Branding themselves “the new Democrats,” leaders of the state’s largest party kicked off their 2010 campaign Tuesday at the Rye Hilton in Westchester, hoping to move past four years of scandal and turmoil and maintain control of Albany.
At the top of the ticket, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is running unopposed for his party’s nomination to succeed Gov. David Paterson, who is not seeking re-election. On Wednesday Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy was designated the party's choice for lieutenant governor. The primary to succeed Cuomo is the only real drama in the party this year, with five candidates running for attorney general.
In a rare move, all five candidates, who ordinarily must win 25 percent of delegates’ votes to qualify for the primary, were approved for the primary with no designee selected. The move may be an effort to ensure high turnout for the election. The candidates are Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Manhattan State Sen. Eric Schneiderman, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, former state insurance superintendent Eric Dinallo and former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey.
The five-way contest stands to help Rice the most, says political consultant George Arzt. "Ultimately, it will prevent a fight, and it will benefit Kathleen Rice," said Arzt. "One woman against four men is always good odds."
Both of New York’s senators are up for re-election this year. In the special election for junior senator, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who succeeded Hillary Clinton last year, faces a longshot challenge for the party’s nomination from Gail Goode, a lawyer in New York City’s Tort Unit. In an interview, Goode said, “New Yorkers want a primary and believe they should have a primary. New Yorkers should have a choice. She was appointed by a governor that was not elected."
Asked about the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, Goode said, “I understand how Israel feels that Obama has not treated them fairly and that is beyond my pay grade, but I have been a consistent supporter of Israel and I have not wavered on that.”
In a pre-convention reception, the leader of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s New York region announced that the group will attempt to influence the Jewish vote in local legislative races this year to ensure that the party holds onto the majority in both houses.
“Our long-time goal has always been for NJDC to focus on federal Senate and House seats, and we will continue to do that,” said executive director Marcia Dickstein-Sudolsky. “However this year we will be developing our state relationships and focusing on two or three significant races where we can make a difference in getting out the Jewish vote, focusing on concerns and values of the Jewish community and having a seat at the table.”
Dickstein-Sudolsky said the Council had yet to finalize which races would be the focus of that effort, but she said the group would only back Democratic nominees, not get involved in primary races.
The state Republican Committee will hold its convention next week in Manhattan, with a contentious race for the gubernatorial nomination between former Suffolk congressman Rick Lazio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Rochester businessman Carl Paladino.
In an interview, the state Democratic chairman, Jay Jacobs, said he was confident that recent strong support for statewide Republican candidates by traditionally Democratic Jewish voters would not be a factor this year.
“I’m hopeful that we can inspire Jewish Americans to come back to the Democratic Party in full force this year,” said Jacobs. “Folks have to take a look at the broader agenda, and it’s a progressive agenda. The rich culture of Jewish Americans, particularly in the New York area, have always favored that progressive agenda.”
Jacobs said the "New Democrats" theme represents "a new commitment to getting things done, so that when a new administration takes over in January we will see both action and results."
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