August 5, 2012 by SquarePegDem
When I read of state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s interest in running for mayor as a Republican, Nena’s “99 Red Balloons”played in my head.
“99 red balloons / Floating in the summer sky / Panic bells – it’s red alert.”
Red alert, indeed.
Malcolm Smith is best known for his short tenure as state Senate majority leader – when he lost his majority as his fellow Democrats Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate bolted to the GOP. That tawdry soap opera brought serious government to a halt for weeks and turned Albany into a laughingstock.
His fellow Democrats quietly deposed him when they ended the revolt.
That Malcolm Smith wants to be our 109th mayor. Nor is this his only baggage – he still faces questions over a suspicious awarding (soon cancelled) of the contract to run the Aqueduct racino, as well as over reported irregularities at certain charities.
Malcolm’s trial balloon sent some GOP leaders scrambling to shoot it down. Other mischief-makers seemed intent on trying to set off a political conflagration by suggesting that Smith is really a stalking horse for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, to take away black votes from former city Comptroller Bill Thompson.
In fact, he most likely hinted at a mayoral run simply to empty out his dirty laundry bag a year before the election. He may well have hoped to at least be taken seriously, erasing the humiliation of his Senate leadership.
We’re talking politics. Everything is calculated.
But while the candidate is wrong, Smith is on to something: There’s an opening for a fusion candidate in the 2013 race.
All the Democratic candidates have been running left – assuming that the party’s nominee will inevitably become the next mayor. Yet, as the last five mayoral elections have shown, the left isn’t the majority even in New York City.
“The last 12 years have shown that there is a route to the mayoralty outside the Democratic political clubhouse,” said a GOP insider. “It also sends a signal to conservative Democrats in the boroughs that the Republican Party is willing to talk.”
The businessmen known to be interested in the GOP nomination, Tom Allon and John Catsimatidis, seem unlikely to create that coalition. A candidate with clear minority appeal would be needed.
Yet the formula for fusion success in 2013 wouldn’t be Mike Bloomberg’s or Rudy Giuliani’s. The obvious alliance would combine Republican voters, the Orthodox Jewish bloc, outer-borough “Koch Democrats” with minority voters.
The Hasidic/Orthodox Jewish and the evangelical Christian communities are actively looking for a traditional-values standard-bearer.
Mayor Bloomberg’s halting of permits to religious groups for weekend worship services in public schools sparked a political awakening among evangelicals. They’re hardly an organized voting bloc yet, but Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Councilman Fernando Cabrera – both pastors – believe that evangelicals could exercise an electoral influence equal to established blocs.
You can see this current even in the Democratic race. Thompson has already sought to tack to the right on some issues, such as crime, in order to broaden his appeal. And city Comptroller John Liu was the first 2013 candidate to stand with religious groups against the Bloomberg’s ban on off-hour worship on school grounds.
In the post-Bloomberg era, outer-borough voters are looking for a mayor who will focus on good fiscal stewardship, holding down crime and gun violence and fixing our public schools – not on imposing his brand of secularism, or on effete social-engineering schemes.
Smith’s political baggage makes him the wrong messenger, but it’s not too late for a quality fusion candidate to enter the race – and let that red balloon go.
Originally published in the NY Post – Malcolm Smith & the mayoral race—Michael Benjamin – NYPOST.com.
The part of my analysis that didn’t make it into the published OpEd concerned Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an early favorite for Mayor, which I think is worth noting.
Speaker Christine Quinn has positioned herself as an ally of Mayor Bloomberg, friend of big business, soul sister to minority communities, and a happily married pie-baking newlywed. Recently, she has added happily married pie-baking newlywed. The only pieces missing are two adorable tykes and a dog.
If elected, she would be a two-time history-maker as the city’s first woman and first openly gay Mayor.
But history bets against that happening. In the last fifty years, all of the previous Council Speakers lost. The speakership is a graveyard for ambitious city council members.
To win, Quinn must grow beyond her Greenwich Village base and coterie of Council allies.
That, plus the fact that of her primary challengers are other liberal Democrats, leaves an opening for a coalition of ‘values voters.’
Citywide politics has always revolved around political alliances uniting boroughs, ethnic and religious groups, organized labor, liberals, etc. I believe that evangelical Christian voters are capable of exercising an electoral influence equal to that of other voting blocs.
For this to happen, immigrant evangelicals must become naturalized US citizens, registered to vote, and out to the polls in September 2013. More importantly, however, we must convince many pastors that political involvement will benefit their flock in the here-and-now, instead of the hereafter.
As I stated above, I do not believe that it is too late for the emergence of a candidate capable of uniting this city silent majority of values voters.
Is this a pipe dream or a reality? What do you think?