May 30, 2008

Tompkins County Dems state committee endorsements, more

The Tompkins County Democratic Committee met last night for endorsements. Committee members unanimously endorsed Congressmen Mike Arcuri and Maurice Hinchey for re-election.

The rest of the meeting was much more complicated. In particular, the committee also had endorsements for the State Committee. This was why I'd asked about the State Committee on The Albany Project earlier, and I can't say the discussion last night gave me any additional sense that the State Committee does, well, much.

Both incumbents had challengers who were looking for more openness and more change from the State Committee. Challenger Ann Sullivan even did that simple thing that happens too rarely in New York State politics - she looked beyond the state boundaries to see what other state committees were doing. She found a much more active web presence in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, for instance, and not a whole lot going on at the New York Dems site. I mean, heck, can you imagine seeing this on the New York Committee's site?

The June meeting of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee is one month away -- have you signed up yet? Come on Friday, June 6, for the trainings and workshops, and make sure buy tickets to the dinner Friday night -- you're never going to believe who the keynote speakers is...more on that later. To find out about trainings and scheduling, just read more

Wow - active outreach? Remarkable!

Probably the most shocking thing, though, was that both Ann and incumbent Peter Stein described the state party's process in similarly bleak terms. Peter did make clear that things had improved somewhat since he arrived twenty years ago, but he certainly described today's party as opaque.

It's not unusual for Tompkins County to be a little out of the mainstream in New York State politics - we were the only county to vote for Obama - but last night made it painfully clear that our incumbents are already pushing the boundaries of what the State Committee can deal with. Lori Gardner is the chair of the Reform Caucus, and Peter has been pushing for process changes pretty much since his arrival.

In the end, the committee endorsed Peter pretty handily, and Lori by a much closer margin. Voting was by secret ballot, with proxies voted. The committee learned a lot more, not much of it enticing, about the State Committee, and it raised a lot of new questions for me about what kinds of reform might be possible in New York State Democratic politics.

There's one other important thing I'd like to note about this. Without Ann Sullivan and Robert Chapman actually mounting a challenge, we wouldn't have had these conversations. We have state committee reports occasionally, but this was apparently the first time in a much longer time than I've been there that the county committee really dug into what this means.

The county committee also endorsed Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton for re-election. I wish I'd recorded former Assemblyman Marty Luster's endorsement speech for some heavy-duty fact-checking on his telling of the garbage truck trainwreck story, but the vote was almost unanimous, except for the same person who'd voted against her last time: me.

This time I actually spoke about it, and perhaps I won't be alone next time. I did get some good questions afterward. What I said was:

I recognize that opposing the endorsement of a candidate when there is no one else running is an unpopular thing to do, by its very nature.

I think, however, that there are times when it is necessary.

This district is not a district where business as usual is a popular campaign theme.

This district needs a representative who sees it as their job to bring our perspectives to Albany, rather than represent Albany to us, as is convenient to the Assembly's leadership.

This district needs a representative who recognizes not only that voting machine choices can disenfranchise users, but that the creative manipulation of legislative district lines can do far more damage.

This district needs a representative who recognizes that the relative silence of voters on state issues reflects grudging acknowledgment of a badly rigged system, not cheerful pleasure in the status quo.

We need more challenges to incumbent state legislators across this state, in both parties.

By voting against endorsing Barbara Lifton, I hope to make it clear that there is support in Tompkins County for those kinds of necessary and invigorating challenges within our Democratic Party. I encourage you to join me, now or in the future.

We'll see where this conversation leads to in that future - I clearly didn't win a lot of votes last night.

We also heard from the Issues Committee, which is revising the platform, and from our Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, which has been working with Town and Ward committees to develop plans for broadening the committee's membership.

[Cross-posted at The Albany Project.]

Posted by simon at May 30, 2008 8:33 AM in ,
Note on photos