Primary Election Day—Our Picks

Tuesday, September 12 is Primary Election Day in New York State. The highest profile races—for the U.S. Senate, for governor, and for state attorney general—look perhaps to be runaways, in the primary and maybe even in the November general election. Still, in a political era when incumbency is often king, a surprising number of seats in Congress, the state Senate, and the Assembly are up for grabs.

As a community, we must recognize that we have entered a political endgame in which we need to engage the democratic process. The state Court of Appeals has rejected our claims for a constitutional right to marriage equality, so we have to play ball in the state Legislature. Everyone in Albany will be asking our leaders there just how many divisions they have behind them.

So even if politics isn’t sexy—it is crucial in our lives. Get out and vote Tuesday.

The United States Senate

There is no doubt that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win re-election this November. And like her husband, even at her most maddeningly cautious, she stands on the right side of many, many issues important to building a better society.

At the same time, Clinton is a billion-dollar franchise and she knows it. Too often, her constituents get from her only what she is damned ready to tell them and give them. This year, she has chosen not to give us a debate on some of the most fundamental issues facing our society.

JONATHAN TASINI is a maverick from the word go, a freelance journalist who worked hard to build a labor movement among his fragmented peers. That effort included a successful fight at his parent union, the United Auto Workers, for a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy that put our issues on the table in labor negotiations.

On a shoestring campaign, Tasini has raised critical questions—most prominently about this nation’s disastrous policy in Iraq. Not incidentally, he is also a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Clinton has ducked fair dialogue on where she stands on the most pressing foreign policy question facing the nation. Just because she can get away with it does not make it the right thing to do. Clinton has also bobbed and weaved this year on gay rights. Activists have pressed her on her opposition to gay marriage—and come away disappointed that did not even speak out on the dignity of gay families on the Senate floor when Congress debated the ugly Marriage Protection Amendment.

For more than a year, Greater Voices, the coalition representing LGBT Democratic clubs in New York, has negotiated in good faith with Clinton’s office to set up a meeting. As early as February, the senator’s office said they welcomed—and expected—to sit down with gay Democrats in an election year.

The primary is five days away and that meeting has not happened.

Hillary Rodham Clinton needs a wake-up call. Help Jonathan Tasini place that call.

New York State Governor

Eliot Spitzer will surely be the governor of the Empire State, barring something wholly unforeseen today.

In one very important respect, that is terrific news for the LGBT community. Spitzer will become the first governor in the United States to be elected on a platform of marriage equality. That is an extraordinary step, one that will surely contribute immeasurably to combating the political stigma that still attaches to marriage equality.

But Eliot Spitzer must know that we will keep a laser eye on his progress and his willingness to expend political capital on our behalf.

Separate from the marriage issue, however, there are policies Spitzer has championed that concern us. During his 1998 campaign for attorney general, he was willing to demagogue the issue of mandatory HIV testing for newborn babies, despite the opposition of AIDS advocates focused instead on reaching pregnant mothers in need of testing through voluntary suasion. The evidence demonstrates that mother-to-infant HIV transmission showed its most impressive declines prior to the law’s implementation.

In other situations, Spitzer has also looked favorably on solutions that have emotional appeal to the detriment of both the best medical advice and civil liberties. He has voiced receptiveness to a controversial proposal ending the state’s requirement that patients give written consent before being tested for HIV. And he endorses mandatory testing of rape suspects, which will provide no conclusive relief for a victim and divert her attention from the more pressing need for immediate prophylactic treatment.

Combined with the would-be governor’s call for restoring the death penalty, these issues suggest that civil liberties and public health may well be fault lines that divide New York Democrats even at their moment of triumph.

New York State Attorney General

This year’s Democratic Party race for attorney general has come down to three candidates, each of whom brings much to the table.

Andrew Cuomo, ahead all year in the polls, won praise in a very hard job—as housing secretary in the Clinton administration. He also was a key adviser to his father when Mario Cuomo was governor, and has worked in recent years against the death penalty and to advance drug law reform

Mark Green is at his best as an advocate—he has fought tobacco companies who marketed to children and pharmaceutical giants who price-gouged patients living with AIDS. He has consistently been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community.

SEAN PATRICK MALONEY is a political newcomer with a diverse résumé in law, business, and public service. He worked in the Clinton White House as staff secretary, overseeing a large staff and, more importantly, the flow of concise and crucial information to the president. His service dovetailed with the Clinton presidency’s impeachment crisis. Maloney clearly is a clutch player.

Maloney has run as an openly gay man, with a longtime partner, and three children they are raising. His campaign has focused on addressing the corruption and cronyism that cripples Albany. Maloney’s appeal to voters has been free of rancor and negative attacks, and has instead focused on his ideas and his passion.

His insistence that he would do the job demanded of him as attorney general—even if it meant, as it did with Eliot Spitzer, that he defend the state’s marriage law against same-sex plaintiffs—was surely not designed as a crowd pleaser, but Maloney makes a compelling case that it is the only intellectually consistent posture he can justify.

We frankly disagree with his stance that the death penalty should be revived in New York for certain extreme cases. Maloney acknowledges that such laws have historically discriminated against people of color, the poor, and the unpopular, but he believes that the state should reserve the right to put certain convicted murderers, such as terrorists, to death. We see no deterrent value in such a law nor any way it could be crafted to avoid the social justice pitfalls of every other such effort. We hope that Maloney will re-think his position on this critical issue.

Among Maloney’s opponents, Cuomo early on won the stamp of establishment approval and has worked assiduously to avoid scrutiny or public debate in this important race. Voters deserve better, and so do Democrats hoping to find the candidate best able to take on former Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro in November. Green once again, as in 2001, is his own worst enemy. When he should be talking about his vision, he is tearing down the likely nominee of his party.

Sean Patrick Maloney offers a model of personal excellence and intellectual rigor that should make the LGBT community proud. He deserves our support.

Other Races

In the hotly contested state Senate race to serve Lower Manhattan and portions of Brooklyn, KEN DIAMONDSTONE is an openly gay candidate who has earned substantial credentials as a community activist who knows public policy and will work to reform the process to achieve better results for the public. The incumbent, Martin Connor, is a strong supporter of the LGBT community, but as the political debate about reforming Albany heats up, it is hard to see how a 28-year veteran who held a key leadership post only to lose it due to widespread dissatisfaction with his vigor and his vision can become the agent of change.

We support Diamondstone’s bid for office.

In a State Committee race in the 66th Assembly District, we believe that LARRY MOSS, the incumbent who has been a key player in the reform caucus, has worked to advance important progressive goals, particularly on marriage equality and the Iraq War. Arthur Schwartz, an able community activist, offers no compelling rationale for changing horses. Moss’ status as one of the few openly gay members of the 450-person State Committee coupled with his undeniable dedication to the work argue compellingly for his re-election.

Endorsements that LGBT political groups in the city have made in this year’s key races follow on page 15.