Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stick with Rick, Part III

A Response to “Lazio vs. Levy” http://capitalyr.org/lazio-vs-levy_37/

I must admit surprise at the volume of Republicans who are flocking to the recently announced gubernatorial campaign of Steve Levy. I am even more surprised at the shock that some of us oppose such a nomination energetically. One of my Young Republican colleagues recently shared his thoughts, and I wanted to respond.

“…some of [Lazio’s] supporters are furious at the NYGOP establishment for allowing and in some cases encouraging primary competition from a recently converted Democrat.”

The frustration, and even anger, that you mention needs to be addressed. It is not just that certain GOP leaders are willing to allow a challenge, or even actively encouraging a challenge. What rankles many is the decision to actively recruit a Democratic office holder, and a controversial one at that, when we had credible candidates within our own party. Please remember, Steve Levy is not just a recently converted Democrat, he was still a partisan Democrat while certain GOP leaders were actively recruiting him to consider running for governor. What does that say about these specific leaders that they feel they cannot turn to their own ranks, but have to look to the opposition for candidates? In baseball terms, if a team’s executives look not to their farm system, but to their opponent’s free agents, it is an indictment of their own farm system. As a Republican, I do not want leadership of our state party that shows so little confidence in what our own organization has to offer. We have a strong candidate for governor in Rick Lazio.

“[Levy] used the f-word a whole bunch of times, and put me down as being suitably outraged. Steve Levy is definitely NOT invited to my kid’s next birthday party.”

With all due respect, you are missing the important point. It is not simply a question of Steve Levy using foul language. It points to a larger deficiency of character and leadership ability. It was not that long ago that we were all subjected to Eliot Spitzer. One of the pervasive criticisms of Spitzer was his lack of flexibility and almost crusading zeal to address issues on his terms. His remarks to former Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco about being an “f***ing steamroller” were panned not just for being crass and rude, but for revealing Spitzer’s poor executive style. He was domineering, proud and vindictive. Not exactly the kind of qualities that will help one get a plan enacted.
These are the same qualities being highlighted by the Steve Levy quotes you point to. It is not just that he chooses to use vile language. Instead, it brings to focus the similar domineering, proud and vindictive traits that Steve Levy holds. How is he going to be able to work with leaders in the Senate and Assembly to enact a plan? I doubt he will be any more success than Spitzer proved to be in his short term of office. The political atmosphere in Albany can be caustic and noxious, and there is no reason to hamstring important reform efforts by championing a messenger of those reform efforts who will only serve to alienate the legislative leaders. Rick Lazio’s temperament is better suited for our current situation in Albany. I’m sorry that you fail to see that.

“Lazio also released a handy list of the ‘Top Ten Facts about Steve Levy,’ a number of which (perhaps even as many as 2) are substantive critiques of Levy’s policy positions. Any mention of Levy’s failures during his past six years as executive of one of the largest counties in the state is deftly deferred for another time, so as to sharpen the focus on the critical period of 7 or 8 years ago when Levy apparently toed the Democrat line during his term in the Assembly.”

Focusing on Steve Levy’s record while serving in the assembly is vitally important. While there are bound to be some overlap between county issues and statewide issues, what is most illuminating about a candidate is his track record on New York State issues. It is easy for Steve Levy to write a plan to appeal to the conservative base of the party and the Tea Party activists and the post-Scott Brown momentum. But how credible is a candidate’s plan when that same candidate has a proven track record of voting for the vested special interests in Albany and taking their money in the form of campaign contributions? (See Facts #1 and #6) Similarly, President Obama campaigned on talking points of bi-partisanship and post-partisanship, but his proven record in both the Illinois legislature and the United States Senate spoke to something very different. I would ask, which is the more convincing?
In contrast, Rick Lazio’s record as a Suffolk County legislator and as a congressman is completely consistent with his plans for taking on special interests while in the governor’s mansion.

“If Steve Levy becomes the nominee of the party, it will be a simple matter to turn the narrative from ‘traitor to his party’ to ‘true to his principles, rather than a label’- and the Republican party can benefit by treating his party switch as an opportunity to advertise to other fiscally conservative Democrats that they may have a home in the Republican party.”

It is debatable that Steve Levy’s nomination will draw larger numbers of conservative Democrats to our ranks than Rick Lazio’s nomination or election. And it will not be so easy to change the 'opportunistic' narrative for a larger audiance of voters if Levy cannot even convince Republican activists like myself that he is being true to his principles and not just positioning himself to ride a political tide this autumn.
But while we are talking about outreach, what I think is beyond debate is the effect Steve Levy’s nomination will have on the growing Hispanic and Latino electorate in New York State. One of the things our party has identified as important, is to make sure the GOP is inclusive and welcoming to all voters. (See the Report of the New York Republican Strategic Planning Commission, p.49-53. http://www.nysyr.us/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/NYRSPC_Report_Final_5-09.pdf) Given Steve Levy’s history of making inflammatory and insensitive comments, he will actually do more harm than good to our electoral prospects. To reform New York State, we need to be able to sell our vision of government retrenchment and fiscal conservative restraint to all sorts of different constituencies this fall. Rick Lazio can do that – his opponent, with his years of baggage, cannot.


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