New York GOP Poised For A Comeback?

It’s been an abysmal political climate for New York Republicans over the past few years but things may finally be about to turn around for the GOP.  The timing could not be better as legislative redistricting looms after this November’s elections and the outcome of a few State Senate races will have national implications.  New York Republicans have suffered numerous electoral defeats over the past four years, even in parts of the state that had reliably supported Republican candidates. In the 2006 election they lost the Governor’s mansion, failed to defeat Alan Hevesi, the scandal plagued incumbent in the State Comptroller’s race, and lost seats at both the congressional and state legislative level.  Things got worse for the party in the 2008 election as they lost control of the State Senate for the first time since 1966.  Finally in 2009, Republicans lost two congressional special elections that they had initially been expected to win.  After experiencing this series of electoral defeats the party was down to holding just two out of the 29 Congressional seats from New York.

New York’s Elections Will Impact the Entire Nation:
If this tale of woe was not bad enough, the future was looking even worse because the GOP was facing the threat of actual extinction in New York. With legislative redistricting set to take place after the 2010 elections, New York Republicans would almost certainly see Democrats redraw the congressional and state legislative districts to eliminate the remaining Republican congressional representatives and ensure that the GOP would not pose a competitive threat in the State Senate for years to come.  The looming redistricting process in New York will have national implications as well.  New York is a crucial battleground in the national Republicans efforts to take back Congress this fall because there are eight battleground house seats in New York.  No matter how many house seats Republicans manage to pick up in New York this fall, all could be lost if Democrats control all of the State government because they will simply redistrict out these new Republican members of Congress.

Things Start to Turn Around for the NY GOP:
Things were not looking too bright in the Empire State for Republicans. As Eliot Spitzer would say, Democrats were about to steamroll their way towards permanent majority status in New York.  But timing is everything and beset by a series of political missteps, scandal and ethical problems, New York’s Democratic party may very well provide Republicans with an opening for a comeback during a very toxic political climate. In fact, things began to turn around for Republicans in New York last fall as they managed to defeat two incumbent Democrat County Executives, in the New York City suburbs, in races that no one expected them to win.

With control of all the levers of power at the state Capitol, there seemed to be no obstacles between the Democrats and permanent majority status in New York, no obstacles that is unless you count the Democrats themselves.  Since taking full control of State Government in 2009 the Democrats have arguably made New York:

1) A Less Affordable Place for Families to Live and A More Expensive Place for   
   Businesses to Operate:
    – Democrats voted to impose the MTA Payroll tax on New York businesses, charities and
      schools, sparking outcry and prompting schools, businesses and towns to sue for its repeal 

  • One estimate pegs the permanent price tag of this tax at $1.8 billion on 12 downstate counties

    – Democrats voted to end the STAR property tax rebate, making it more expensive for
       homeowners to live in New York
    – Democrats voted to raise billions of dollars in taxes and fees, requiring New York families to
       pay thousands of dollars in additional taxes and fees 

2) An Easier Place for Drug Dealers to Avoid Prison:
    – Democrats voted to amend New York’s drug laws to allow so-called petty drug dealers to
       avoid jail time and receive drug treatment instead 

  • Prosecutors contend that the law change has allowed major drug dealers to avoid jail instead  

    – Democrats are so committed to lessening the criminal penalty for drug dealers that the five         Democrats running for Attorney General are fighting over who is the biggest   Drug Law “reformer”

3) More Dysfunctional:
    – One Democrat, who was arrested in the past for allegedly attacking a news photographer,
       erupted during a State Senate Committee hearing and called his Republican colleagues
       racists (see the video)
    – Democrat New York State Comptroller pleaded guilty to felony charges of defrauding the
    – Another Democrat has been investigated by the Federal Government
    – The leader of the Senate Democrats shared confidential bidding information with the lobbyist
       for one of the bidders for the rights to run slot machines at the aqueduct race track
    – Democratic Congressman Eric Massa and his ethical problems

New Republican Leaders:
All of these issues make a compelling case for Republican candidates in New York to persuade voters to elect for them in November, but the state party needs strong candidates to take this message to the people. There are four candidates in particular who have caught my attention and appear to be  in a good position to carry a message of reform through November.  The first two candidates, Lee Zeldin and Harry Wilson are young and virtually new to the political scene.  Lee is running against a Democratic incumbent in the State Senate, which is one of the crucial battles that Republicans are waging to retake control of the chamber and prevent the Democrats from running them out of existence in the upcoming round of redistricting.  Harry Wilson is running against the unelected Democrat State Comptroller.

Lee Zeldin is an army veteran who returned home to New York after being deployed to Iraq.  Lee has focused his campaign on the need for promoting job growth, protecting small businesses from excessive government taxes and intrusive government regulation and reining in runaway property taxes that are making it difficult for families to afford to live in New York.  He is running for office because he believes that America is a wonderful place full of opportunity for anyone who seeks it out.  Zeldin is facing a freshman incumbent Democrat who is in a particularly weak position entering this fall’s election because of his party line votes to support an unpopular payroll tax on businesses, schools and non-profits.

Harry Wilson is running for State Comptroller with a platform focused on restoring fiscal discipline to the state and reforming New York’s pension system.  Harry has extensive experience in the financial industry and has promised to use the Comptroller’s power to audit government spending to reign in Albany’s runaway budgets, which have which have increased more than $10 billion since 2008 and will likely increase again this year by another $5 billion.(this years estimated $135.7 billion budget is over 100 days late and there is no resolution in sight).  Wilson is facing an unelected incumbent in the State Comptroller’s race who may be especially vulnerable this year.

New York Republicans also have two more experienced candidates who are seeking new offices in November.  Dan Donovan is the first Republican District Attorney in New York City in decades and Jack Quinn is a popular young Assemblyman from western New York.  Both of these candidates bring a great amount of energy to their races.   

Dan Donovan is the District Attorney for Staten Island in New York City and he is running for New York Attorney General to help fix the dysfunction and corruption that has overtaken State Government.  Dan wants to use the Attorney General’s office to fight the political corruption that has become pervasive in Albany.  Donovan is an experienced prosecutor who promises to put the people’s interest first, which is something that is sorely needed in Albany.

Jack Quinn is a State Assemblyman who is running to replace a three decade Democratic incumbent in the New York State Senate.  Quinn has been a persistent fighter for a smaller state government, government ethics reform and economic development for western new york.  

These four candidates offer the New York Republican party with the opportunity to revive itself and also provide the State with new leadership that will focus on making New York government accountable to the people it’s supposed to serve instead of the special interests who have come to control it. For the sake of the state and the nation, let’s hope so.