Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Voting Results -- 2010 Primary

p.s. 59

(For more on the 2010 primary, see our story on who New Yorkers voted for and the new way they voted. And for an report from the Bronx, site of a key state Senate race, see The Man Who Beat Pedro Espada.)

Winners appear in bold. An asterisk indicates an incumbent. Results are rounded, so may not always equal 00 percent.

These results are based on the unofficial vote tally as reported by the wire services and, as much as possible, directly from the New York City Board of Elections.The official count from the Board of Elections can take weeks to complete and will be posted as soon as they are available. The results below are subject to change as the official count is made public.

Districts not listed below did not have primary contests. There were, for example, no primaries for Assembly or State Senate seats from Staten Island. For more on the elections -- and the contests shaping up for November -- go to Gotham Gazette's Who's Running for What.


Office Candidate
Attorney General (Democrat) Richard Brodsky (10%)
Sean Coffey (16%)
Eric Dinallo (8%)
Kathleen Rice (32%)
Eric Schneiderman (34%)
Junior Senator (Democrat) Kirsten Gillbrand* (76%)
Gail Goode (24%)
Governor (Republican) Rick Lazio (38%)
Carl Paladino (62%)
Lieutenant Governor (Republican) Greg Edwards (52%)
Thomas Ognibene (48%)
Senior Senator (Republican) Gary Berntsen (44%)
Jay Townsend (56%)
Junior Senator (Republican) Bruce Blakeman (21%)
Joseph DioGuardi (42%)
David Malpass (38%)
Governor (Conservative) Rick Lazio (60%)
Ralph Lorigo (40%)

U.S Representative

Office Candidate
District 5 Gary Ackerman* (69%)
Patricia Maher (31%)
District 10 Kevin Powell (31%)
Edolphus Towns* (69%)
District 14 Carolyn Maloney* (81%)
Reshma Saujani (19%)
District 15 Joyce Johnson (13%)
Vincent Morgan (3%)
Adam Clayton Powell IV (23%)
Charles Rangel* (51%)
Jonathan Tasini (5%)
Ruben Vargas (5%)
District 5 Elizabeth Berney (40%)
James Milano (60%)
District 13 Michael Allegretti (31%)
Michael Grimm (69%)
District 14 Roger Blank (10%)
David Brumberg (62%)
Dino LaVerghetta (27%)

State Representative

Office Candidate
Senate 28 Mark Escoffery-Bey (19%)
Jose Serrano* (81%)
Senate 31 Adriano Espaillat (51%)
Mark Levine (39%)
Anna Lewis (8%)
Miosotis Munoz (2%)
Senate 32 Ruben Diaz * (79%)
Carlos Ramos Jr. (21%)
Senate 33 Pedro Espada Jr. (33%) *
Daniel Padernacht (5%)
Gustavo Rivera (62%)
Assembly 76 Peter Rivera * (57%)
Luis Sepulveda (44%)
Assembly 78 Jose Rivera * (76%)
Sergio Villaverde (24%)
Assembly 80 Robert Guiffre (31%)
Naomi Rivera* (69%)
Assembly 82 Michael Benedetto * (73%)
Rafael Dominguez (13%)
Herbert Moreira-Brown (14%)
Assembly 85 Marcos Crespo * (74%)
Israel Cruz (27%)
Senate 28 Jon Girodes (53%)
Keesha Weiner (47%)
Senate 18 Velmanette Montgomery* (81%)
Mark Pollard (19%)
Senate 21 Kevin Parker * (73%)
Wellington Sharpe (27%)
Assembly 40 Inez Barron* (74%)
Kenneth Evans (26%)
Assembly 42 Michele Adolphe (32%)
Rhoda Jacobs* (68%)
Assembly 50 Joseph Lentol* (79%)
Andre Soleil (20%)
Assembly 52 Douglas Biviano (26%)
Joan Millman* (74%)
Assembly 49 Peter Cipriano (61%)
Lucretia Regina-Potter (39%)
Senate 28 Mark Escoffery-Bey (19%)
Jose Serrano* (81%)
Senate 30 Bill Perkins* (77%)
Basil Smikle (24%)
Senate 31 Adriano Espaillat (51%)
Mark Levine (39%)
Anna Lewis (8%)
Miosotis Munoz (2%)
Assembly 68 Marion Bell (10%)
Edward Gibbs (7%)
Alvin Johnson (8%)
Robert Rodriguez (36%)
Felix Rosado (5%)
John Ruiz (29%)
Evette Zayas (5%)
Assembly 71 Herman Farrell* (75%)
Ariel Ferreira (25%)
Assembly 72 Nelson Denis (10%)
Miguel Estrella (5%)
Julissa Gomez (24%)
Guillermo Linares (49%)
Gabriela Rosa (12%)
Assembly 73 Jonathan Bing(84%)
Gregory Lundahl (16%)
Senate 28 Jon Girodes (53%)
Keesha Weiner (47%)
Senate 10 Shirley Huntley* (73%)
Lynn Nunes (27%)
Senate 16 John Messer (21%)
Isaac Sasson (34%)
Toby Stavisky * (45%)
Assembly 24 Bob Friedrich (31%)
David Weprin * (69%)
Assembly 26 Steven Behar (18%)
Edward Braunstein (37%)
John Duane (28%)
Elio Forcino (17%)
Assembly 28 Joseph Fox (40%)
Andrew Hevesi* (60%)
Assembly 33 Barbara Clark * (67%)
Clyde Vanel (33%)
Assembly 35 Jeffrion Aubry *(63%)
Anthony Miranda (37%)
Assembly 38 Nick Comaianni (24%)
Michael Miller* (77%)
Assembly 39 Hiram Monserrate (33%)
Francisco Moya (67 percent)

Paladino, Schneiderman Win, Espada Doesn't

p.s. 59
Photo by New York City Board of Elections

(For a list of all primary winners and losers in New York City, go to our primary election results.)

The Tea Party arrived in New York last night as Buffalo millionaire businessman Carl Paladino dealt a stunning blow to the Republican Party establishment, defeating its candidate for governor, former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio.

In a race not decided until after midnight, State Sen. Eric Schneiderman defeated four opponents to become the Democratic nominee for attorney general. As appeared to be the case throughout the campaign, Schneiderman's closest rival was Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, with Sean Coffey, Richard Brodsky and Eric Dinallo trailing farther behind. Schniederman will face Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovanin November.

Amid all the talk of anti-incumbent sentiment, Democratic voters did not seem particularly rebellious. Most of the party officeholders won their elections yesterday. And most will be formidable favorites in the general election, where many face token opposition. To see how the races shape up for November, go to Who's Running for What.

The major exception came in the Bronx's 33rd Senate district where political newcomer Gustavo Rivera defeated State Senate Majority leader Pedro Espada. Rivera, backed by major newspapers, the Working Families Party and a number of politicians, trounced Espada, defeating him by more than a two-to-one margin. Espada conceded early in the evening, long before any news outlet had declared Rivera the winner.

For Democrats, the defeat of Espada -- who is under criminal investigation and faces a civil suit from the state -- removes an embarrassing symbol of Albany dysfunction as the party heads into the general election hoping to hold on to, if not expand, its thin margin of control in the State Senate. As Schneiderman celebrated his own victory, he called Rivera to the stage and declared that change began that night. (For David King's report from the 33rd Senate district and interview with Rivera, go here.)

In other closely watched races, Rep. Charles Rangel held off five challengers all hoping to capitalize on the ethics charges facing the longtime member of Congress. Another veteran member of Congress, Carolyn Maloney, handily fended off her challenge, defeating Reshma Saujani, a Wall Street veteran and political novice.

Also making news yesterday was the city's new voting system. New Yorkers reported glitches throughout the city, particularly in the morning as pollworkers struggled -- and sometimes failed -- to get the new technology up and running.

Paladino's Push

On a night when a Tea Party candidate defeated a longtime member of Congress in Delaware, Paladino's victory provided another, perhaps even more startling evidence of the movement's strength among rank-and-file Republicans.

In his victory speech, Paladino stressed his anger and that of his supporters, quoting the now-famous "mad as hell" line from the movie Network.

"Tonight the ruling class noticed -- they not only noticed it but they’ve seen it. There's a people's revolution," Paladino declared, citing anger over high taxes and "our incompetent dysfunctional government."

He wasted no time attacking his November opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Deriding Cuomo as a "lifetime Albany insider," he told the crowd, "Andrew Cuomo thinks he can hide his lifelong liberal beliefs and hijack our agenda, and the voters won’t notice."

Paladino though, may find he has things to hide as well. He has urged housing welfare recipients in prison, called for taking a baseball bat to Albany and described Assembly Speak Sheldon Silver as "an antichirst or a Hitler."

The Democratic Governors Association immediately seized upon this. In a statement issued last night, Nathan Daschle, the group's executive director, charged Paladino has "been tarnished with scandals that run the gamut. … He won by appealing to the fringe element of the Republican base and will not survive a general election."

A multimillionaire, Paladino poured his own money into his campaign, enabling his to advertise heavily in his campaign against the poorly financed Lazio. He enters next round, though, as the definite underdog against the well-known and extremely well financed Cuomo.

Lazio did manage to win the Conservative Party primary, meaning that he could still run in November. Whether he would remained unclear as he congratulated Paladino and conceded defeat in the GOP primary.

Congressional Contests

As expected Gillibrand sailed to victory against her virtually unkown opponent. In November, she will face Joseph DioGuardi, a former member of Congress from Westchester and certified public accountant. DioGuardi defeated two opponents last night: Bruce Blakeman, a former Nassau County official, and David Malpass, who was chief economist for Bear Stearns, perhaps not the best credential in a year of voter anger at Wall Street.

In a bow to the national mood, in his emailed victory statement last night, DioGuardi did not mention his time in Congress, instead stressing his experience as an accountant who has "spent my life balancing budgets around kitchen tables and boardroom tables alike."

In the other Republican Senate primary, Jay Townsend won the right to take on Sen. Charles Schumer, widely regarded as virtually unbeatable. Townsend, who runs his own communications and marketing firm, defeated Gary Berntsen, who served with the CIA in Afghanistan. According to the Associated Press, Schumer has more than $23 million in his campaign warchest, while Townsend has less than $11,000.

The most hotly contested Republican congressional primary came in the 13th District, largely on Staten Island. The GOP has high hopes of defeating the incumbent Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon to regain a seat it held for many years but then lost in 2008 when Vito Fossella did not seek re-election, following revelations he led a kind of double life.

In a race that reflected some of the tensions in the Republican gubernatorial contest, Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, got about two thirds of the vote to defeat Michael Allegretti, part owner of a Brooklyn oil company. Allegretti had support from Fossella and many elected officials on Staten Island/ while both John McCain and Sarah Palin backed Grimm, who was viewed as a Tea Party candidate. In the closing days of the campaign, the candidates clashed over whether Grimm had distributed photos of himself wearing military ribbons he did not earn.

All Democratic members of Congress who faced primaries won. While Maloney and Rangel faced their most serious challenges, both survived easily. Rangel garnered about 50 percent of the vote, with his five opponents dividing the rest. Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose father Rangel defeated to win the seat 40 years ago, came in second, with only half as many votes as Rangel received.

In his victory speech, Rangel thanked those who stood with him and worked with him and reaffirmed his -- and his district's commitment to traditional liberal principles, declaring, "President Obama needs people like me more than ever."

Saujani originally took on Maloney saying the district needed new leadership and castigating Maloney for being too hostile to Wall Street, But as the race evolved, Saujani then accused the 10-term representative of being too close to Wall Street, a charge Maloney threw back at Saujani.

As the candidates squabbled, the Villager reported, "Saujani seems to have gotten the worst of it. Article after article … has termed her Wall Street's candidate, repeating a quote from the Washington Post, in which she told a wealthy Upper East Side crowd, 'We need to extend a hand rather than a fist' to Wall Street."

Meanwhile the Democratic Party establishment, from the president on down, stood behind Maloney, as did feminists. The main support Saujani had came from Diana Taylor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's girlfriend, who, by the way, is a Republican.

Back to Albany

While editorial board at the Times and the News urged their reader to throw the rascals out in Albany, several legislators once deemed to be in serious trouble, sailed through the primary. Shirley Huntley, who was targeted for her vote against same sex marriage last year, trounced Lynn Nunes, who in 2009 came within a few votes of capturing a City Council seat from the same area of south Queens in 2009.

Charter school supporters failed to oust two incumbents they had hoped to defeat. Bill Perkins in Harlem bested political consultant Basil Smikle, getting more than three quarters of the vote. And in Brooklyn, Velmanette Mongomery won more than 80 percent of the vote in defeating Mark Pollard.

On the other hand, the teachers union also failed to oust an incumbent. Jonathan Bing easily dispatched teacher Gregory Lundahl on Manhattan's East Side, getting 84 percent of the ballots cast.

There were several contests for open seats around the city, some still too close to call. In the decided contests, Francisco Moya thwarted former State Sen. Hiram Monserrate's bid to return to elected office, defeating Monserrate in Queens 39th Assembly district by a two-to-one margin. Monserrate was ousted from his Senate seat last year following his conviction on a charge related to a domestic violence incident and then lost the special election for that seat.

Former City Councilmember Guillermo Linares, the first Dominican ever elected to office in New York, topped a field of five for the seat now held by Adriano Espaillat in upper Manhattan. Espaillat, meanwhile, appeared to win his bid to move up to the State Senate. In a hotly contested race, he defeated former teacher Mark Levin by 51 to 39 percent, with two other candidates trailing far behind.

Also, in Manhattan, Robert Rodriguez easily defeated six other candidates for the seat vacated by Powell.

Ballot Scanning

Whoever they voted for, New Yorkers yesterday cast their votes differently than they did before. New York City yesterday finally switched to the new voting system to bring it in compliance with the Help America Vote Act , the last place in the country to do so.

The transition was not without problems, particularly early in the day. There were numerous accounts of polling places opening late -- one supposedly a whopping three hours after the scheduled 6 a.m. opening -- as poll workers struggled to get things in order.

Election Protection, a nonpartisan group, said late poll openings occurred throughout the city.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's poll place -- on Eighth Street in Park Slope -- reportedly did not open at least until 8:30 a.m. leaving neighborhood voters disenfranchised, as de Blasio put it. Di Blasio has said he will investigate the voting delays and other problems.

Alex Camarda, advocacy director for Gotham Gazette's sister organization, Citizens Union, said when he arrived at his voting place in Astoria at around 6 a.m. "it was chaos. People were unpacking things.” When he went to a table to ask how to vote, “people were bewildered."

When Gary E. VanderPutten reached his polling place St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO at 7:30 a.m., he discovered the voting equipment had just arrived and nothing was set up. The staff fro the Board of Election and the poll watcher were "equally embarrassed at the situation and had to turn away voters," VanderPutten wrote in an email. "They finally attempted to unlock the equipment and, after a few tries, successfully got the first voting machine to work, but the keys to the second voting machine did not fit. This was almost immaterial as there were no keys" to unlock the containers holding the ballots. VanderPutten left at 8 a.m. -- without voting -- planning to return again in the evening.

Sheryl A. Douglas, the poll coordinator at PS 22 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said her site could not open on time. When the staff arrived, she said, the workers could not find the codes to run the scanners. She said the Board of Election then sent someone with the code, and the site started running at 7:37 a.m.

Some problems were not so quickly resolved, Douglas said, The site was supposed to have three scanners, but only had two, and the poll workers and staff from the Board of Elections never managed to unlock the ballot marking device that assists voters with disabilities. Although no one used the machine last year, "you should have it ready, just in case," she said.

To make matters worse, several staff workers never showed up at the polling p[lace. Despite that, she said "We're keeping things together."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, long a critic of the city Board of Elections, was none too pleased. “We are hearing disturbing reports from some polling sites,” Bloomberg told reporters. “We’ve been told of some poll sites that opened two to four hours late. That is a royal screw-up -- and it’s completely unacceptable."

The Board of Elections urged voters to be patient. "Every year, Election Days bring challenges," Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the board, wrote in an email to the Times. "This year, the Board of Elections in the City of New York knew the change to the new voting system would present additional challenges."

She said the board would try to do better for the general election. "We will apply all lessons learned from the primary election," she wrote.

Election Protection also cited "reports of broken machines in Brooklyn and Queens and long lines in places where only one voting machine was actually functioning.”

Michael Misko, the coordinator at the PS 131 polling site on in Chinatown, said the new system confused some voters, who wrote on the ballot or tried to select candidates on the scanners.

Secret Ballot?

Some voters also complained about a lack of privacy as they cast and scanned their ballots — though so-called privacy booths are supposed to be available to ensure secrecy. Certainly the new system feels less secret than the behind the green curtains of days gone by.

Camarda said that when he used a ballot-marking device — an alternative to marking it by hand — the printer jammed and “made an awful retching sound."

Poll workers were able to remedy the problem -- removing the mangled ballot, voiding it and so on -- but, while they were helpful, he said, they clearly could have looked at his ballot. “The more help you need, the more privacy is compromised, Camarda said.

Certainly the new system is different -- something some voters liked and some did not. Nicholas Minella, 39, voted at PS 22 in the middle of the day to avoid crowd. Using the new ballot, he said, "wasn't anything too harrowing," he said. While Minella had no trouble with the new ballots, he said he preferred pulling the lever required to process the old ones. "I felt like I voted instead of throwing a piece of paper into an electronic scanner."

But Stacy Sheffey, 22, who also voted at PS 22, said she liked watching the scanner count her vote. "That's exciting," she said.

Guide for the Last Minute Voter: Primary 2010

Photo (cc) 2010

The biggest news from Tuesday's primary elections might have less to do with the votes cast than with how people cast them. This election will mark the passage of New York's old-fashioned lever voting machines and the debut of optically scanned ballots.


State Senate

18th District (Velmanette Montgomery)
21st District (Kevin Parker)


40th District (Inez Barron)
42nd District (Rhoda Jacobs)
49th District (Peter Abbate): Republican only
50th District (Joseph Lentol)
52nd District (Joan Millman)


State Senate

28th District (Jose Serrano): Democratic and Republican
30th District (Bill Perkins)
31st District (none)


68th District (Adam Clayton Powell IV)
71st District (Herman Farrell)
72nd District (none)
73rd District (Jonathan Bing)


State Senate
10th District (Shirley Huntley)
16th District (Toby Stavisky)


24th District (David Weprin)
26th District (Ann-Margaret Carrozza)
28th Diistrict (Andrew Hevesi)
33rd District (Barbara Clark)
35th District (Jeffrion Aubry)
38th District (Michael Miller)
39th District (none)

Beyond the change in technology, these contests also could provide an indication of how deep anti-incumbent fervor runs in New York and a sense of whether the Tea Party movement has much support among state Republicans.

In 2010, all four statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs. The entire congressional delegation and the state legislature must face the voters. Add to that the turmoil of the last two years in Albany and the parlous condition of the state economy and New York would seem to have all the makings for political dogfights up and down the ballot.

But many contests never materialized. While five candidates fight it out for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, the party's nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and senior senator face no opposition until the general election. In an interesting twist, a few of this year's most contentious battles are among Republicans, who for years tended to follow the admonition to never speak ill of a fellow party member and avoided bruising primary battles.

In our latest Guide for the Last Minute Voter, we offer coverage of key races, lists and aggregation of all competitive contests for state legislature in the city, a rundown on what else you might see on your ballot (don't forget those judicial convention contests), and information on where and how to vote. For the latest on who's running -- in the primary and general -- for all the congressional and legislative seats in the five boroughs, go to Who's Running for What.

Topping the Ticket

Democrats, whose internal rifts are the stuff of legend in New York State, go into the primary surprisingly united -- at least on the surface. Of the three Albany offices at stake, Democrats have a primary for only one: attorney general. Republicans, on the other hand, have a bitter gubernatorial contest between former U.S. Rep. and Wall Streeter Rick Lazio and businessperson Carl Paladino, who has been styled as a Tea Party candidate.

For more on the statewide contests, go here.

The Republican division continues in the races for U.S. Senate. GOP voters get to choose among candidates to challenge both Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. On the Democratic side, Schumer has no primary opponent; Gillibrand will face Gail Goode.

Republicans also are enmeshed in a bitter contest to be the party's choice to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon on Staten Island. While several Democratic representatives face primaries, the headline battles are both in Manhattan where a political newcomer, Reshma Saujani, seeks to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and where U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel fights for his political survival.

For more on the congressional contests, go here.

Our Coverage

Between now and November, Gotham Gazette will be taking an in-depth look at the campaign for the State Legislature and for statewide office. Our coverage so far:

Charter School Debate Brings Focus to Harlem Race: The contest between Bill Perkins and Basil Smikle for the State Senate seat from Harlem has centered on schools and who can best represent the community.

Republicans Battle to Take on Cuomo: Before the GOP can take on Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand they have to try to settle their own messy disagreements in Tuesday's primary.


Experience Shapes Race in Inwood: A multi-candidate race for an open Assembly seat in Inwood focuses on ethnicity, alliances and whether having served in government is an asset or a liability.


East Side Incumbent Faces Challenge: Education has emerged as a key issue in an East Side assembly race where the UFT and the GOP both hope to topple Democratic incumbent Jonathan Bing.


After Cuomo: Each of the five Democrats running for attorney general struggles to emerge from the pack. But are the voters listening?



Hot Fight for the Heights: Ethics and the economy dominate the hard-fought contest in Upper Manhattan to replace State Sen. Eric Schneiderman.



Culture Clash: Incumbent State Sen. Shirley Huntley faces an opponent almost 50 years her junior. And age is hardly the only thing that divides them.



Republicans Look to Pick Up a Seat in Queens: Republicans have a rare opportunity to pick up a Assembly member in the city as five candidates compete for an open seat in northeast Queens.



Scandals Trump Issues in Queens Race: Assemblymember Barbara Clark and challenger Clyde Vanel discuss their race.


Barbs in the Bronx: Assemblymember Peter Rivera and Democratic challenger Luis Sepulveda face off in a race that epitomizes the Bronx's political rivalries.

Fox Chases Hevesi: Attorney Joe Fox is trying to bring anti-incumbent sentiment into a race in Queens. His competitor, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, isn't buying it.


Going After Diaz: The state senator has angered many with his fight against same-sex marriage, but he says voters in his home district love him. Challenger Charlie Ramos hopes to prove him wrong.


In Astoria, the Field Narrows: After one contender dropped out, only two candidates remain to vie for the seat now held by Mike Gianaris -- even though no incumbent appears on the ballot for the first time in a decade.


Divisions in District Dominate Brooklyn Assembly Race: The challenger charges that longtime Assemblymember Joseph Lentol has neglected the district's poorer black and Latino residents.


Challengers Emerge to Take on Espada: In the 33rd State Senate District in the Bronx, the incumbent is the issue.

The District is Brooklyn Heights but the Issue is Albany: As he campaigns to unseat Joan Millman, Doug Biviano charges that corruption and mismanagement in the capital have created transit cuts and other problems in the 52nd Assembly District.


Will Angry Voters Throw Albany's Rascals Out?: Amid the talk of dysfunction in state government, most incumbents seem likely to hold on as few face credible challenges. What happened?


Can the Next Attorney General Fix Albany?: With corruption rampant, why haven't state attorney generals brought more criminal cases against state politicians? Candidates for the office discuss what they would do.


Elsewhere on the Ballot

To make your primary day a little easier, no judicial contests appears on the ballot this year. But some voters, notably many Democrats and members of the Independence Party who live in Staten Island, will get to fill some party posts.

For more on those elections go here.

Who Can Vote -- and How

Only registered party members can vote in their party's primary. This year all city Democrats, Republicans and Conservatives have at least one race to weigh in on, as do Independents on Staten Island.

Regardless of party, anyone who hopes to vote Tuesday will find the familiar polling place transformed -- with optical scanners and privacy booths replacing the old-fashioned machines.

For more on how to vote Tuesday, go here.

And Now: The Bubble Election

In many years, only Democrats have primaries in New York. Since the state has a closed party system -- where only party members can select their party's candidates -- that keeps many Republicans, to say nothing of unaffiliated voters, at home.

This year, though, Republicans have primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and two US. Senate seats, meaning members of the GOP have reason to go to the polls Tuesday . Even the small Conservative Party has a primary contest: for governor. And Independence Party members -- in Richmond County only -- have an array of local contests to weight in on.

Voters without an affiliation or with affiliation with the Working Families, Green or Libertarian Party, though, cannot vote on Tuesday.

The New System

Regardless of party, anyone who votes on Tuesday will cast his or her ballot with new voting technology. The drawn green curtain and the big red lever have gone the way of tube television and dial telephones, as New York finally comes into compliance with the Help America Vote Act.

The new system relies on a ballot marked with pencil or pen, filled in much like a form for a standardized test. Voters can complete the ballot in privacy booth or elsewhere in the polling place. Once they have made their choices, they will insert the paper in an optical scanning device, which will record the vote and store the ballot.

At a recent demonstration at the Goddard Riverside Community Center most of the largely elderly participants seemed to readily accept the new system. Several expressed concern about the small type size -- state law requires all candidates be on a single sheet of a ballot forcing somewhat tiny type. A Board of Elections employee, though, allayed their concerns by showing them a magnifying sheet that would be at each poling station.

While the sample ballot involved question about ice cream, several of the attendees called out that this new system might have changed the results in the presidential race in Florida in 2000. For this largely Democratic crowd, that made the change all right with them.

The new system does, in fact, arise out of the debacle in Florida that year. The Help American Vote Act, enacted after the election, requires a paper trail for votes. New York is the last state to comply with provisions of the law.

While the people at Goddard Riverside seemed sanguine about the new system, some politicians and reporters have expressed doubts. In a recent debate, Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, a candidate for attorney general, said he expected the ballots would confuse many voters and expressed concern about whether voters who do not speak English would receive adequate instructions for the new system.

And a writer for the New York Times who tested the new system complained of confusing instructions particularly when a citizen overvotes -- votes for too many candidates for the same post. "The new system compounds the shortcomings of print media with those of electronic media -- and makes matters worse with hard-to-read, hard-to-understand instructions and a lot of extraneous nonsense," Ariel Kaminer wrote.

The city Board of Elections has a section of its website on how to use the new system and also has scheduled demonstrations throughout the city. For more information go here.

Citizens Union, whose sister organization publishes Gotham Gazette, will hold a demonstration of the new system in Brooklyn Heights this Friday. For more information, go to Citizens Union.

New Yorkers who do not like the new system -- or suffer from disabilities that would make it hard to use -- do have another option. They can use a ballot marking device, a new technology introduced in 2006 to let people with disabilities vote independently and privately. Any voter can ask to use this -- regardless of whether or not he or she has an disability.

When and Where to Vote

The election will be Tuesday, Sept. 14, with polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Only who have registered at least 25 days before the election can vote. Since this is a primary, only registered members of parties with contests can cast ballots.

You should have received a notice in the mail telling you where to vote, but if you do not have it, you can go to the Board of Election's poll site locator or call 1 866 VOTE-NYC. This number can provide you with other information as well, including registration deadlines.

People who cannot vote in person because they will be out of town, are ill or in a care facility can vote by absentee ballot. While it is already too late to apply for by-mail absentee voting, people can cast absentee ballots in person from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through Monday, Sept, 13.

If the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail has passed and you cannot appear at the polls on Election Day because of an accident or sudden illness, you may send a representative with an authorized letter to receive an Absentee Ballot Application and Absentee Ballot and return both to the Board of Elections by 9 p.m. on Election Day at your borough office.

For more information, call the Board of Elections at 212-VOTE-NYC (868- 3692) or 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

Down the Ballot: The Party Posts

Almost every primary also features races obscure to even most of the political cognoscenti. These are contests to fill various party posts. In heavily Democratic New York City, most of these contests involve rival Democratic factions although the Independence Party in Staten Island also has a record -- which will continue this year -- of contested elections for party posts.

To see if your area and party has any of these contests, check the Board of Elections list of candidates. It’s divided by borough and party.

State Party Committee

State committees are the official party organizations. Most Assembly districts get two members -- one male and one female -- elected by party members in that district. Often these elections, little noticed by many voters, involve larger battles for party control between two or more factions.

This year, there are contests for the Democratic State Committee from some Assembly districts in every borough except Staten Island. The only Staten Islanders who get to choose state committee members on Tuesday are those who belong to the Independence Party.

None of the other parties are having contests for state committee posts.

District Leaders

District leaders are intermediaries between the major political parties and the community in which they are elected. Together they form the governing bodies of the Democratic and Republican parties within their respective counties. The position is often seen as a stepping-stone to higher office. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch started his political career as a district leader.

This year, Democrats in part of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens and members of the Independence Party on Staten Island get to select district leaders.

Each district elects a male and female representative. District leaders serve four-year terms, are not paid and work within the political parties. They select poll inspectors, clerks, supervisors and translators to fill the various poll worker positions on Election Day. They also serve as ex-officio members of the County Committee Executive Board.

"The way to think of them is not as a 'block captain,' but as a 'neighborhood captain,'" according to Alex Carabelli, deputy director of Grassroots Initiative, a non-profit organization that helps community members get elected to local office. "They help coordinate petitioning and local campaigns, and anything else the parties are doing in the community."

Contested elections for district leader often reflect wider battles for party control. So, for example in 2008, members of a group calling itself the Rainbow Rebellion put up candidates to challenge the party organization led by Assemblymember Jose Rivera that then ran the Bronx Democratic Party. The races played a significant role in the ousting of Rivera as party chief.

This city will see similar disputes -- with Brooklyn apparently the focus. The contest in Brooklyn 52nd Assembly district pits people loyal to Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez against those who have opposed Lopez over the year, the Brooklyn Heights blog reported. Lopez also apparently faces challenges in Greenpopint-Williamburg. (The Brooklyn Eagle runs down some similar district leader match-ups.)

Judicial Convention Delegates

A number of candidates on Tuesday are seeking election to posts that some New Yorkers want to eliminate: delegate or alternative delegate to state judicial conventions. Those elected attend a meeting to vote on their party's candidates for state Supreme Court -- New York's main trial court. Their action at these meetings tend to be "a formality because the bosses have usually picked the nominees beforehand," Carol DeMare once wrote in the Albany Times Union.

In the meantime, though, the positions exist, and a lot of Democrats run for them. Some times two competing slates form, one loyal to one group, one aligned with another.

Democrats in sections of every borough except Staten Island get to select delegates. Members of other parties will not be so lucky.

Contests will also take place for alternate delegate -- again for Democrats only.

County Committee

Some Democrats in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Independents on Staten Island -- will also choose their members of the county committee.

Part of the political party machinery, members of a county committee act as representatives for their political party on a very low scale. Usually their territory is only a few blocks and covers approximately 1,000 registered voters. Members of a county committee help select and endorse candidates for higher office.

Two Longtime Congressmembers Face Stiff Challenges

It's rare that voters get to choose both their senators in the same year. But because of Hillary Clinton's resignation, state voters will elect two senators in November. On the Democratic side, the two incumbents are seeking re-election: Charles Schumer for a full term and Kirsten Gillibrand to fill out the remainder of her (and thus Clinton's) two years in office.

Rightly or wrongly, Schumer, with his clout in the Capitol and his massive campaign war chest, is seen as virtually unbeatable. He has no primary opponent.

A number of prominent Democrats mulled challenging Gillibrand, a little known, relatively new upstate representative until Paterson appointed her to the Senate in 2009. All of them decided against it, leaving the task to Gail Goode, a onetime assistant district attorney in the Bronx who also worked for the transit authority.

On the Republican side, two candidates -- Gary Berntsen, a Long Island native who was with the CIA in Afghanistan, and Jay Townsend, a Hudson Valley resident who runs his own market research company -- seek the herculean challenge of taking on Schumer.

Three Republicans are competing to run against Gillibrand. They are: Bruce Blakeman, an attorney and former member of the Nassau County legislature running with the slogan "Less government ... more freedom"; Joseph DioGuardi, the Conservative Party candidate and former member of Congress who may be best known as the father of American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi; and David Malpass, an economist who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

Racing Representatives

The city will also see several contests for House seats, all held by incumbents seeking re-election.

The two most high profile contests are taking place in Manhattan. In District 15, longtime U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a legendary figure in Harlem, faces five challengers, who all hope to capitalize on allegations of ethical misconduct Rangel faces.

The most attention has focused on State Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose father Rangel beat to become a member of Congress in 1970.

Further downtown in District 14, Carolyn Maloney has a stiff challenge from a political newcomer, Reshma Saujani. While the two agree on many issues, Saujani has based her campaign on the need for change in Washington. The two candidates have repeatedly clashed over their records and relationship to Wall Street.

But Republicans can get in on the fun, too. They will choose between three contenders -- Roger Blank, Dino LaVerghetta and David Ryan Brumberg. The GOP race has attracted far less attention than the Democratic contest, perhaps because Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of three to one in the district.

The Republican primary in District 13, most of which lies in the more GOP-friendly Staten Island, has a higher profile. There two candidates -- Michael Grimm and Michael Allegretti -- are vying for the chance to run against incumbent first-term Democrat Michael McMahon in November.

The Democrats also will see congressional primaries in District 5 in Queens and District 10 in Brooklyn.

On the Republican side, voters will get to select their party's nominee for U.S. representative in District 5 in Queens.

Attorney General Candidates Struggle to Break Away From the Pack

andrew cuomo
Photo by Saebaryo
Being attorney general propelled Eliot Spitzer to the governor's mansion and could do the same for Andrew Cuomo (above). But despite that the race to follow Cuomo has attracted little interest.

Assemblymember Richard Brodsky walks in from the rain at 485 Kings Highway in Brooklyn. The Democratic candidate for state attorney general is running late, and the clouds and steady showers have made his trip all the more frustrating. Inside, the Sephardic Senior Center presents an entirely different world from the gloom and overcast skies outside. A number of elderly couples trot along a dance floor under bright lights to salsa music; the rest sit at tables chatting, with smiles on their faces.

The DJ changes the song. "Sinatra's 'My Way,'" he announces. And Brodsky, the man who the New York Times described as having a "divisive style" and who is known for his brash manner, waits to be introduced to a room of elderly voters.

When he takes to the microphone at senior centers across Brooklyn, Brodsky chooses to be brief. "Hi! I am Richard Brodsky. I am a fantastic person and a great politician. I am running for attorney general," he declares.

He gets a few laughs. "He’s full of himself. I like that," says an older man to the rest of his table. "You need a politician who isn't afraid to ruffle some feathers."

Who is Paying Attention?

Few of the seniors seem to know much about Brodsky's long record as a member of the State Assembly from Westchester County -- or care, for that matter. And that attitude has characterized much of this year's contest for state attorney general.

A Quinnipiac Poll from last month found that 81 percent of registered Democrats are undecided about who they will vote for in the primary. Voters have five choices: Brodsky, Sen. Eric Schneiderman, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, former state Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo and lawyer Sean Coffey.

The post is one of three key statewide offices. It launched Eliot Spitzer to the governor's mansion, and the current occupant --Andrew Cuomo -- hopes it will do the same for him. The attorney general serves as the state government's lawyer and has more than 2,000 employees. Despite that -- and even though pundits and reporters are enthralled by the race -- the general public seems uninterested in the current contest.

eric schneiderman
Photo by David King
Eric Schneiderman

Many following the campaign think that, in the last few weeks the race has shifted. Schneiderman picked up the endorsement of the New York Times, Rev. Al Sharpton, the Amsterdam News, El Diario, The Nation, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and a slew of other city based politicians and unions -- drastically changing the perception that Rice has the primary locked up.

Perception, though, is all it is. A number of candidates and political observers think the race is wide open. They say there is a gigantic disconnect between the political and pundit classes' view of the race and the way the average primary voter sees it.

"You can’t assume they know who you are," said Brodsky. They don’t care about who stood where when on Rockefeller reform and the spats between Schneiderman and Rice."

For a politician, Brodsky said, this can be bit humbling. "They don’t know that I'm the Yankee stadium guy," he says, referring to his crusade against the use of taxpayer money to build the new stadium.

Each candidate has sought desperately to try to carve out an identity that will let him or her emerge from the pack. Schneiderman, for example, has styled himself as the most progressive of the candidates, while Rice touts her experience as a prosecutor. Brodsky presents himself as an experienced political reformer but lately has sought to capitalize on being the one candidate opposed to the building of the Islamic center near ground zero. Dinallo says his experience in the office under Spitzer and his time as insurance superintendent make him "uniquely qualified" for the job. Coffey who has never held political office, touts his outsider credentials and experience in the military.

The differences, though, can be subtle. At a July 21 debate hosted by the Citizens Union and attended by all five candidates, it was hard to distinguish exactly how the candidates differed on policy. They all said they would support changes to campaign finance laws but refused to take a pledge to place limits on contributions on their own campaign. They talked about fighting corruption in Albany -- essentially using the same talking points -- differing a bit on the techniques they would use to do that.

kathleen rice
Kathleen Rice

The only standout issue came up when Rice refused to take a pledge other candidates had made not to seek higher office in the next eight years. She has since claimed she was only rejecting the pledge itself and does not have her "sights set" on any other office.

Schneiderman Leans Left

On Monday, Aug. 23, in Albany, fresh off his endorsement by the New York Times, Schneiderman sits at a table with Albany Common Councilmember Barbara Smith and gang expert Yusuf Burgess. The topic is how to prevent gun violence. Schneiderman has just attended a funeral in Buffalo, the result of a shooting at a restaurant that left four people dead and eight wounded. Schneiderman says he has seen the effects of gun violence in cities across the state and touted his stance against illegal guns.

He addresses questions about how he would curb gun violence by stressing his "smart on crime" policies. "We know what works," he said. "We have to invest in it."

These approaches include treatment centers as alternative to prisons. He says the state knows which programs work but doesn’t direct money specifically to those programs.

"You can’t have a government that operates on the basis of we know things work and we don't invest in them, we know things that don't work and yet we spend money on them. So I don't think this is going to cost money," he says. "I think it's more about a re-orientation of our reactors in government and also a re-orientation of the public. We have to just get everyone clear on what works in terms of criminal justice policy."

Schneiderman says that as attorney general he would push for the microstamping of serial numbers on bullets. He sponsored a bill to accomplish this but it failed in the Senate this year. He also said he would work to reform the public defender system.

The Albany discussion represented a turning point: Schneiderman for the first time in the race used his bona fides as a left-leaning, Manhattan liberal.

Schneiderman has differentiated himself from the pack with his talk about social justice, and a few days after his stop in Albany, he pledged during Sharpton's endorsement on the steps of City Hall that Sharpton's brand of justice would have an "annex" in Albany if he is elected.

Observers say Schneiderman is looking to raise as many votes from the city as possible. But that strategy, if it is one, has earned him the scorn of other Democrats. Both Brodsky and Dinallo have wondered if Schneiderman's running so far to the left could hurt Democrats in the fall if Schneiderman wins the primary. They worry that the Republican candidate, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, could paint Schneiderman as soft on crime. A number of critics already call Schneiderman’s main achievement as a senator -- overhauling the Rockefeller Drug Law -- "the Drug Dealers' Protection Act."

Rice already has contrasted herself with Schniederman , touting her own record as being a tough-on-crime prosecutor. Rice has earned a reputation as being extremely tough on drunk driving and other vehicular crimes and has earned a reputation nationally for her work. For his part, Schneiderman spent the early months of his campaign painting Rice as a conservative outsider.

eric dinallo
Eric Dinallo

Both Dinallo and Coffey trumpet their ability to be independent Albany watchdogs. Dinallo worked with Spitzer on policing Wall Street and helped apply the Martin Act, a law that allowed Spitzer and his office unparalleled power to police Wall Street, to cases of financial fraud. He said he would like to use similar laws to go after political corruption.

Coffey was a lawyer who represented plaintiffs against World Com for financial fraud and has a record of donating to Democratic candidates. He says he would like to see the legislature pass measures similar to the broad scope of the Martin Act to apply to the attorney general's ability to police corruption in Albany.

Almost a week after Brodsky's tour of senior centers in Brooklyn, Brodsky, Coffey and Dinallo sit down to debate each other in Rochester. Upstaters say they are a bit insulted by Rice and Schneiderman’s absence. Rice and Schneiderman cite previous commitments to explain their absence; Rice was in Queens talking to senior citizens. Schneiderman’s spokesman attribute "scheduling issues" to his absence but will not say where Schneiderman is.

Using Debates to Differentiate

The next day four candidates show up to debate in Albany. Schneiderman again is a no-show.

Brodsky begins to challenge his opponents during a discussion of hydrofracking.

sean coffey
Sean Coffey

Dinallo and Coffey say they support a moratorium on hydrofracking, a method of drilling for natural gas, but Brodsky says that isn't enough. "We need to make our opinions known now, during the campaign, because if the [Department of Environmental Conservation] makes a recommendation and we are in office, we will have to legally defend it," he said.

The candidates are asked how they would deal with illegal guns. All four say they are in favor of going after illegal guns, and a number of them support microstamping.

Dinallo says he would use the attorney general’s organized crime unit to investigate how illegal guns are distributed. Coffey cites his support for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but notes he is a good shot, thanks to his days in the Navy.

Brodsky says he thinks the others have misunderstood the question. He says that gun use needs to be approached with "nuance. ... We have to be nuanced enough to understand the great complexity of the state to make sure policies we put out don’t endanger legitimate use of firearms, and that distinction needs to be made.” While Albany is upstate, the city itself does have a gun violence problem and at a debate hosted by a liberal public radio station Brodsky’s answer struck some as odd.

Rice says she thought the question was on illegal firearms and that it was Brodsky who may have misunderstood the question. She says she agrees with Dinallo that the attorney general should attack gun trafficking through the organized crime task force. "I've supported very actively microstamping. It did not get passed in the Senate." Rice says it would have been nice to ask Schneiderman about why the legislation didn’t pass "if he were here today." She goes on to note her work against illegal guns as Nassau County district attorney.

An 800-Pound Gorilla?

Despite all the progressive ideas tossed around by the candidates --taking on Albany corruption, redistricting, policing Wall Street, social justice -- one issue emerges again and again: the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

On Brodsky's day in Brooklyn, the only question he was repeatedly asked was whether he would support a mosque being built two blocks from the World Trade Center site . He told the seniors that he spoke out months ago about his distaste for the center’s planned location. "The mosque being built in that area is offensive to me," he said then. Brodsky says he would defend the mosque's right to be in the area but thinks there is a "sensitivity issue."

richard brodsky
Richard Brodsky

The Islamic center also is a big issue hundreds of miles away in Rochester, judging from questions at the debate. All three candidates on hand said they would investigate the sources of funding for the mosque -- if there is anything to investigate -- but, as he has in the past, Brodsky emphatically voiced his displeasure at the mosque site. "The social fabric is being torn by this," he said.

In Albany the next day the candidates again were asked whether they would investigate funding for the mosque. Coffey said if evidence is presented of wrongdoing he would investigate. Brodsky says that the issue is not as "sterile" as other candidates are making it out to be, and that emotions do need to be taken into account. "Mayor Bloomberg may be right in his views," he said, "but the families’ of the victims feelings are also legitimate. If you are for building the mosque, you are not a terrorist; if you are against it you are not a bigot."

Dinallo strongly disagreed on one of Brodsky’s points. "I do believe the issue does need to be sterile," he said. "The power of subpoena is the highest power in the constitutional system -- one that needs to be used very carefully." Rice said simply she would investigate if presented with evidence.

After the debate, Dinallo said the attorney general needs "poise." He explained, "The mosque is just a latest in a series of issues that distract from the role of the AG: Rockefeller drug laws, the tax cap. Some questioners, reporters and candidates bring up these issues that appeal to voters but are not substantive and distract from the role of the attorney general.”

Where the Votes Are

While emotions run high about the Islamic, at campaign stops throughout the state it appears that most voters are not paying as much attention to what Dinallo would consider the substantive issues or indeed, to the attorney general race. While every candidate has a base to rally, it is not clear which voters they are actually picking up or how they can successfully win new supporters.

Schniederman is banking on support from the city and from black and Latino voters. Rice maintains strong support in Nassau County, and Dinallo and Coffey continue to have strong support upstate. Brodsky has Westchester and expects he is making inroads upstate and in the five boroughs. Dinallo won the endorsement of both the New York Daily News and Crain's, while the New York Post has backed Coffey.

The questions the candidates get from voters are more suited to a candidate for governor -- broad questions about legislative issues. The function of the attorney general seems poorly understood. Is the attorney general a prosecutor, a Wall Street hawk? Does he or she set fiscal policy? Can any attorney general police Albany? Despite all the talk of disgust with the politicians who run the state, the mosque debate seems more prominent in voters' minds than how to reform Albany.

Back in Brooklyn, Brodsky drives himself, seat belt unbuckled, to the next senior center and summarizes his view of the campaign. "If the race is low turnout, which I expect it to be, it will be who can get their supporters to the polls." (A number of other candidates also expect a low turnout.)

Then he gets on his cell phone and starts making calls to Staten Island to figure out whether any reporters will attend his press conference.

The voice on the other end of the line seems uninterested; someone puts him on hold. He covers the mouthpiece with his hand. "See," he says, "the Staten Island paper doesn’t even know who I am. What does that tell you about the race?"

Republicans Look to Pick Up a Seat in Queens

northeast queens
Photo by Jim Henderson
The 26th Assembly District features tree-lined streets, houses with American flags, parks -- and voters who switch from one party to the other.

The version of this story originally posted included Rob Speranza as a candidate in the Republican primary. His signatures were challenged, and he was no longer on the ballot, meaning Vincent Tabone is unopposed for the GOP nomination. This story has been updated to reflect that.

Republicans have a rare opportunity. In a part of Queens that has wavered between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP could pick up an Assembly seat from the Democrats. Not that the Democrats are conceding the race, however. Four Democrats and one member of the GOP are contending for this open seat in the 26th Assembly District in northeast Queens.

Ann-Margaret Carrozza, who represented the largely residential and suburban district for 14 years, announced in March that she would not seek reelection following reports that she lived outside of the district -- in Glen Head on Long Island. She has also been dogged by criticism of her low attendance record in Albany.

Although most residents of the district are registered Democrats, voters in this region of Queens don't hesitate to cross party lines, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager for Community Board 11. Longtime U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat, "gets voted for overwhelmingly," she said. At the same time, the district is represented by Republican City Councilmember Daniel Halloran and by State Sen. Frank Padavan, a Republican who has held office for more than 35 years.

In other words, Democrats may face a battle ahead.

The Candidates

For now the GOP candidate is almost certain to be Vincent Tabone. Rob Speranza, a retired police officer, had filed signatures and hoped to challenge Tabone for the Republican nomination. He was knocked off the ballot earlier this month, leaving Tabone unopposed.

Although Speranza filed more than the required number of names, a Queens State Supreme Court judge ruled that not enough were from registered Republicans living within the district.

Tabone, executive vice president of the Queens GOP, had nearly $87,500 in campaign funds at the end of July. He has been endorsed by the Queens County Conservative Party, the Queens GOP and by Padavan. Tabone is confident that, in the general election, he can win the crossover votes he would need to become a member of the Assembly.

"Even though the registry isn't Republican, there is a large number of independent voters who care more about ability and merit than about partisanship," said Tabone, who is an attorney for the supermarket giant Red Apple Group.

Running in the Democratic primary are Ed Braunstein, Steve Behar, John Duane and Elio Forcina.

The Queens Democratic Party has endorsed Braunstein, who at the end of the August reporting period, he had $61,862 in campaign funds on hand. Forcina, an attorney in private practice, has only about $4,470 left of the more than $56,000 that he has raised so far. Duane, who represented the district from 1983 to 1984, has about $27,700 of his initial $56,000. Behar, with a closing balance of around $9,500, has raised the least amount of money among the Democrats.

At 29, Braunstein is by far the youngest candidate. A newly minted lawyer and a staffer for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he seems to be leading the race -- and attracting the most criticism from opponents. Braunstein's uncle, Brian Meara, a lobbyist, reportedly has ties to Silver. Braunstein's rivals have seized on this to by comparing him to the speaker who, for many, represents all that is wrong with Albany.

"He's Shelly Silver's helper," Tabone said. "He got us into the state we're in now."

"Working for the leadership should be a disqualification from running," quipped Behar as he munched on breakfast at Bayside's Gold Star Restaurant, which seems to be his campaign's partial base of operations. Behar, who unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2009, claimed earlier this year that he had turned down $200,000 from pro-charter school lobbyists if he would support expansion of the publicly funded, privately run schools. The announcement set off a war of words between him and Braunstein, who Behar has accused of being "in the pockets of lobbyists and special interests."

According to the state Board of Elections web site, Braunstein received approximately $13,000 from political action committees and lobbyists in the six-month filing period from January to July. He also received a $3,800 donation from Meara.

Braunstein shrugged off Behar's attacks, saying, "When someone has trouble raising money, they make accusations."

Braunstein says his work for Silver has helped him understand the problems confronting the state. If elected, he said, he will disagree with his former boss when his district's interests are at stake.

Jerry Iannece, the chair of Community Board 11, agreed that Braunstein's experience with Silver could be an asset. "The Assembly is a collegiate body," he said. "You have to be able to build those consensuses and alliances in order bring the bacon home for your community. If you're a maverick and out there by yourself, you're not going to get much accomplished."

Ed Braunstein
Ed Braunstein

Budget Balancing

The district includes East Flushing, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Whitestone, Malba, Bay Terrace, and Floral Park and contains over 770 acres of parkland. Houses with neat front yards and American flags mark the streets of Little Neck, which borders on Nassau County. Bayside's Bell Boulevard, with its small stores and tree-lined sidewalks, is one of the city's quieter commercial centers.

Most candidates agree on the main issues facing the community; the economy, education, and funding for parks and senior centers.

The state's budget woes have affected these neighborhoods. The district is feeling the sting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's recent service cuts, which eliminated two of the area's bus lines. Most candidates have expressed wariness about reductions in park services and elder care.

But the candidates' approaches to these issues differ, even among those in the same party. Forcina, the most conservative candidate on the Democratic side, supported Halloran in his run for City Council last year and has been registered as a Republican in the past.

"I'm a true Blue Dog Democrat," he said. He said his conservative views better represent the voters of northeast Queens than "extreme progressive views [that] are out of touch with the voters of this neighborhood."

Elio Forcina
Elio Forcina

With budget negotiations still fresh in the minds of many New Yorkers, and with lawmakers anticipating a similar budget gap next year, every candidate had something to say about government spending. Republican Tabone accused the state legislature of spending "like drunken sailors."

"We're the second most affluent community in New York City. ...We pay more taxes and get fewer services," he said, adding that the state's spending has created a huge obstacles to closing the budget gap. Innovation is needed to identify new revenue streams, he said.

Some of the Democrats agree. Braunstein said the state needs to show spending discipline before it raises taxes, and, on his website, Forcina charged that "Manhattan tax-and-spend progressives have buried our state in a huge financial hole."

Braunstein, Tabone and Forcina agreed that ferreting out Medicaid and Medicare fraud would provide the state with much-needed income. Behar, Duane and Tabone all said consolidating and restructuring state agencies could help save funds. Duane also proposed decreasing the payroll tax, saying that it would stimulate local economies by encouraging small businesses to hire more workers.

Vincent Tabone
Vincent Tabone

Reform has become the catchphrase of campaigns for the state legislature this summer -- and the 26th Assembly District is no exception. Virtually every candidate in the district, Republican and Democrat, has made legislative reform a centerpiece of his campaign, each claiming that he can bring Albany the new blood it needs to emerge from chronic dysfunction.

Almost every candidate said he backed campaign finance reform, saying that the state should implement a system of matching funds similar to the city's in order to reduce the sway of special interests over lawmakers. Behar and Duane also said they would advocate for nonpartisan redistricting.

Testing the Schools

Issues surrounding education also loom large. Candidates and local leaders say that the district's high-performing schools are both a blessing and a curse in the fraught landscape of New York City education.

Steve Behar
Steve Behar

Bayside's high schools received relatively high grades on the annual school report cards issued by the Department of Education, making them an attractive option for students from neighboring districts, whose local options may not be as stellar. This, along with school closings in other parts of the city, has caused severe overcrowding in district schools, some of which have been forced to accommodate the overflow by installing extra classrooms in trailers.

"All the students from these closed schools are coming to northeast Queens because we have the best schools in the city," Braunstein said, adding that the education department should focus on improving failing schools rather than closing them. Tabone, Behar and Duane echoed his concerns.

Behar proposed opening an additional high school to accommodate burgeoning student bodies, citing one school -- Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside -- that has over 4,000 students. Tabone is in favor of tuition tax credits for families that send their children to private and parochial schools. This, he said, would provide the “material pressure” needed to alleviate public school overcrowding.

Most of the candidates, with the exception of Forcina, reject the idea of opening charter schools in the area, expressing concern about placing charter schools and traditional public schools in the same building -- a common move by the Bloomberg administration -- and the possible diversion of funds from traditional public schools.

Campaign Calculus

The results of this race will do little to change the balance of power in the Assembly. The body has long been dominated by Democrats, who currently hold a more than two-to-one edge in the chamber. Republicans, though, could pick up bragging rights and continue their modest advances that began in the 2009 City Council elections, when they picked up two seats.

"If not here, then not anywhere," said Iannece of the Republican chances of winning the district Assembly seat.

Paul Eilenberg, manager of Deepdale Gardens Community Pool in Little Neck, disagreed. "Most people that I know of here are staunch Democrats," he said. The pool is owned by the cooperative housing development Deepdale Gardens, in an area that Eilenberg said has "a long history of Democratic politics" but which, he added, may not be representative of the district as a whole.

Don Galiano, a Republican who owns a limousine company, said that Democratic catering to unions had hurt his small business. "Most small business owners feel the same way I do, and many of them are Democrats," he said. "They won't vote Democrat this time."

The 26th district also is home to a burgeoning Korean community whose voters, according to Eilenberg, tend to cross party lines.

However they vote this time around, the varying views -- and the hotly contested primaries -- will keep candidates vying for support in this district well after many other contests in the city have been decided.

Charter Commission Approves Ballot Proposals


Voters will get their chance to opine on term limits -- but little else of similar magnitude -- this fall after the city Charter Revision Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to put a two-term limit proposal on the ballot.

If it is approved by the voters in November, the proposal would grandfather current elected officials into the three term limit and not affect anyone elected to their first term until after 2013. The commission was split on the time frame, voting 9 to 6.

The commission also approved a ballot proposal to prohibit the City Council from revising the term limit law to affect incumbents. If approved, the measure would prohibit the council from approving a term limit extension similar to what it controversially did in 2008.

Should the voters reject the term limit question, the three-term limit for all elected officials would remain.

Though term limits made it on the ballot, scores of other issues were bypassed by the 15-member body, whose members are all appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Among them was a proposal for nonpartisan elections -- a pet issue of the mayor's, which sparked heated rallies and rigorous debate across the city.

The commission also took rain checks on issues related to land use, the role of the borough presidents and the public advocate as well as independent budgeting for some of the city's oversight agencies.

In the end, only seven issues will appear on the ballot this November in addition to term limits, including a proposal to require the disclosure of independent expenditures made on behalf of candidates and a measure that would halve the amount of signatures needed to get on the ballot. The exact number of questions voters will get has not been determined. The commission will meet later this month to approve the exact wording and number.

When empanelled in March, the commission was given the broad task of examining every nook and cranny of the city's constitution. While members of the commission say they did not have enough time to thoroughly examine some of the byzantine areas of the government's structure, critics expressed disappointment that the body couldn't have done more with less.

A Job Well Done?

Despite some dissatisfaction with the course the commission took, Chairman Matthew Goldstein called the final set of proposals a job well done.

"We have been empanelled for less than six months. What we have done in that six months is unprecedented," said Goldstein. "Given what we have accomplished this far, I am very pleased."

From the get-go, Goldstein cautioned that the commission had only six months to digest, examine and determine what to put to the voters this fall. Given the time frame, complex issues, like whether to reform the city's complicated land use process or do away with the public advocate, were shelved.

Critics said yesterday the commission could have made the time.

"By excluding forward thinking proposals from the ballot -- from overhauling the city's approach to long-term planning to rethinking the Department of Buildings with an Office of Inspection, to bolstering independence for elected and oversight agencies with independent budgets -- the members of the Charter Revision Commission are missing a historic opportunity to restore confidence and interest in government among generations of New Yorkers," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in a prepared statement.

Up until this week, the commission was still contemplating putting a proposal on the ballot for nonpartisan elections. Given the uphill political battle it faced, Bloomberg declined to push for the measure at the commission, effectively making it moot.

That too disappointed observers.

"An opportunity to put before the voters some bold proposals on city government has failed to be seized with the nettlesome issue of term limits taking up a large part of the appetite for revision," said Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, the sister organization to Gotham Gazette's publisher and a staunch supporter of nonpartisan elections.

What's In and Out

By far the most deliberated proposal the commission approved last night was to grandfather 32 council members, the comptroller, public advocate and two borough presidents into the three-term limit law should the voters revert back to two terms. The commission also considered applying the limit immediately and to apply it to those elected for the first time in 2009.

Both of those proposals were narrowly defeated.

All of the other proposals to appear on the ballot were approved unanimously.

Voters will face myriad issues come fall -- from government integrity and transparency to voter participation. On independent expenditures, the voters will have to decide whether to force those spending more than $1,000 to disclose their spending to the Campaign Finance Board.

In the ballot box, voters will be faced with whether to consolidate the Campaign Finance Board and the Voter Assistance Commission. They will have to determine whether during the siting of waste or energy facilities a map used during the deliberative land use process would factor in similar private, state or federal facilities. The measure is aimed at increasing transparency when determining where to put these controversial facilities.

They will also be asked whether fines for conflicts of interest violations should be upped from $10,000 to $25,000, among other proposals.

Next Steps

Immediately after sending proposals to the ballot, the commission disbands. Should the mayor want to revisit these untouched larger issues, he would have to appoint another commission.

When asked yesterday whether Bloomberg would move to empanel another charter commission after November, the mayor's office said he has not publicly taken a position yet.

"It appeared obvious that at least the mayor had a prime objective and that was to get term limits out of the commission and before the voters," said Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College. "The question then becomes does the mayor fulfill his promise to have this more broadly investigated by reconstituting or reappointing a charter commission after the voters vote in November."

Should the mayor make that choice, Goldstein would not guarantee he would stick around. Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, said last night he has a lot on his plate already.

Term Limits Could Throw Out Council Members

Term Limit
Photo (cc)

When City Council members Sara Gonzalez, Darlene Mealy and Jimmy Vacca voted to extend term limits nearly two years ago, they may not have expected to miss out on the opportunity to serve 12 years at City Hall.

But as the city Charter Revision Commission mulls what type of term limit proposal to put on the ballot this November, members who joined the council after 2002 could end up stripped of their shot at three full terms.

The commission has not decided what type of term limit proposal it will send to voters this fall, let alone whether it will apply to the current council. At a meeting in Lower Manhattan Monday, several members of the 15-member commission voiced support for a return to the two-term limit instead of the current three.

Should voters approve it, the question becomes whether 32 sitting council members will be sent packing after a potential term two. For 13 of them, that means their current term could be their last.

"Two terms immediately affecting everybody, that's what I would like to see the answer on," said charter Commissioner Tony Cassino.

From Three to Two

It comes as no surprise to some council members that the two-term proposal appears to be the favorite at the commission.

"I'm shocked. I'm so surprised that the Charter Revision Commission that everybody believed [would] is actually going to come back with two terms," said Councilmember Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island. "That's with tongue planted firmly in cheek."

Nonetheless, Charter Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein cautioned on Monday not to jump to conclusions. He said all proposals are still under consideration.

In a preliminary report released last week, the charter commission staff recommended the commission examine several term limit proposals, including two terms for all elected officials and another that gives two terms to the mayor, public advocate and comptroller and three to the council. Despite expert testimony earlier this summer that a three term limit for the council could help balance power at City Hall, the idea has not picked up a lot of steam among charter commissioners.

"We're nitpicking really," said Charter Commissioner Hope Cohen at this week's meeting. "Really, the people that care are elected officials."

Should the commission go with two terms, council members hope they would hold the current occupants of City Hall harmless.

"If there are changes, they should be prospectively done so that you do not have council members that are similarly situated serving different terms," said Councilmember Dan Garodnick , who is currently in his second term.

Some of the 13 members serving their second term bring up the issue of "fairness," regardless of how they cast their vote on the extension.

"I don’t see how you can treat some members differently than others," said Councilmember Letitia James, who is serving her second full term and staunchly opposed the term limit extension. "But I'll defer to the voters."

Just before the 2008 vote on term limits, Council Speaker Christine Quinn promised the 16 members serving their first term that they would be grandfathered in to any change in the term limit law by a charter commission. She called it a "technical matter" then.

Six of them voted to approve a third term and were then re-elected to their second term. (In addition to Gonzalez, Vacca and Mealy, Inez Dickens, Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Thomas White voted for the term limit extension.)

The speaker's office doesn't appear worried that it will have to renege on its promise.

"There is still a considerable way to go in this process," said the Quinn's spokesperson Maria Alvarado in an e-mailed statement. "Right now all that has been presented is a preliminary staff report and recommendations. We look forward to receiving the commission’s final recommendations with actual language and details."

Two years after the extension, the speaker will have a whole other block of council members to deal with who want the opportunity to get a third term too: the 14 members who took office this year.

"I think it's unfair what the mayor did period and now that he got what he wanted he doesn’t care about anyone else," said Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who started his first term in January. "I would be very upset if I was elected on one belief and one rule structure and that rule structure is just changed."

Another Round of Suits

Should the two-term proposal end up on the ballot this fall and be approved by voters, some officials question whether it could legally force out the current class of legislators.

"Do I think it could be done legally?" said Randy Mastro, an attorney who argued the case against the term limits extension. "Yes."

One council member said members would consider challenging it in court, claiming it violates equal protection rights. Mastro said that would be a difficult argument to make, considering 15 of those members were elected under a two-term limit and the other 17 members of the freshman class knew the term limit question would be revisited.

If the argument against the two-term limit held, charter Commissioner Cassino said, the rules would never change.

"I don’t think someone is entitled to say, 'Because he got the extra term I should,'" said Cassino. "When does that end? I think it ends when the people decide it ends."

Other commissioners have sided with the council. Commissioner Carlo Scissura, the chief of staff for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, said if voters approve a change to term limits it should take effect in 2013.

"I wouldn't want some members to have three and some to have two," he said.

Ultimately, the final decision will be up to the voters. According to a poll from Quinnipiac University in May, 57 percent of voters say officials should be limited to two terms, while 16 percent say three terms. About 5 percent said four terms and 19 percent would do away with term limits.

Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: New York Left Hits Wall in Primaries, Points to Reasons for Optimism
New York Left Hits Wall in Primaries, Points to Reasons for Optimism
Gotham Gazette: Rethinking Economic Development in the Post-Covid World
Rethinking Economic Development in the Post-Covid World
Gotham Gazette: The Forgotten History of Latino Politics in New York
The Forgotten History of Latino Politics in New York
Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast Max Politics Podcast