In case you didn’t know, MYD ran and elected a number of young people to the exceptionally opaque County Committee last year. Now we’re bringing their information to you. Every month we’re sending a correspondent to the County Committee E-Board meeting to help you understand what’s going on under the covers of NY politics.
What follows is an account of the last County Committee E-Board meeting complete with their Congressional Candidates Forum during which all the candidates running for Congress in Manhattan made their case to this select group of electeds (and us).
Special thanks to our Executive Board Representative this month Michelle Stockwell, who wrote this amazing update.
Want to get involved or learn more? Email ben [at] gomyd [dot] com
Executive Board Meeting
The EB meeting started on time, with hot pizza and an audience comprised of district leaders, community organizers and a few members of MYD. Keith Wright delivered a brief summary of what to expect – no voting, speeches from congressional candidates and no press. He remarked on Gov. Patterson, expressing the opinion that the Gov. should serve out the rest of his term, and that the investigations being conducted around him should take their course. Keith also brought up the Yankees tickets controversy, stating that the discrepancies were not “that big of deal”, since Giuliani and Bloomberg had attended many games too. There was also concerns voiced about the state budget, it’s schedule and the elimination of such programs as homeless prevention and summer jobs. The meeting concluded with a call to think about the voting process for congressional endorsements and a minor, but curious, suggestion of providing district leaders with ID cards.
Reshma Saujani: 14th Congressional District
The first congressional candidate was promptly presented, Reshma Saujani, running in the 14th. She is the daughter of refugees and her speech was marked by her family’s story. Other key points included: mobilizing a mostly uninvolved South East Asian community as well as young people, remarking on NY’s disappearing middle class, and the need for change of leadership in Washington. She also remarked on campaign finance, something of a theme throughout the day’s speeches. When asked what the differences between her and the current congress rep for the 14th, Carolyn Maloney, Saujani listed her opponents votes for the Patriot Act and Iraq War, as well as her feeble defense of pro-choice policy within the new healthcare reform. Saujani was enthusiastic, but there was a general feeling of distrust from the audience, a sense that seemed to be applied to all new candidates throughout the forum that day.
Vincent Morgan: 15th Congressional District
The next candidate was Vincent Morgan, for the 15th district, currently represented by Charles Rangel. With a vow to “keep it real”, Vince shared his life experience, from being abandoned, to dropping out of high school but later getting his GED with the help of a teacher, and getting involved in the community by working with Rangel. In terms of what he had to offer, Vincent went on to assert that he would not allow lobbyist influence, would go line by line through the federal budget and seek more bank regulation. When questions were opened to the floor, there were multiple references by the candidate on the “100 pound gorilla in the room” – i.e. Mr. Rangel and his future and the need to prepare for new leadership with Morgan contending that Harlem needed to face the inevitable fact that new leadership would be necessary in the near term. By the end, one of the district leaders pointed out that its was highly presumptuous of Mr. Morgan that he assumed the future had not been discussed. Nonetheless, there were no public remarks on what exactly those discussions entailed.
Bruce Hirschfield: 12th Congressional District
Bruce Hirschfield, running for the 12th, started with a call to “change” in Washigton and predictably how we live in the best country of the world. He also brought up that he was not a career politician, but a business man. He was hoping to fight for tax relief for local business, secure federal money for infrastructure and the healthcare electronic database, and create a environment ripe for business. When the candidate opened for questions, there were some heated words from a community organizer in regards to what exactly he had done for his community. He clarified that he had provided credit education for teenagers in local schools. He was later asked about immigration, which he thinks should be tighter. He was admonished by a fiery Maria Luna on his immigration stance, as she remarked that he “knew nothing”. He was clearly not liked although he had some pragmatic ideas. The fact that he is in the mortgage business probably did not help either.
Jerrold Nadler: 8th Congressional District
Jerrold Nadler was next, displaying eloquence and control over the issues, and a stance much more progressive than much of what the party represents in Washington. He listed what he had been working on, including: the need for an additional stimulus to help job creation, respect for marriage act, the fight against the use of the state secret clause in courts during civil liberties cases, the correct usage of earmarks, a new transportation bill to a lot more funding to public transport, and getting back the funding for section 8 (among other items). He made an honest analysis on health care reform, and expressed uncertainty on whether the bill would be passed, or if the public option would be included. There was also an amusing discussion regarding a GOP proposition to display Reagan on the $50 bill in the near future. Nadler thought that historical perspective on the late president would hopefully curb this proposal and joked that he thinks it’s “against the law to deface the currency” anyway.
After Nadler, Maria Luna wanted to voice what she thought was disrespect on part of the candidates and their lack of knowledge about how their communities run, although it was unclear at who this was directed. She also remarked on the unfortunate circumstance of how the only thing you need to be a candidate these days is money and many new candidates believe they can bypass the existing organizations.
Charles Rangel: 15 Congressional District
Next was the controversial Charles Rangel for the 15th. In a rambling speech, Mr. Rangel mixed National Security, the value of the dollar, and health care reform in a mish mash of Democratic policy. He also discussed his recent “break” from chairing the Ways and Means committee, accurately validating that the ethics inquiries have been a distraction to the work trying to be done by the party and Nancy Pelosi specifically. The audience was obviously enamored, and multiple rounds of applause and a standing ovation ensued.
Carolyn Maloney: 14th Congressional District
The final speech was by Carolyn Maloney of the 14th. Like Nadler, she was able to communicate clearly and with control although there was some gratuitous back slapping between team Rangel and team Maloney. She delineated the work she has accomplished over the last years in Washington, including: credit card reform, federal funds for the 2nd avenue subway line, 9/11 victim fund, domestic partnership rights and a resolution against the treatment of gays in Uganda. Her speech was often interrupted by applause and she received two standing ovations. When asked about her stance on Iraq and the Patriot Act, brought up earlier during Saujani’s time, she was pretty masterful at not answering the question at hand, but highlighting the environment after 9/11 behind her reasoning.
In summary, and from the perspective of an MYD member, the playing field seems to be extremely difficult for new blood. The inexperience of the “new” candidates did resonate against the more fluid and confident politics represented by Maloney and Nadler specifically. It was also clear that most of audience’s confidence lay with the established contingent, the tried and tested and the politics as usual.