Here in Manhattan, we have by my count 31 local elective offices (not counting judgeships) -- three citywide offices (Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate), 6 State Senators, 12 State Assemblymen, and 10 City Councilmen. Every single one of those offices is currently held by a Democrat. The Republicans did famously hold the Mayor's office for 20 years from 1994 to 2013, but the last time a Republican held any of the 28 legislative offices covering any part of Manhattan was back in 2002. As that year began, the Republicans had one State Senator (Roy Goodman) and one Assemblyman (John Ravitz), both from the Upper East Side. In early 2002 Goodman resigned to take a job with the new Bloomberg administration, as NYC liaison to the UN. Ravitz ran for Goodman's Senate seat in a special election, but lost. And then Ravitz did not run in the fall for his Assembly seat, which also then went to a Democrat.
It's not just that the Republicans don't hold any seats, but in nearly all of the districts they aren't even remotely competitive. In my own districts for City Council, State Assembly and State Senate, in most elections the Republicans don't even put up a candidate. This year the Republicans do seem to have put up candidates for both my State Senate and Assembly districts, but I haven't seen either of their names mentioned a single time in the press, with the election only a few weeks away. On the other hand, in my Assembly district there is a candidate from something called the "Progressive" party challenging the long-time Democratic incumbent from the left, and he is getting a lot of mention in the local press. It's highly likely that he'll get more votes than the Republican.
Am I the only one who finds it odd that, here in the richest county in the country (measured by per capita income), the so-called "party of the rich" has almost vanished? Instead, we overwhelmingly vote for the "party of government" year after year, to tax ourselves at the highest levels in the country, supposedly to address the critical issues of poverty, public education and healthcare. And what do we have to show for it? A poverty rate higher than that of the country as a whole, dysfunctional union-dominated public education that costs about twice the national average per student for worse results, and a Medicaid system that for an expense double the national average per beneficiary gets no better health results. How could it even be possible that the very richest county in the country, that spends well more than any place else on "anti-poverty" efforts, actually has a poverty rate higher than the national average? (National "poverty" rate is 15.8% for 2013 according to American Community Survey report released in September; Manhattan rate is 17.8% according to ACS 2006-10 data.) You would think that if voters ever held their politicians accountable for anything, our all-Democrat pols would get voted out en masse immediately. But hey, this is Manhattan.
Of the 18 state legislative races up this year on our island, probably the best shot for the Republicans to win one is the 76th Assembly district on the Upper East Side, an area overlapping the one-time turf of Goodman and Ravitz. The Democrats have nominated a mostly experience-free cypher named Rebecca Seawright, who is running a mostly contentless stealth campaign, the most notable feature of which is her close association with the public employee unions. The basic idea seems to be, nobody around here votes for Republicans, so I'm a shoo-in. She was not the choice of party insiders, but rather won a four-way primary, which may well have occurred because nobody had heard of any of them and she was the only woman in the race against three men. Her bio includes some time as a staffer to a state legislator in Texas in the 80s, followed by attending CUNY Law School in the early 90s, and a stint of all of 14-months in the Manhattan DA's office. Since then, she claims to have been a "counselor to small business owners and entrepreneurs" -- I guess that means that she has done some part-time legal work as a solo practitioner out of her apartment. The law practice does not appear to be substantial enough to justify having a web site, or at least, not one that I can find using Google.
The Republicans have actually found a candidate of real substance to vie for the seat. Named David Garland, he has an MBA from Wharton, served in the Commerce Department under George H.W. Bush, then at the World Bank, and more recently has been a consultant with Deloitte Consulting in New York and Tokyo. He is also a serial candidate, having run (unsuccessfully, obviously) for the State Senate in 2012 and the City Council in 2013. He got 30% of the vote in the Senate race and 33% in the City Council race, which are actually impressive numbers for a Manhattan Republican.
Needless to say, Garland has tried to get Seawright to engage in debates, and she won't have any part of it. Her reluctance to debate appears to spring not just from the natural reluctance of the favorite to give time to the long-shot, but also from her own total ignorance of the issues. Before the September primary, local cable station NY1 hosted a televised debate among the candidates in which Seawright participated. Her then Democratic rival David Menegon, who was apparently on to her cluelessness, tried to get her in trouble with her union backers by asking her a question she wouldn't understand, namely, whether she would support making New York a "right to work" state. The New York Observer reported the humorous result on August 23:
“I think [New York] should be a ‘right to work’ state and I would totally support that,” Ms. Seawright said in a response to a question from rival David Menegon.
Thinking she must not have heard the question right, the moderator, Errol Louis, sought to give her a chance to right her ship, without success:
Errol Louis, the host of the debate on NY1, pressed Ms. Seawright to explain her position. “I think it helps the economic base of the city and I think that the unions backing me would agree,” Ms. Seawright replied.
Did I mention that Ms. Seawright's other claim to fame is backing by essentially all the unions: teachers, police, NYSPEF, SEIU, CWA, and of course their handmaiden the WFP? So there is no chance that she would actually support a "right to work" law if she knew what it is. But don't worry, her union friends are not concerned that she doesn't know what a "right to work" law is. She'll vote the way they tell her when the time comes.
As the union favorite, Ms. Seawright espouses exactly the "solutions" to our problems that the unions back: always more money to keep failing by doing exactly the same thing more expensively. For example, when Sybile Penhirin of DNA Info asked her in August to name the district's "biggest issue," she took the occasion to seek more money for the schools:
We need more middle school seats in the UES, additional resources to support our teachers, and we need to fight for smaller-size classes in public schools.
You wonder, does she even know that New York already spends nearly double the national average per student on K-12 education, and that school spending nearly doubled in the twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg? If that didn't work, why will the next wad of dough do any good?
Garland? His big issues are more charter schools and freeing the schools from lock-step union control. And reducing the regulatory burden on small business.
Oh, and did I mention that Ms. Seawright backs the Official Manhattan Contrarian "worst possible public policy," namely "affordable housing" in Manhattan? Of course.
Garland may actually have a shot here. But you can't generally go wrong underestimating the Manhattan voter. Upper East Siders: You are the ones paying for the failing unionized public services that the Seawrights of the world protect against reform. Do any of you understand what is going on?