself with someone whose views are “antithetical” to Democrats in 2018. Barkan, who said he is attending a separate bystander training on Tuesday night sponsored by the city with the AAANY, pointed to the bus incident as evidence that hate is increasingly being normalized even in communities in New York with large immigrant populations.

“My campaign is a repudiation of everything Bob Capano stands for,” Barkan said. “We can’t defeat Marty Golden by emboldening racism and anti-immigrant attacks. We have to counter it at every turn.”

Barkan called on Gounardes to return the donation from Capano and to drop the Reform Party line. “The money’s not the only issue. The issue is a larger one. You’re running on a party line whose borough chair has made the headlines for anti-immigrant attacks, for supporting Donald Trump vociferously. I firmly disagree with any politician or candidate, Andrew or anyone else, who thinks you can run on a party line and take some of what the party stands for but not the rest of it.”

The Barkan campaign connected Gotham Gazette with residents in the district who were apprehensive about Gounardes being allied with Capano.

Fatima Elmansy, a Bay Ridge resident who worked on El-Yateem’s campaign last year, said she decided to vote for Barkan after hearing of Capano’s support for Gounardes.

“[Barkan and Gounardes] both clearly have appealing characteristics and its almost hard to find what exactly the differentiation is,” she said in a phone interview, “but finding this out was very jarring to me and a little concerning. It’s quite difficult to advocate against bigotry and racism and then have something like this happen. It’s almost empowering that. I know Bob Capano...isn’t exactly not a racist.”

She added, “It definitely puts a lot of Andrew’s views into question and in south Brooklyn, in the specific area he’s running in, it’s really important I think to be a very accepting and open person and stand against racism and bigotry very clearly.”

Community organizer and social worker Costa Kokkinos, another resident, said in an email, “Any association or quid pro quo with Bob Capano is troubling news for many reasons. This is the same Bob Capano that spent most of his breath trying to convince voters that he was a bigger supporter of Trump than any other Republican candidate during his City Council campaign last year.”

Capano and other competitors lost the Republican primary by a wide margin to John Quaglione, an aide to Golden, who went on to lose narrowly against Brannan.

Kokkinos also cited Capano’s repeated use of terms like “illegal aliens” to describe immigrants. “I don’t know Andrew Gounardes very well and he seems like a genuinely good person and a good candidate for the State Senate, but if he is so willing to associate with Capano to get a few extra votes, I wonder what he will give this guy in return if he wins?,” Kokkinos wondered. “Is he willing to do the hard identity work that this State Senate district needs to evolve?”

In a statement, Capano said, “Andrew Gounardes and I do not agree on everything. The Reform Party is not about any one person's purported positions, but rather our focus on cleaning up Albany.”

He added, “We respect that Andrew stands up for the causes he believes in, and he is the only candidate, regardless of party, with a platform that will achieve a less corrupt government."

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Gounardes is sponsoring the Accompany Project event, not just attending it, and Barkan is going to attend a separate event on Tuesday, July 24.

Note: Ross Barkan wrote a handful of articles for Gotham Gazette in 2012-2013.

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In Democratic Senate Primary, Barkan Criticizes Gounardes for Embracing 'Anti-Immigrant' Reform Party Leader Mon, 23 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7656-fusion-spoilers-and-new-york-s-many-ballot-lines https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7656-fusion-spoilers-and-new-york-s-many-ballot-lines Cuomo voting 2017 primary

Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Governor's Office)


New York’s unique fusion voting system is again in the spotlight this year, with renewed attention in the wake of Cynthia Nixon’s insurgent challenge for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination against Governor Andrew Cuomo, with the potential for vote-splitting on the left leading to a Republican victory in November. Cuomo and Nixon have each now been endorsed by a minor party with automatic general election ballot access, even as they vie for the big prize of the Democratic nomination.

Fusion voting, which allows candidates to combine the votes they receive from appearing on multiple ballot lines, is used in only eight states. But it takes its highest profile in New York, where numerous minor parties can cross-endorse rather than all having to run their own nominees, and still keep their own line on the ballot. Parties can secure a ballot line by having their gubernatorial nominee secure 50,000 votes statewide in the general election.

In New York, fusion voting has often led to individual candidates appearing on multiple ballot lines, whereby the minor parties do not threaten to play a spoiler role by costing a major party nominee victory by siphoning a determinative number of votes. For example, the Republican and Conservative parties often back the same candidates for various offices, and they appear set to do so again in this year’s gubernatorial race, behind Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Governor Cuomo has appeared on several ballots lines in his runs for office over the years, including on the Democratic, Working Families, Women’s Equality, and Independence Party lines during his 2014 reelection. This year, however, the Working Families Party has backed Cynthia Nixon, who hopes to defeat Cuomo in the Democratic primary, but may appear on the general election ballot regardless and therefore risk pulling a decisive number of votes from Cuomo in the general election. Having earned the backing of the Independence Party this year, Cuomo could do similarly if Nixon has the Democratic Party nomination.

The Green Party, which typically fields its own candidates, could also play a role, pulling some voters on the left. This year it is again nominating for governor Howie Hawkins, who received over 184,000 votes in 2014. The Reform Party and Women’s Equality Party have yet to settle on a nominee.

The practice of fusion voting was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as a means for minor organizing arms to defeat powerful Tammany Hall machine candidates. These tickets sometimes worked: the second mayor of the consolidated City of New York, Seth Low, defeated Tammany Hall Democrat Edward Shepard on a fusion Republican-Citizens Union ticket in 1901.

The Wilson-Pakula Law of 1947, passed allegedly to disempower the American Labor Party, which was accused of having ties to communists, prevented candidates from running in the primaries for different parties; instead, a candidate must gain permission from the minor party that they’re not registered with in order to run on their ballot line. The alleged ties to communists caused ALP members to flock to the newer Liberal Party, which did not face the same allegations; the Democrats and Republicans did not want to grant their line to members of the ALP.

Cuomo criticized the Wilson-Pakula Law in 2013 after it came under scrutiny following Senator Malcolm Smith’s alleged attempt to bribe his way onto the Republican line. Some have called for repeal of the law, but so far efforts at repeal have gone nowhere in Albany.

The minor parties gain prominence unseen in most other states due to their ability to influence the major parties, and often act more like advocacy organizations than vast political organizing machines, though some have party infrastructure. According to Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and the Director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, this has made New York’s politics more ideological and polarized.

“There are people who believe that periphery-oriented politics is desirable,” Benjamin said. “Pulling to the left and right is desirable. I think pulling to the center is desirable, having a two-party system that contains the conflict within that system is centrist.” He said that the system, in a way, is “mischievous” in empowering a minority of ideologically-inclined voters to have outsized influence on the process. As such, instead of allowing for more representation on the ballot, the third parties give their lines to major candidates and influence the platform and positions of the major parties and candidates.

Benjamin also says that the parties have become more prominent over time, though not to the degree they were in the 19th century.

“Their significance is higher than in the recent past,” Benjamin said, though he noted that the parties often have disparate periods of high significance, such as when James Buckley was elected to the U.S. Senate on only the Conservative line in 1970 or when John Lindsay won the New York City mayoralty on the Liberal line in 1969. “There have been peak moments. But systemically, and through politics at all levels, I think they’re at a pretty high level of significance relatively to history.”

Though there have been minor party successes for New York City mayor and U.S. senator, none has ever alone elected a governor of New York. The Democrats and Republicans have controlled the governorship exclusively since Whig Party member Myron Clark left office in 1856. The Whigs were one of the two major parties in the U.S. before being replaced by the Republicans in the 1850s.

The liberal Working Families Party (WFP), a coalition of left-wing activist groups and labor unions, is one of the more prominent minor parties in New York. The WFP typically cross-endorses the Democratic nominee and attempts to pull its nominees to the left. Cuomo and the WFP recently split dramatically after several activist groups involved with the party endorsed Nixon for governor, which led to unions leaving the party to side with Cuomo, reportedly at his behest. The unions have provided key funding to those activist groups, whose futures are at risk, along with the larger WFP, which is taking a significant gamble on Nixon.

Cuomo and the WFP have a rocky history. Cuomo initially declined the WFP endorsement in 2010 but eventually agreed to take the line, despite their platforms not being wholly aligned, especially on the issue of taxation. As such, the WFP won 50,000 votes and retained statewide ballot access.

The WFP had more leverage over Cuomo in 2014, when the party agreed to endorse him over liberal challenger Zephyr Teachout in exchange for a pledge to unify the Senate Democrats and support a more progressive platform. Cuomo did not follow through on the agreement, and also created the Women’s Equality Party, whose acronym, WEP, is very similar to WFP. His campaign urged supporters to vote for him on the Democratic or WEP lines, omitting the WFP from get-out-the-vote emails.

Having endorsed Nixon over Cuomo this year, some have raised the possibility of a vote split on the left that could land Molinaro in the Governor’s Mansion. WFP Political Director Bill Lipton, in response, declared that the party didn’t intend to act as a spoiler, telling the Associated Press that in the event Nixon loses the primary, she would “meet with our leaders, and we will make a decision that puts the interests of working families first.” However, Lipton does not think that will happen anyway.

“The more voters learn about Cynthia's progressive values, the more they like her,” Lipton told Gotham Gazette in an email. “Working Families feels confident Cynthia will win the Democratic Primary in September and go on to be both the Working Families and Democratic Nominees in November. The real problem is Andrew Cuomo being a spoiler. It looks like he will have the WEP and Independence Party lines - what happens when he loses the Democratic primary - is he willing to be a spoiler and elect a Republican Governor?”

The Independence Party has indeed endorsed Cuomo for the third election in a row, landing him on the November ballot no matter what. He is also likely to receive the nomination of the WEP, with the new party leader telling Politico that it’s “very likely the party will support Cuomo’s reelection bid.” Neither the Independence Party nor the WEP responded to requests for comment for this story.

Nixon has taken notice of Cuomo’s Independence Party endorsement. When asked about being a potential spoiler in Buffalo, she flipped the script, according to the Buffalo News.

“Why is nobody asking Andrew Cuomo that question, who is running on the Independence line and the Women’s Equality line he created,” Nixon said.

The Cuomo campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Gotham Gazette.

“Could he win without the Democrat line? Maybe,” Professor Benjamin said, while noting that the governor losing the Democratic primary would be an unlikely scenario and that a continued run would be based on a future calculation by Cuomo. The most recent poll, from Quinnipiac University, has Cuomo leading Nixon by 28 points. However, Benjamin conceded that Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination for president was also initially seen as exceedingly unlikely.

The Independence Party has had significant showings in both of Cuomo’s elections: in 2010, it received 146,576 votes statewide, while in 2014 it received 77,762, according to the State Board of Elections. In both instances, however, it was bested by the Working Families Party in vote count.

The Independence Party is, however, by far the largest third party in New York State based on enrollment. According to the State Board of Elections’ Annual Report for 2016, the most recent year available, the Independence Party had 501,738 registered voters in the state, outnumbering the second largest, the Conservative Party, by almost 340,000 voters. WFP had 50,039 registered voters. The Independence Party’s high membership, despite a relatively low electoral profile, is due in no small part to people mistakenly registering as Independence when meaning to register as unaffiliated, or “independent,” as shown by the Daily News in 2012.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has derided the Independence Party as a “bizarre and fractious political group” that “survives on confusion” of people thinking they’re registering as independent. The editorial board urged Cuomo to reject its endorsement in 2014 in order to cause the party to lose its automatic place on the ballot; Cuomo did not do that.

Unlike the WFP, the Independence Party has not committed to endorsing either the Democratic or Republican nominee in the event that Cuomo loses the primary; as such, Cuomo could theoretically continue his campaign as the Independence nominee if he loses the Democratic primary. However, like a potential Nixon campaign as the WFP nominee, a Cuomo Independence campaign against Nixon and Molinaro would allow the possibility of a vote split that would likely send Molinaro to Albany.

Cuomo’s stormy history with minor parties goes back a long way. In 2002, he was endorsed for governor by the Liberal Party, but dropped out of the race before the Democratic primary. He remained on the party’s line for the general election, where he failed to receive 50,000 votes and thus the Liberal Party lost its automatic place on the ballot. Historically a vehicle for candidates with the backing of labor unions, the party ceded that ground to the WFP and has not appeared on the gubernatorial ballot since Cuomo’s 2002 run.

Things are looking less tense on the Republican side. Molinaro appears to have consolidated support among the state’s GOP establishment; he recently won the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and his main competition for that and the Republican nomination, State Senator John DeFrancisco, recently pulled out of the race.

There’s also the Reform Party, which has a history of maverick actions and public stunts by its founder and leader, Curtis Sliwa. Last year, the party publicly urged Preet Bharara to run for either mayor or governor; Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney who was fired by President Donald Trump, has instead become a renowned podcaster.

Now, the party is apparently split on endorsing either Molinaro or former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who mounted a brief campaign for the Republican nomination before dropping out. According to the Daily News, the party has “punted” the decision to its May 19 party convention in Queens; if the party can’t make a decision there, it will hold a primary in September. In late April, it was reported that Sliwa himself was considering a run, saying he had “no other choice” if doctors give him a “clean bill of health.” Democrats and Republicans will hold their nominating conventions toward the end of May.

“There was a motion made to table consideration of the Governor's race until the state convention so that all of the state committee members could speak with the candidates,” Frank Morano, a spokesman for the Reform Party, told Gotham Gazette.

The party has its own outsized role in New York politics compared to its membership; according to the 2016 BOE report, the Reform Party has only 900 registered members in all of New York State.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Fusion, Spoilers, and New York's Many Ballot Lines Thu, 03 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Dietl, Malliotakis Make Last-Minute Play for Reform Party Nomination https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7182-dietl-malliotakis-make-last-minute-play-for-reform-party-nomination https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7182-dietl-malliotakis-make-last-minute-play-for-reform-party-nomination dietl by samar crop

Bo Dietl (photo: Samar Khurshid)


GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl are both making a last-minute push to win the Reform Party ballot line for November’s mayoral election. While Sal Albanese, who is also challenging Mayor Bill de Blasio in the Democratic primary, has been backed by the Reform Party, Dietl and Malliotakis are each attempting to convince their supporters to help them steal the ballot line by voting on primary day -- Tuesday, September 12 -- using a provision in state election law that effectively allows an open vote.

Albanese, a former City Council member who is running as a Democrat, was officially endorsed by the Reform Party of New York and is counting on winning the line to be included in the November 7 general. But, an “opportunity to ballot” petition filed with the Board of Elections has opened up the party line to other candidates as well, allowing registered Reform Party voters as well as unaffiliated voters -- those not registered with any party -- to write in the candidate of their choice. The petition had to be signed by only 5 percent of the party's registered members, which amounts to about 10 signatures in the case of the Reform Party which has a total of 187 registered voters. On primary day, Albanese’s name will appear on the Reform Party ballot next to an area that allows for a write-in vote.

Both Dietl and Malliotakis, each of whom is assured of a spot on the November ballot through other lines, has sent out a mass mailing with instructions for their supporters, Gotham Gazette has learned.

dietl mailer
malliotakis mailer 1
malliotakis mailer 2

According to Frederico Polsinelli, Bo Deitl’s campaign manager, the petition to ballot was filed by Reform Party members who support Dietl and “felt that Bo had been shut out unfairly and felt that the Reform Party should have an open, fair process to vote.”

Dietl was passed over for the Reform Party’s endorsement in June and lashed out at Staten Island Reform Party Chair Frank Morano in a number of obscenity-laden text messages. A Staten Island Advance reporter posted screenshots of the messages on Twitter.

Malliotakis spokesperson Rob Ryan confirmed that the campaign has begun reaching out to voters. “We did a bunch of robocalls and a mailing that will be hitting today or tomorrow which also explains the process,” he said. Ryan provided Gotham Gazette with the instruction mailers which include directions on how to choose Malliotakis. (pictured)

Polsinelli, Dietl’s campaign manager, said they are taking an “active, aggressive” approach to the process. “We’re encouraging all independent and Reform Party voters to go to the ballot and write in Dietl’s name,” he said. “We’re in the process of launching a citywide mailer. We’re actively reaching out, we’re going hard on email, phonecalls and hard mail. This is not a passive exercise.”

He said the Dietl campaign is targeting about 8,000 voters. “We’re in this to beat [Mayor] de Blasio and getting on the Reform Party line will help do that.” Dietl will be on his own self-created ballot line, “Dump the Mayor,” for November’s election.

Malliotakis will be the Republican nominee, and she also has the backing of the Conservative Party. She has also filed to appear on her own self-created ballot lines. De Blasio will likely appear on both the Democratic Party and Working Families Party ballot lines.

Albanese’s campaign does not seem worried about the added competition. “Sal’s the only candidate whose name is on the ballot,” said Linda Cronin-Gross, a campaign spokesperson, referring to the Reform Party ballot, which voters will have to ask for at the polls.

New York election law, in normal circumstances, only allows closed primaries in which registered members of a party can cast a vote to choose their nominee. This shuts out voters who do not have a party affiliation from voting on primary day. According to the latest statistics from the state Board of Elections, as of April 1, there were more than 780,000 active registered voters unaffiliated with a party. The Reform Party had only 183 active registered voters.

“It’s creating quite an interesting contest,” said the Reform Party’s Morano. “I do think Sal’s gonna win pretty handily...Sal best embodies the Reform principles.” Morano noted that if Albanese, or any other candidate, fails to receive 40 percent of the vote in that primary, it will trigger an automatic run-off two weeks later between the top two vote-getters.

“It’s gonna be interesting to see how this works,” Morano said. “It’s certainly a first-of-its-kind experiment.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note- this article has been updated to include details about the "opportunity to ballot" petition process. 

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Dietl, Malliotakis Make Last-Minute Play for Reform Party Nomination Fri, 08 Sep 2017 17:22:52 +0000