You Can’t Complain About Albany If You Don’t Vote Tomorrow

The primary election is Tuesday, with a number of State Senate and Assembly seats up for grabs. Meanwhile, upstart Democrat Zephyr Teachout is, at the very least, seriously getting on Andrew Cuomo’s nerves.

Several important races for State Senate and Assembly will be decided in tomorrow's primary. Photo: Brad Aaron
Several important races for State Senate and Assembly will be decided in tomorrow’s primary. Photo: Brad Aaron

Many races will be decided tomorrow. In some, incumbents are facing off against big name challengers. In others, political newcomers are vying for rare open seats — which they might hold for decades if history is a guide. StreetsPAC has endorsed candidates in several races (see here and here). Here’s a brief rundown of some contests to watch.

Senate District 31, Manhattan: Robert Jackson vs. incumbent Adriano Espaillat. Jackson voted for congestion pricing while on the City Council. More recently, he celebrated the demise of the original plan for Select Bus Service on 125th Street. Espaillat backed pricing but opposed tolls on East River and Harlem River bridges, even in the face of massive MTA service cuts. However, Espaillat told StreetsPAC he supports the Sam Schwartz Move NY toll reform plan (which does not call for tolls on Harlem River crossings). Jackson was termed-out of the City Council in 2013; Espaillat has emerged this year as a champion of safer streets and better bus service, which helped earn him a StreetsPAC endorsement.

Senate District 11, Queens: John Liu vs. incumbent Tony Avella. It’s safe to say neither of these candidates has a great record on livable streets issues. As a council member Liu half-heartedly voted for congestion pricing, but opposed bridge toll reform. Liu harped for years on the mythical MTA “two sets of books,” and he held up the Bicycle Access Bill when he chaired the council transportation committee. Liu has said bike lanes don’t belong in Brooklyn and Queens, and was a vocal skeptic of pedestrian plazas and bike-share safety. However, he is also the only politician we know of who has called for more NYPD crash investigators. Avella opposed a citywide default 20 mph speed limit, but voted for the 25 mph bill that ultimately became law. Avella is a vocal critic of the Move NY toll reform plan, he opposed congestion pricing, and pledged to fire Janette Sadik-Khan when he ran for mayor. On other transportation issues, he’s recently taken more progressive stances, telling StreetsPAC, which endorsed him, that he wants better bus service in his district, “real Bus Rapid Transit” on Northern Boulevard and other major streets, and would like to do away with Albany’s arbitrary and counterproductive time and day restrictions on NYC speed cameras.

Other Senate and Assembly primaries include:

  • Assembly District 51, Brooklyn: Ceasar Zuniga vs. incumbent Felix Ortiz.
  • Assembly District 52, Brooklyn: Doug Biviano, Pete Sikora, and Jo Anne Simon are vying to replace Joan Millman.
  • Assembly District 60, Brooklyn: Former City Council Member Charles Barron runs for his wife’s former seat against anti-poverty activist Christopher Banks.
  • Senate District 19, Brooklyn: Sean K. Henry, Dell Smitherman, and Elias J. Weir hope to unseat John Sampson, who is under federal indictment.
  • Senate District 34, the Bronx: Former City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell is taking on incumbent and Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein.

Finally, Governor Cuomo’s record on transportation is well known to Streetsblog readers. For her part, Teachout says funds for transit as well as roads should not be diverted for other uses.

The polls open at 6:00 a.m.

  • BBnet3000

    Non party-affiliated voters can’t complain about Albany?

    Unfortunately I don’t get to vote on a ballot full of people running unopposed until November.

  • Bolwerk

    A lot of people who would like vote tomorrow can’t because of this state’s fuguckered primary registration rules. Teachout’s campaign didn’t really take off until after party registration was closed.

  • thfs

    Millman is not term limited, she left to take a job with the City.

  • Brad Aaron

    The headline is not meant to be taken seriously. Believe me.

  • Brad Aaron

    Of course. Fixed. Thanks.

  • “Liu harped for years on the mythical MTA “two sets of books…”

    I wouldn’t be so keen on using the past tense. He’s still going on about it like a broken record.

  • ADN

    Don’t be a fool. If you live in NYC and you want to cast meaningful votes for elected office you have to be signed up as a Democrat.

  • BBnet3000

    Yeah, you cant vote in a party’s primary in the year you join the party.

    Why else do people join a party but to vote in the primary?

  • Bolwerk

    Could be true, but it’s rather hard for some people to to violate their conscience and join a party they don’t agree with.

    Granted, the Democrats, as a party, effectively only believe whatever they think will win them votes, but the club still attracts some pretty odious people. I seriously wonder how many people would stomach them if the GOP weren’t so many orders of magnitude more despotic and authoritarian.

  • BubbaJoe123

    End this party primary silliness, and shift to the CA model. First round (in September): all the candidates run together. Top two candidates square off in November.

  • Bolwerk

    Do they use the Condorcet method?

    Ideally, I’d rather just eliminate this whole vote-for-a-candidate thing. We have parties, let’s just vote for them and get proportional representation. Voila, no primaries, no complicated election cycles.

  • dporpentine

    And that is the particular hell in which I find myself: I only changed my registration six months ago. So obviously my fanciful, blown-by-the-wind decision means I have to be locked out of primary voting until 2015.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Condorcet, while neat in theory, gets so incredibly convoluted in practice that it’s really not doable for anything large-scale. There’s an argument for instant-runoff, though, although, again, gets pretty darn complex to explain.

  • Kevin Love

    Which gives a heck of a lot of power to the party leaders who control the party lists. Particularly who is on top of the list and certain to get in vs. who is way down the list and unlikely to ever get elected.

  • Bolwerk

    I never had the urge to create a Willy Wonka meme before. “TELL ME MORE ABOUT HOW THAT’S SO DIFFERENT THAN WE HAVE NOW!”

    Yes, it’s still a problem. But it, in theory, allows people to vote against parties that injure them. In the USA, it takes helluva rage against a party to result in actually throwing it out of power since people often still effectively like their own representative, even if they don’t like the behavior of the majority party. It’s the majority party that wields the actual legislative power, and there is no way to directly vote against it.

    Meanwhile, nothing actually prevents a primary in a partisan voting system.

  • Bolwerk

    Yeah, I’m pretty skeptical about things that require more time investment for voters. Time is often what kills it for people, especially struggling working people.

    We see this a lot in NYC with the community boards. The complainers have time to show up, but the people who would benefit are working, taking care of their kids, stuck on transit, etc.. When I see bad transportation results from a community board, I imagine some suckered voter stuck on a bus unable to get home from work in time while people who don’t know or care about his plight are deciding that his bus can’t have dedicated lanes.

  • Kevin Love

    How that’s so different that we have now? Right now, if the party leaders don’t like someone but the people do, the people can vote in their candidate.

    But in a party list situation, if the party leaders don’t like someone, they simply put him at the bottom of the party list with the other sacrificial lambs who will only be elected if the party gets 100% of the seats.

  • BBnet3000

    While anyone can speak at Community Boards, don’t even rhetorically say that “voters” have anything to do with it. They arent elected, and theyre older, richer, and whiter than the actual city population, and they drive everywhere.

  • Bolwerk

    I still don’t see a big difference, and there are plenty of treatments that fix the problem. The party can still nominate its members democratically, just like in a primary. There can be seniority rules, either de jure or bylaws. There can be laws about regional balance.

    The key point is the people can opt not to vote for a party if they don’t its actions, or the people it nominates. I’m actually rather surprised you’re against this idea. What do you think is done in the European countries you’re always parading as examples of democratic values? :-p

  • Bolwerk

    I wasn’t saying they’re elected, but they are intended to allow the voting public to interface with electeds. Electeds, in turn, are partisan hacks who pick their own lapdogs for the boards (*NUDGE @disqus_ggY8CnVn5H:disqus*).

    I’m just saying something like that requires a big a time investment on the part of participants and that is actually damaging because it excludes people who don’t have the time. Why do we have professional leaders if they won’t lead?

  • Capitol Dee

    *Headline only applies to Dembocrapts.

  • Daphna

    ADN is right. Who wins in the Democratic Primary in NYC is who will win in the general election most of the time since this city has 6 to 1 registered Democrats to Republicans. If you want to shape who the elected officials are for NYC, you have to be a registered Democrat; and that is worth doing whether that is normally the party you would register with or not.

  • Bolwerk

    I realize that is so in practice, but party affiliation is a matter of conscience. It’s simply not right to admonish people for refusing to join a private club they don’t agree with.

    I personally would hold my nose, but I respect that some people can’t.

  • J_12

    The big difference that you fail to see is that a party vote allows for significantly less choice than a candidate level voting system. Right now, I can already vote the straight party line if I choose to, but I can also split the ticket and vote for a republican mayor, and democrat assembly member, and a green party judge. Under the party system, I can only do the first.

    Furthermore, a party voting system would remove whatever small influence is carried by third parties and independents. Unless a party can field a candidate for every position on the ballot, they would not be on the ballot.

  • Bolwerk

    You get one vote per office, and effectively two parties to choose from. If the candidate you vote for loses, you literally get zero representation. AFAIK the USA is probably the only major western country with virtually impotent third parties, I guess because of game theory dynamics of our electoral system. We have the worst of both possible words: less choice and less say.

    There are ways to reform candidate systems to offer more choice, like instant run-offs and the Condorcet method mentioned above. They probably still offer both less choice and less potential for third parties, but at least they are in principle non-partisan (I actually like that last feature).

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