2012-04-05 / A Hometown View From Albany

A Hometown View From Albany

Senate Dems Realize Every Vote Counts
By Marc Gronich
Capital Bureau Chief

Although final tallies are not completed, top Senate Democrats are reeling over the upset numbers garnered, to date, by Republican David Storobin over Democrat Lew Fidler. Going into court proceedings as of press time, Storobin has a one vote lead. Recent victories in the district by candidates at all levels of government should have given Fidler’s team pause to campaign harder, one top strategist told the Canarsie Courier.

“One lesson we took away from this past campaign is to respond more quickly to the false negative charges the other side is throwing out and don’t be afraid to point out the differences between the candidates,” Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria, Queens) said. “This was a dirty race coming from the other side but I think Lew Fidler emerged with his head held high. It is clear that, despite the registration, it is a district that votes very conservatively and, even though they are enrolled Democrats, they are not afraid to vote for a Republican.”

Gianaris, who heads the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, is licking his wounds and looking to the future.

“It is clear which side was more aggressive in spreading the negativity but look, what’s done is done. My hats are off to them for coming close.”

Despite being optimistic that the election will turn in Fidler’s favor by the courts, Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson said, “The fact that we’re 50/50 at this point … I think we did very well considering how this district has been trending over the past five years. We’re 50/50 in that district as opposed to everyone else who was losing 60/40.”

Critics analyzing the campaign assert that Democratic strategists advising the Fidler campaign and the campaign manager’s team should have taken some cues from the recent Congressional race.

“There are several factors that play in this particular district. Of course, the Orthodox and Hassidic community, which is ultra-conservative and while they may register as Democratic, they tend to be more conservative in their politics,” said Senator Diane Savino (D–Staten Island-Bensonhurst-Coney Island). “There were certain issues that became front and center in this race, gay marriage being one of them. We knew this because of what happened in the Bob Turner-David Weprin race (for Congress). Some of this district overlapped with that particular race. So, one would think that if you were planning to run a race in this district that you might have taken that into consideration to figure out how to guarantee that you were going to be able to address some of the outstanding issues that came up in the Weprin- Turner race and not make the same mistake twice. Apparently that didn’t happen.”

Savino also criticizes the Fidler campaign for embracing a formula campaign that was not tailored to this race specifically.

“When you run a cookie-cutter campaign and you don’t pay attention or have a rationale for why you need another Democrat in the Senate, you run the risk that you’re going to lose. The campaign plan was obviously flawed from the very top down,” Savino added.

The Democrats are apparently in need of some soul-searching after this race – win or lose.

“We used to rattle off the talking points of how we were going to be different” said Savino. “We were going to do independent redistricting. Well, we didn’t. We were going to do campaign finance reform. Well, we didn’t. We were going to do progressive taxation. We didn’t. We were going to do marriage equality and GENDA. We didn’t. It’s very frustrating because many of those things we claimed would happen when we took the majority didn’t, and in fact they happened under a Republican majority. It hurts your ability to raise money. It hurts your ability to convince progressives that there is a difference and that’s something they’re going to have to struggle with and do some soulsearching.”

This election has sent shockwaves through the Democratic caucus. Many Democrats are urging Sampson and the Senate Democratic Conference leadership to develop a strategy and messaging for this year’s election cycle.

“Maybe when they figure that out they’ll be in better shape, but right now we’re seeing the results of that inability to have a moment of selfreflection to acknowledge the mistakes when we were in the majority and to develop a rationale as to why we need a Democratic majority in the New York State Senate,” said Savino, a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference.

Recent elections that have been this close elsewhere in the state have taken as many as four months to officially decide with the winner coming out with less than a 20 vote margin. If this holds true with the Fidler- Storobin race, a Senator for the 27th District may not be seated until July. Petitions begin circulating in June for candidates to get on the ballot in November. With the legislative session ending in June, it is conceivable that with court challenges and appeals, whoever wins this race may not actually sit in the Senate chamber to cast a vote. Observers on both sides don’t expect that will occur, but the four month delay in declaring a winner has happened on more than one occasion in recent years.

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