NY-Gov: More Trouble For Suozzi

When I first learned that the Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, was entertaining the idea of challenging Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York, I thought he was probably just trying to make waves to raise his profile. And then I learned that Ken Langone, a billionaire Republican financier with a serious grudge against Spitzer, was one of Suozzi's main cheerleaders. I hoped Suozzi wouldn't take the bait.

Unfortunately, Suozzi did take the bait, officially announcing his candidacy last week. Even more unfortunately, Sen. Chuck Schumer -- another beneficiary of Republican Langone's largesse -- decided to throw his weight behind Suozzi, as well. In researching Langone's financial support of Schumer, it struck me that he'd also supported William Weld, then the Governor of Massachusetts challenging John Kerry for his Senate seat. This is notable as Weld has since moved to New York and is pursuing the Republican nomination for the governorship of that state. It's an eyebrow raiser, to say the least.

But according to the New York Observer's blog, The Politicker, Langone may not be the only enemy of Spitzer's actively backing Suozzi. Nicole Brydson reports that questions are being raised about "campaign donations [Suozzi] received from individuals tied to First American Title Insurance, now under investigation by Eliot Spitzer."

Now, I should make something clear here. I am not opposed to primaries. It makes me a little uncomfortable when people view any debate within the party as a bad thing. However, in this case, I question why Suozzi's in this race. Is it really to help shape the debate? Or is he allowing himself to be used by powerful interests to bloody Spitzer for the general election? Because I think Suozzi's a promising Democrat, I can't stand the fact that I think it's the latter. Based on the evidence however, that's the impression I'm left with.

In his campaign announcement speech, Suozzi said that "New York needs an independent leader who owes nothing to the insiders and the lobbyists and answers only to you." That's great rhetoric. But when he accepts support from a fellow Democrat's most crooked enemies, it certainly doesn't seem to match the reality.

Republicans Beholden To Bush

I've often wondered where the Republican Party goes post-Bush. Can they hold their neoconservative/corporate/social conservative coalition together without one centralizing figure at the top? After eight years of Bush in the White House, I think the American electorate is going to be looking for a change. (Hey, they seem to be ready after only five.) One of the dynamics we're seeing emerging now is Bush becoming something of a punching bag for Congressional and state Republicans. Witness as one example Republican governors joining with their Democratic colleagues in  criticizing the administration on both cuts to the National Guard and the UAE ports deal.

Earlier this month, the governors signaled their displeasure with the Pentagon's new budget -- which called for a reduction in National Guard troop strength -- by sending a letter of protest. That brought a quick decision to rescind the proposed cut. But governors said they still have many questions about what the Pentagon is planning.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R), who met earlier with Rumsfeld and encouraged him to speak with all the governors at the NGA meeting, said states may not be able to respond adequately to natural disasters or terrorist attacks at home if the equipment shipped to Iraq with National Guard units is not replenished and if other Guard funding is reduced. "This is a formula for disaster," he said in an interview yesterday. ...

The port issue has drawn criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Huckabee said the governors association would take no official position but said elected officials in both parties were justified in challenging the administration, given the outcry over the agreement.

But make no mistake, no one should accept this as proof of actual independence. After all, the Republican governors still need Bush's money.

Republican governors and gubernatorial hopefuls briefly put aside worries that Bush administration stumbles could hamper their chances with voters this fall to address a more immediate concern: the need for cash to fund their races.

A swank crowd of Republican governors and supporters from corporate America and elsewhere gave President Bush a rock-star welcome as he headlined a Monday night reception that added $9.6 million to GOP campaign coffers for fall gubernatorial races.

"I thank you for your steadfast support," Bush told the audience gathered in the stately National Building Museum.

Some have wondered if the administration had been deliberately allowing Republicans further down the food chain to loudly go after Bush as needed if it suits them politically. It's not the most advanced jujitsu, but sometimes it's hard to tell with this administration where the incompetence ends and the tactics begin. I'm still not sure one way or the other, but it's telling that the Republicans are only willing to distance themselves just so much from the leader of their party.

There's more...

Another Bush Tax Hike

There are quite a few examples of how, contrary to the conventional wisdom that he's cut taxes, President Bush has effectively raised them. Here's another one for the list. The New York Times details an unexplained demand by the White House that northeastern states pony up an additional $59 million for leasing the Amtrak's Northeast Corridor tracks for local/regional use.

After failing in a three-year effort to hand over Amtrak's Washington-to-Boston tracks, and their costs, to a new federal-state consortium, the Bush administration is seeking tens of millions of dollars in extra fees from states for use of the tracks by commuter railroads.

But the states are saying they already have contracts with Amtrak that specify what they should pay, and that Washington has not explained its demand for more money.

In a Feb. 9 letter, three governors -- Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, and Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey, all Democrats -- told Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, that he had not been "open and transparent" in explaining the added charges.

As a result of their concerns and other complaints, representatives of 10 agencies, including three from the New York area, will meet with federal transportation officials here next week to discuss the charges and how they should be calculated. "The states feel their pocket is being picked," said Peter A. Peyser Jr., an aide to Mr. Rendell.

Make no mistake, this is a tax increase. Call it Bush's Commuter Tax. With transportation funds tight throughout the region, any additional cost to the states for leasing the Amtrak lines is going to be tacked on to commuters' ticket prices. And more expensive transit fares means less incentive to choose public transportation over driving one's own car. (So much for breaking our addiction to oil.) Long story short, the message here is that if you live in the northeast, use transit, and vote for Republicans, then you've been had.

Taking Back The States

As much as we might talk about the Presidency and various House and Senate races, the most important thing for Democrats to focus on politically is winning back seats at the local and state level. There has been a great deal of progressive policy innovation in the states, even in states the Beltway pundit class refers to as "red," which can be cited proudly by Democrats as proof that our way works better. It's much easier to convince voters around the country that you've got their best interests at heart nationally when they see that dynamic at work in their own communities. (Anyone interested in this topic should check out the awesome work that PLAN is doing.)

A story that hit the AP wires last night gave a positive reviews of Democrats' chances to make some serious gains at the state level.

Three dozen contests for governor next fall promise to shake up the nation's political map, with Republicans fighting to hold on to several critical states and the results offering clues to the bigger prize ahead -- the White House in 2008. ...

Democrats are in good position to gain states, at least on paper. Republicans need to defend more of the 36 executive mansions up for grabs -- 22 to just 14 held by the Democrats. Tough contests already are shaping up in big-population states including California, New York, Florida and Ohio, all now held by the GOP.

Open seats provide the best opportunity for a party switch and Democrats have only one to defend, while term limits or retirements mean Republicans are leaving eight seats open (New York, Florida and Ohio are among them).

In the article, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the current Chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association, predicts a small majority of "26 or 27 governorships in Democratic hands" when the dust settles in November. That sounds about right to me, with Democratic pickups either likely or very possible in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, California, and Ohio. If Democrats across the country are successful in nationalizing the 2006 election, the states that are on the fence should break our way, and the Democratic held seats should stay Democratic.

I realize that none of this is exactly news to the MyDD community. However, it's great to see an emerging narrative here -- that progressive governance in the states is a growing and important trend, with huge implications for national politics.

There's more...

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