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Ken Diamondstone Doing the Nasty

Candiddate Ken Diamondstone

State Senator Connor in press conference with Assembly Speaker Silver (r.) and Councilmember Gerson (l.)
by Yori Yanover

One of the advantages of having a strong political machine in a neighborhood is that, sooner or later, things get done and most people are more or less happy with their services. New York City neighborhoods have functioned this way for centuries, reflecting the voters’ desire for things larger than even democracy: Stability and prosperity.

Every once in a while, as ethnic makeups have changed, the machines showed the cracks of resistance to the march of progress, and were punished for that by the voter. The last time our local Democrats were trounced in this kind of public way was when Margarita Lopez defeated the club’s candidate for city council. But the folks at the Harry S. Truman club are not stupid and not tyrannical by nature, which is why they’ve compromised really quickly and adapted to the changes. The relative peace in the system today between the dominant groups – Hispanic, Chinese, and Jewish – attests to the machine’s fundamental wisdom.

It’s not a great system, it’s not a system much loved by most people, it’s definitely not what James Madison imagined as the American system of government, but it’s better than many others in providing government services to the largest possible group of citizens.

Another big advantage of our system of limited change and continuous governance has been the fact that our political campaigns are usually free from mudslinging. Personal attacks are rare, and when public officials return from the primaries – where the vote is decided in this city, way before the November formalities – they have an easy time getting back to cooperative work.

But this summer, Brooklyn Community Board 2 member, housing developer Ken Diamondstone has been seeking the New York State Senate’s 25th District seat, occupied by former minority leader Senator Martin Connor. And the style of Diamondstone’s campaign has been nothing short of nasty.

Two points the candidate is pushing, in many mailings to local voters, are the Senator’s objection to the City’s stringent smoking ban and his support for the repeal of the commuter tax in 2000.

The tragic thing for Connor is that, a few weeks ago, the New York Times endorsed Diamondstone, and from the endorsement it’s clear that the NYT is targeting Connor to take the fall for the machine for which he stands. More than supporting Diamonstone, they were giddy at the chance to give it to Connor, who "has long been the go-to man for politicians who want to get pesky challengers off the ballot."

Connor has wielded the hatchet for Rosie Mendez last year, during the campaign for the 2nd Council District seat. He tried it again on his own behalf, challenging Diamondstone’s voter signatures, and lost the bid.

Sure, the local machine has been winning elections unopposed for years, by slaying opponents in the court room, but are we sure that’s such a bad thing? Do we really want candidates who don’t have their act together to the point where they can’t control their campaign workers, who bring in fabricated lists rife with suspicious entries?

Still, the Times thinks it knows better what’s good for the democratic system, and since Martin Connor has had considerable success representing machine campaigns against half baked challengers – the Times wants his behind.

The Connor campaign is on the attack now, bombarding local voters with glossy endorsements by practically the entire Democratic delegation from this area to Albany and to City Hall. Local races cannot afford polling, so no one knows what the stats are for the two candidates. We did, however, approach Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last Friday, regarding the commuter tax repeal.

“The commuter tax was going to expire four months after it was repealed,” recalled Silver. “So the issue was to repeal it in September or let it expire in December. There was a mayor of the City of New York (Giuliani) who was running then for the US senate, who didn’t speak up against the repeal of the tax, so nobody was interested in it. The city had billions of dollars in excess money and the mayor and the Council Speaker, Vallone, were talking about a whole host of tax reductions.”

In response to the Diamondstone attack, Silver said, “I think it’s totally unfair. It’s a desperate candidate saying desperate things.

We’re still waiting for a response from the Diamondstone campaign.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Passing the buck on the commuter tax is a lame excuse and a failure in leadership-- "it was Giuliani's fault, not mine." Connor voted for repeal and attempted to justify it as Senate Democratic Leader by saying it would help a Democratic candidate for Senate in a Special Election in Rockland County. Guess what? The Democrat lost!

Eventually, his colleagues in the Democratic conference voted him out as Leader. This year, even the Working Families Party, which almost aways supports Democratic incumbents, is supporting Ken Diamondstein against him. Even the New York Times, which often supports long-entrenched incumbents, is supporting Diamondstein.

Could the handwriting be on the wall?

9/06/2006 5:55 PM  

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