The ballots were counted and the victor determined a week ago, but that hasn’t prevented a round of strongly worded e-mail messages from popping up courtesy of Larry Moss and Arthur Schwartz, the two contenders for a Democratic State Committee seat representing Lower Manhattan in the September 12 primary election.
In an e-mail message to his former Reform Caucus colleagues on the State Committee, Moss, a gay man who had held the seat since 1990, but was defeated last week, wrote, “I am sure I would be with you but for an extraordinary disparity of resources in my re-election contest. The previous record for a State Committee race was about $30,000… my opponent spent about three times that ($80-90,000).”
He also charged that Schwartz had recycled a birthday wish from Chuck Schumer made at a party three-and-a- half years ago to make it appear as if New York’s senior senator was endorsing his challenge to Moss.
Two days later, Schwartz fired back with his own missive to the Reform Caucus members.
“Larry seems to believe that he deserved life tenure in his position,” the new committeeman wrote. “I saw Larry’s lack of connection to the community he served as both a shortcoming, and as a weakness, and believing that I could do a better job, and with a healthy baby and wife, knew that I could run a campaign that involved people.”
Schwartz, who previously served the 66th Assembly District, represented by Deborah Glick, as Democratic district leader, and faulted Moss for not spending more time with grassroots party activists in Lower Manhattan, a complaint the incumbent also faced in a 2002 challenge that he survived.
Moss has consistently maintained that the state committee post, as distinct from the district leader job, is properly focused on broader policy concerns, and as someone who led the Reform Caucus for years he pointed with particular pride to his success in steering the state party to an endorsement of marriage equality and to two resolutions opposing Bush administration policy in Iraq. The more recent of those resolutions was approved at the May state convention in Buffalo that re-nominated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been measured and equivocal in her criticism of the president’s handling of the war.
In an interview with Gay City News prior to the primary, Schwartz argued that Moss’ inattention to local party activists meant he was unable to mobilize grassroots support for his policy ideas, instead limiting himself to passing resolutions.
Identity politics played a subtle, but perhaps insidious role in the race. Moss had the support of six out gay and lesbian officials in the district—Glick, state Senator Tom Duane, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her colleague Rosie Mendez, state party Vice Chair Emily Giske, and State Committeewoman Rachel Lavine.
Glick voiced the strongest feelings about Schwartz, telling Gay City News, “He is often trying to send a subtle message that there is a difference between the concerns of the community and those of the gay community.”
Schwartz angrily dismissed that argument with a one-word response: “Hogwash.”
“I will challenge anyone to find any way in which I tried to divide the community as a whole and the gay community,” he said. “For many years I was the only straight elected official in the Village, and I had a great working relationship with everyone.”
Indeed, outside of the elected officials, Schwartz had his gay allies. The Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, where the elected officials have long held sway, were solidly with Moss, but the insurgent Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club went with Schwartz and the Stonewall Democrats of New York City supported Moss, but only after a very close vote. Karen Burstein, an out lesbian who almost won the 1994 state attorney general’s race, also supported Schwartz.
Schwartz’s e-mail this week also challenged Moss on his spending charge—leveled as well by Glick in the wake of the primary—saying, “I spent far less than 80-90,00 dollars.”
And in a clear shot at Giske—and an unmistakable sign that Schwartz’s differences with other influential Lower Manhattan Democrats have not yet reached the point of cease-fire—he wrote that he felt compelled to spend as much as he could because “a certain Vice Chair of the State Party told me that Larry’s supporters would spend $200,000 to win the race.”