Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why I Stand With Senator Sanders

It's currently being suggested that the "compromise" between President Obama and the GOP is a good deal.  The mainstream media, which of course is owned by incredibly monied interests with a huge stake in this deal, has all weekend been trumpeting a brief appearance by former President Clinton in support of this "compromise."  This is the same mainstream media which ignored a much longer appearance by a much more heroic figure which captured the hearts and minds of this nation via internet streaming and social networking sites.

By now, you must have heard of The Bernie Sanders Filibuster.  Yes, I know, it wasn't a real filibuster because it wasn't actually blocking a vote.  But what it was was a super-human, super-progressive display of endurance and speaking truth to power.  At over eight and a half hours, it was not only the truth, but it was the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Senator Sanders stood on the floor on the Senate and kept going, explaining why this "compromise" is a very bad deal.

He explained why the tax cut extensions were bad, why the free trade deals are bad, why the reduction in estate taxes are bad, why everything that you and I know are bad are bad.  Essentially, it was the progressive platform that any progressive should be in agreement with 100% and should be getting behind 100%.

Because Senator Sanders said it so well, I'm compelled to simply let Bernie speak for himself.  Up here, you may view the beginning of the speech in video form.  Below the fold, I'll simply snip the best of the best from the transcript as it was entered into the Congressional Record, all 124 pages of it.  But before that, let me tell you how I heard this was happening and how I experienced the speech myself.

It was Friday, and I did not get a call to work that day as a driver helper for UPS.  I was just finishing my first week back to work in nearly two years.  So around noon-time I picked up my first paycheck in two, proud to see that I was finally contributing state and federal payroll taxes again, and decided to hop over to my father's to get my laundry done in preparation for another week of work.  Naturally, I was trolling about the internet, checking my Facebook page and the news sites.  Suddenly, I was altered that Senator Sanders, who I heard speak on a conference call with Democracy for America earlier in the week, had been filibustering the tax "compromise" deal for the past four hours.  I found the feed on C-SPAN2 and was instantly captivated.  Any progressive should have been.  I then headed over to my fathers, and had him and his fiancee (a Vermont constituent of Sen. Sanders) turn the feed on as well. 

I tell you now: sharing that event with my struggling family meant far more to any of us than when we watched the Democratic convention in 2008, or the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.  We were finally seeing a representative doing their job the way it was meant to be done, not just speaking in political platitudes to win an election or rise his standings in the polls.  We saw a Senator just telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  By the time Senator Sanders got to the point of reading letters from his constituents telling how they are freezing because heat oil is too high and having to choose between groceries for their children and gasoline to drive to and from work, there were tears in our eyes.  The same tears that nearly well up in a strange concoction of anger and sadness now that I hear some of my progressive friends proclaiming that, somehow, this is a "good deal."

Here's the beginnig of the speech from YouTube.  Below the fold, excerpts from the speech's transcript as it appears in the Congressional Record.  Watch it; read it; then ask yourself if you stand with the GOP and Obama...or with Senator Bernie Sanders.

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

All emphasis added is my own.  The excerpts are in chronological order.  All I ask if you wish to comment is that you don't address my own words in the introduction; do you best to argue with Senator Sanders' words, and see if you can do better.

But here we are today with a $13.8 trillion national debt, a $1.4 trillion deficit, and almost all Americans are in agreement that this is a very serious issue. So the first point I would make is that it seems to me to be unconscionable--unconscionable--for my conservative friends and for everybody else in this country to be driving up this already too high national debt by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don't need it, and in a number of cases they don't even want it.

We have been told not to worry too much because the extension of these tax breaks for the wealthy will only last 2 years--not to worry. Maybe that is the case. But given the political reality I have seen in Washington, my guess is that 2 years from now these tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country will be extended again. What happens around here is that the argument will be made that if you end these tax breaks you are raising taxes. That is what we are hearing right now. I see no reason why, in the middle of a Presidential election, those arguments will not be made again and I see no reason not to believe that those tax breaks will be extended again.

This agreement between the President and the Republican leadership also calls for a continuation of the Bush era 15-percent tax rate on capital gains and dividends, meaning that those people who make their living off their investments will continue to pay a substantially lower tax rate than firemen, teachers, nurses, carpenters, and virtually all the other working people of this country. I do not think that is fair. That is wrong.

Here is the important point I think many people do not know. I have to confess my Republican friends and their pollsters and their language people have done a very good job. This is the so-called death tax. I think all over America people say this is terrible. I have $50,000 in the bank and I want to leave that to my kids and the Government is going to take 55 percent of that, 35 percent of that. What an outrage.

Let us be very clear: This tax applies only--only--to the top three-tenths of 1 percent of American families; 99.7 percent of American families will not pay one nickel in an estate tax. This is not a tax on the rich, this is a tax on the very, very, very rich.

The above quotations are all available in the YouTube video above the fold, in case any of you are unable to access it.  From here on out, it's part of the 8 hours and twenty minutes that Senator Sanders continued speaking, continued fighting, continued to tell the truth.

On the Social Security payroll tax "holiday:"

What the President and others are saying is not to worry because that money will be covered by the general fund. That is a very bad and dangerous precedent. Up until now, what Social Security has been about is 100 percent funding from payroll contributions, not from the general tax base. Once again, this is a 1-year program. The loss of revenue going into Social Security can be covered by the general fund. But we have a $13 trillion national debt. How much longer will the general fund put money into Social Security? Is it a good idea for the general fund to be doing that?

I would argue this is not a good idea.

Even though Social Security contributed nothing to the current economic crisis, it has been bartered in a deal that provides deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy. Diverting $120 billion in Social Security contributions for a so-called ``tax holiday'' may sound like a good deal for workers now, but it's bad business for the program that a majority of middle-class seniors will rely upon in the future.

On better things to spend the money on:

Economists on both ends of the political spectrum believe that if we are serious about addressing the horrendous economic crisis we are in now, 9.8 percent unemployment, there are far more effective ways of creating the jobs we have to create than those tax proposals. With corporate America already sitting on close to $2 trillion cash on hand, it is not that our friends in corporate America don't have any money, we have to help them. They have $2 trillion cash on hand. The problem is not in my view that corporate taxes are too high; it is that the middle class simply doesn't have the money to purchase the goods and products that make our economy go and create jobs.
I think if our goal is to create the millions and millions of jobs we need, and if our goal is to make our country stronger internationally in a very tough global economy, I would much prefer, and I think most economists would agree with me that a better way to do that, to create the millions of jobs we have to create, is to invest heavily in our infrastructure.

On the myth of this being a compromise:

But here is the point I want to make. Some people say this is a compromise. Well, the Republicans gave on unemployment; the President gave on extending tax breaks for the rich, et cetera. But here is the point. I do not believe, honestly, that the Republican support now for extending unemployment benefits constitutes much of a compromise because the truth is, for the past 40 years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, under the leadership in the Senate and the House of Democrats or Republicans, it has been bipartisan policy that whenever the unemployment rate has been above 7.2 percent, unemployment insurance has always been extended. So what we have had is longstanding, bipartisan policy. That is what we have always done. That is what we should be doing in the future. I do not regard Republicans now supporting what their party has always supported, extending unemployment benefits when unemployment becomes very high--I do not see that as a compromise. I see that as what has been going on in this country and in the Senate for four decades.

On why the precendent this "compromise" sets is terrible:

I think what we will be seeing is--if this proposal negotiated between the President and the Republicans is passed, what you will be seeing within a few months are folks coming on the floor of the Senate, and this is what they will say: You know what. The deficit is high. The national debt is too high. And, yes--oh, yes--we drove the national debt up by giving tax breaks to millionaires. That is the way it goes. But we are going to have to deal with our national debt.

The Republicans will tell you: Oh, we have a great plan to deal with it. We are giving tax breaks to millionaires. But now what we are going to have to do is start making deep cuts in Social Security, and that deficit reduction commission started paving the way for that, very substantial cuts in Social Security.
:: I would suggest their argument is that we have a high deficit and a high national debt; that if we pass this agreement and the national debt goes higher, it only gives them more impetus to go forward to cut programs that benefit working families and the middle class.

Let me also say there is no doubt in my mind what many--not all but many--of my Republican colleagues want to do; that is, they want to move this country back into the 1920s when essentially we had an economic and political system which was controlled by big money interests; where working people and the middle class had no programs to sustain them when things got bad, when they got old, and when they got sick; when labor unions were very hard to come by because of antiworker legislation. That is what they want. They do not believe in things like the Environmental Protection Agency. They do not believe in things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal aid to education. That is the fight we will be waging.
I think to surrender on this issue is to simply say we are going to be waging fight after fight, starting within a couple of months.

On why we, the people, shouldn't be calling this "a good deal":

This fight is not going to be won inside the beltway in a Senate debate. It is going to be won when the American people stand and say: Wait a second. We cannot continue to give tax breaks to people who are doing phenomenally well right now. We cannot give tax breaks to the rich when we already have the most unequal distribution of income of any major country on Earth. The top 1 percent earns 23 percent of all income in America, more than the bottom 50 percent. They don't need more tax breaks to be paid for by our kids and grandchildren.

The vast majority of people are behind us on this issue.

On what's really going in America and what kind of nation we have become if this deal goes forward:

We have to look at it within the context of what is going on in the country today, both economically and politically. I think I speak for millions of Americans. There is a war going on in this country. I am not referring to the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. I am talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people against working families, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country. The billionaires of America are on the warpath. They want more and more and more. That has everything to do with this agreement reached between Republicans and the President.

While people are working harder and harder, in many cases their income is going down. The fact is, 80 percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 2005 has gone to the top 1 percent. Let me repeat that because that is an important fact. It explains why the American people are feeling as angry as they are. They are working hard, but they are not going anyplace. In some cases, in many cases, their standard of living is actually going down. Eighty percent of all income in recent years has gone to the top 1 percent. The richer people become much richer, the middle class shrinks. Millions of Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty.

That is not apparently enough for our friends at the top who have a religious ferocity in terms of greed. They need more, more. It is similar to an addiction. Fifty million is not enough. They need $100 million. One hundred million is not enough; they need 1 billion. One billion is not enough. I am not quite sure how much they need. When will it stop?

Today, in terms of wealth as opposed to income, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. When we went to school, we used to read in the textbooks about Latin America, and they used to refer to some of the countries there as ``banana republics,'' countries in which a handful of families controlled the economic and political life of the nation. I don't wish to upset the American people, but we are not all that far away from that reality today.

On where the money from this tax cut is going to go:

What happened last year, as I think most Americans know, is the Supreme Court made a very strange decision. The Supreme Court decided that corporations are people and they have the right of free speech and the right without disclosure--all of this is through the Citizens United Supreme Court decision--to put as much money as they want into campaigns all over the country. In this last campaign, that is what we saw: Billionaires, in secret, pouring money into campaigns all over the country. Does that sound like democracy to anybody in America; that we have a handful of billionaires probably dividing up the country?

One of the manifestations of that is, in fact, the agreement reached between the President and the Republican leadership. The wealthy contribute huge sums of money into campaigns. The wealthy have all kinds of lobbyists around here through corporate America. What they are going to get out of this agreement are huge tax breaks that benefit themselves. That is not what we should be supporting.

And now I see that it is quite and impossible task to do what I'm trying to do.  So I will make one final highlight while only halfway down the first of twelve pages of Senator Sanders' speech in the Congressional Record.  Conveniently, it's the only point you could possibly take away from reading any portion of his speech or looking at this deal:

We should understand this agreement is just the beginning of an assault on legislation and programs that have benefited the American people for 70 or 80 years

It's just the beginning.  So I say we kill it before it sees the light of day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NY-20: RepubliCorp to Endorse Gibson!


Massive Mutant Combination of Right-Wing Pols and Greedy CEOs to Drop Huge Checks at Dinner, Continues Eating Working American's Finances for Breakfast

There's a lot of creative progressive activists in the Capital Region, concentrated in the Saratoga MoveOn chapter, and these good folks have been instrumental in getting Scott Murphy to Congress. To help keep him there, they've devised an ingenious mock press conference where they will endorse Republican Chris Gibson in the spirit of the approaching holiday: by dressing up as corporate fat cats and highlighting how corporate interests and the Republian party have become indistinguishable.

Here's the official announcement, complete with clickable social network links for you to rsvp:

Please join us at a Press Conference where RepubliCorp will officially endorse Chris Gibson - Please sign up to attend: on also Facebook

Join Protesters posing as representatives of fictitious new merged entity—RepubliCorp—outside the Saratoga Republican Dinner, Tues. 5:30pm, at the Holiday Inn, Broadway and Circular St, Saratoga Springs.

We will stage a mock press conference and present Chris Gibson with the official RepubliCorp endorsement, to highlight how he stands for the interests of the largest multi-national corporations, and against the interests of middle-class families in New York.

The RepubliCorp theme emphasizes the close allegiance between corporate interests and their Republican allies who together plan to spend at least $400 million this election cycle to try to take back control of Congress. We will present also Gibson an -sized checks from RepubliCorp intended to reward service to corporate interests/pay for future votes. Come dressed as a CEO or Lobbyist, or dress casual & come to take photos & video.

Any questions – please call (518)583-4326.
Please pass this on to your friends & lists.

Emphasis mine - SP

Sad to say I won't be able to attend. It's going to be my first day back to work in nearly two years, so I doubt I'll be asking the boss for any time off. But I absolutley love the concept because laughter is, after, the best medicine, and the Republican/Corporate alliance is worth taking seriously enough to make a public mockery of it. This also reminds me of what Stephen Colbert and John Stewart will be doing down in Washington later this week, and tomorrow you can get even more into the spirit of Halloween.

Because at the end of the day, the thought of Chris Gibson serving in Congress is very, very scary.

Oh, and did I forget to point out that they will be doing all of this just outside the Republican's real-life fat cat dinner? MoveOn's totally punking these freeloading lobbyists and executives tomorrow! Here's hoping you can make it if you're in the area. Go show your support for Scott Murphy while having a guaranteed blast doing so.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SD-46: Breslin Debates Republican, Independent Challengers on Gay Rights

After Close Call in Primary, Breslin Will Cruise to Victory Against Lackluster Conservatives

After fending off the toughest inner-party challenge of his 14 years in the legislature, Sen. Neil Breslin faced off against his two general election challengers in what will likely be the campaign's only debate. The Republicans have nominated an army guy who is, of course, a small business man by the name of Bob Domenici. Michael Carey, a mental health reform advocate has started his own party to seek the seat after he discovered he wasn't a Republican after all.

I had meant to attend the debate, but determined that not much that was said there could affect the outcome of the race. It might have had humorous value, as have other recent major debates in New York state politics. The Times Union's headline and lead in to the story confirmed this:

Candidates talk morality

Thursday, October 21, 2010

COLONIE -- In a state in which the rising property tax burden is supposedly prodding voters toward revolt, the three candidates vying for Albany County's state Senate seat spent a lot of time Wednesday talking about morality.

Breslin will of course win the debate now that his third party opponent has proven to be an ultra-religious nut despite his good intentions. And Albany County's Democratic registration advantage is 2-1 over the Republicans, so he's had the general in the bag since winning the primary challenge mounted by Luke Martland last month.

But by surprise, this usually stomach-turning issue of religion and morality in politics lead this anti-Breslin partisan to actual decide to do the unthinkable and -pull the level- fill in the oval for Breslin this year. The candidates' discussion on the issue of same-sex marriage detailed below the fold leaves me no choice...

(Cross-Posted on The Albany Project)

The Tu Local Politics live debate tweets summarized the race as well. The debate wasn't carried live and I don't understand why. The Rent Too Damn High Show did pretty well with viewers earlier this week...

But getting back to the point. Here's the exchange from the debate that finally made me determine that I'd support Breslin for re-election in the general:

While Domenici, a South Colonie school board member and businessman, tried to keep the exchange focused on the economy and the state's fiscal woes, Carey repeatedly steered the discussion back to religion and faith -- at one point appearing to question how Breslin, as a Catholic, could be pro-choice and support same-sex marriage.

"You don't teach young children ... that it's OK to have sex with whoever you want," said Carey, 48, of Bethlehem. "It goes against the holy Scriptures and the written word of God."


All the chatter about faith prompted Breslin to remark that he "didn't expect to come to a debate on religion."

"I'm not elected to serve Catholics," said Breslin, 68, of Bethlehem, who is seeking an eighth term in the 46th state Senate District. "I'm elected to make judgments for the entire population."

Domenici, also a Catholic, said he opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds. But the retired Army lieutenant colonel called the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevents gays from serving openly the "dumbest policy."

Empahsis added - SP

I like that quote, a lot. And of all the complains one could make against Neil Breslin, lack of support on the issue of gay rights is not one of them. He's voted for civil rights for homosexuals before without any question for his entire career, and it's the one of the only truly important social issues of our time.

Too bad the independent candidate's reasoning is so out of line with American values. He might have won an election in Salem in the late 1600s, but not Albany in the early 2000s. And the Domenici is even more confusing. Let me get this straight: if you wouldn't ask your soldiers to lie about the fact that they are gay, why would you want two gay people who've made a lifelong commitment to each other to lie and say they are in a "civil union" when they are just as married to each other as you are to your wife?

My guess is that Domenici is a good guy, but he just can't say what he believes because he has to try and get Republicans to vote for him. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Carey problem is simple: he's gone to too much church. That's what I have to say about morality and politics.

So I'm going to suck it up and support the party this year. I'm a notorious ticket splitter who would otherwise never vote for somebody who've I've spent hours canvassing against. But the thought of two ignorant "morals" politicians representing me at a time when gay marriage has to be enacted (and when the Democratic majority of the Senate is in question) I have to put myself above my own convictions and do my part to make sure the Senate stays blue.

See you at the polls on November 2nd.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NY-Gov: Libs Continue the Smack Down on Crazy Carl

Redlich and Paladino Continue Battle of Wits Before Big Debate

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Is everybody excited for the big gubernatorial debate coming up on Monday? I know I am, because I have a weird affinity for third party candidates. As the Wall Street Journal observed earlier this week (ew, I hate linking to that paper) all the third-party candidates have been invited at Crazy Carl Paladino's insistence.

And probably to his detriment. His borderline insanity becoming more apparent with each passing day, he's apparently too foolish to concede defeat in the battle of wits currently being instigated by Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich. Last week, Redlich went for the jugular with this YouTube parody of Paladino's infamous encounter with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker. It was the funniest thing I've seen all season.

Could the debate on Monday be even funnier? If Paladino continues taking the bait the way he did in the Journal...

Mr. Redlich said he is "the only real choice for anyone who is toward the right of center," asserting that Mr. Paladino "has made himself difficult to vote for." (A spokesman for Mr. Paladino, Michael Caputo, said Mr. Redlich is "so busy leering at teen girls and pushing for legalized narcotics that Carl wouldn't want his vote anyway.")

...which gave Redlich the in to release this response today...

Mr. Redlich admits to reading Mr. Paladino's e-mails. However, he does not "leer" at them and more importantly, he doesn't forward them.

On the drug issue, Mr. Paladino should be among the first to recognize the problems with our current policy. It failed to prevent his own son Patrick from "struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol," as reported by the New York Times.

Mr. Paladino might want to learn that well-known saying: "People who own taxpayer-funded glass office buildings shouldn't throw stones."

...then we could have quite the LIB vs. GOP smack-down on Monday.

This is what I like about Warren Redlich. He knows how to deal with Paladino in a way Cuomo doesn't want to. Redlich's strategy appears to be to instigate Crazy Carl into even more public mudslinging, and so far it's working. The Paladino campaign is bleeding votes thanks to it's candidates lunacy, and Redlich's libertarianism is probably the most attractive alternative.

How does this help the Democratic Party? By syphoning votes away from the Paladino Party (or whatever he's calling his new for-sale party line), Redlich is giving us some extra help by making sure the Tea Party dies a quick death in New York State. If Redlich's campaign ends up leaving Carl's for-sale Tea Party line short of the 50,000 votes it needs to rear it's ugly head again, he will have done much better by us Democrats than most of us are currently giving him credit for.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. And stay tuned to see if anything like this goes down at the debate.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NY-Gov: Libertarians Make A Laughing Stock of Paladino

Libertarian Gubernatorial CandidateUses Dino-Dicker Confrontation to Hilariously Frame His Issues

Remember a few weeks ago when Carl Paladino flew off the handle in a confrontation with New York Post political guru Fred Dicker? And do you recall the observations earlier this week that it might be the Libertarian's year thanks to the alienation of 'Dino supporters as a result?

Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich has just posted what I consider to be the most hilarious political satire video of the year to take advantage of the fallout.

Just for the record, that's not really Fred Dicker in the video. Redlich confirmed that it's a fellow LP activist. But I still think this is a classy dig at Paladino.

Even more classier, Redlich did what Paladino should have done in real life by issueing a public "apology" to Mr. Dicker for the fictitious indcident:

In light of the recent confrontation between journalist Fred Dicker and Governor candidate Warren Redlich, the Redlich campaign today issued the following statement:

We regret that the incident turned ugly. "I apologize for losing my temper, and for my colorful language," Mr. Redlich said.

Honestly, I was laughing my ass off. Finally, I thought, a candidate willing to stick it to Paladino the way it should be done: with humor. Paladino is not worth taking seriously, and many of his antics, while patently offensive, are also laugh-out-loud stich-worthy.

I also like the way Redlich uses the dig to frame his two main sticking points agianst his two strongest opponents, Paladino himself and our guy, Andrew Cuomo. I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Mr. Redlich earlier this week. My main intention was to simply get face time with another Albany area attorney who might need my services as a paralegal. But he's glad enough to have a firm that's shrinking, and was even more proud to say, and I quote: "I'm the only candidate who's not full of crap."

I like how he ran with this so much, that I'm even going to give you the rest of the release below the fold; he ties the joke into some serious questions for both major party candidates.

(Cross Posted on The Albany Project)

Despite the negative nature of the moment, the Redlich campaign continues to support its statements about Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino.

Andrew Cuomo has received over $51 million in special interest contributions over the course of his political career. In this election cycle Cuomo has taken nearly 900 separate contributions of $10,000 or more. This includes a $55K contribution from a small parking lot at 318 West 37th Street in Manhattan. The parking lot is owned by West 37th Street Parking LLC, a Delaware corporation of unknown ownership. If Mr. Cuomo really wants to promote transparency in campaign finance, he should start by telling the voters of New York who's behind the parking lot.

The evidence is available at:

Meanwhile, the supposedly conservative Carl Paladino has given thousands of dollars to liberals including Al Gore, John Kerry, and David Paterson.

When the 2008 presidential primary season was heating up, when Warren Redlich was giving money to conservative Ron Paul, and when other conservatives were supporting Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, Carl Paladino gave the maximum contribution to that well-known conservative, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the health care debate was brewing, Carl Paladino gave $1000 to another well-known conservative, Chuck Schumer, five days after Schumer announced his support for "public option."

The evidence is available at:

Finally, we have the evidence that Warren Redlich is the only candidate in the Governor's race who is not full of "it".

Feel free to confirm or deny any Mr. Redlich's accusations in the comments. Personally, I was leaning towards Cuomo...but I'm now probably voting for Warren. I'm a weirdo, here: I always split my ticket. But only if it doesn't hurt my own party. I don't see Cuomo really needing my help this year. I am confident he will not noly be the next Governor, but that he will be one of the best the state has ever seen.

But I also care about the health of third parties in New York, and while I'm a Democrat I do feel that the Green and the Libertarian parties both have better stances on a few of my pet issues better than the more centrist-dominated Democratic party does. This year, I think it's Redlich who needs my help. With Paladino bleeding support from the very people apt to support Redlich as well, this could be the year that the Libertarian Party gets some clout in New York. And for me, that's a good thing.

To get the same reasoning right from Redlich's mouth, check out his candid interview earlier this week on Captiol Tonight. And then, stay tuned...I've a hunch the Redlich is going to do something this year, and the lead-up is already interesting and entertaining thanks to his good humor. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SD-46: State of the Race, 9/9 to 9/12

Final Push for Albany County State Senate Seat

Breslin Relies on Big $$ Advertising, Martland on Shoe-Leather and Big Momentum

Welcome back once again. It's been only a few days since our last update to the hottest political contest in Albany County this year. But with incumbent Senator Neil Breslin and primary challenger Luke Martland in the final push of what has become one of the most expensive primaries in the state, the news of Breslin's defense of the status quo and Martland's defiant stand against the established order continues to draw more attention.

A neat synopsis of the above-mentioned qualities of the race was presented by the local cable news channel YNN, formerly Capital News 9. For those looking for a quick wrap-up of where things stands, this is a good entry. Luke Martland gives a great interview while barnstorming the area, nicely juxtaposed against quoted text responses from a Breslin campaign spokesperson.

The rest of the story, including the Times Union' weak endorsement of Senator Breslin and continued debate over this race's relationship to Senator Pedro Espada, lies below the fold...

(Cross-Posted on The Albany Project)

Luke Martland


"Take Albany Back"

The best indicator of what's really going on in the Martland camp might not be coming from the media. They are doing good job at letting voters know a race is on this year, and have been covering Martland's campaign and Breslin's service in the Senate closer than ever before.

Still, its the tone in the most recent e-mail to supporters that tells me this is campaign that is doing better than expected against very heavy odds. It may be a longshot challenge, but you get the sense of serious momentum here:

In 2 days you will make a very important choice

For the first time in many years, voters in Albany County have a choice for State Senate. On one hand the status quo and a legacy of late budgets, ever-rising taxes, jobs fleeing the area, corruption, incompetence and dysfunction. On the other hand what I will fight for: responsible budgeting, term limits, a tax cap, and bringing jobs back to upstate. And, an end to the corruption and dysfunction that has made our State Senate an embarrassment.

As we all know, in Albany County the primary is what matters.

Updates: door to door blitz and TV ad

Over the last 7 days we continued our door to door efforts. I have walked every day, usually from 10 or 11 a.m. until the sun sets. Thank you to all the volunteers who have helped out! We will continue our door to door blitz Sunday and Monday. As always the response is fantastic and people deeply appreciate a candidate personally knocking on their door. In the last email blast I asked for support to place our second ad on TV. We received more then enough contributions, and were able to extend the ad's run. Thank you everyone.

Now it's time to bring it home. Now it's time to win

This will be a very close and important race and your vote will make a difference. Remember to vote next Tuesday. Polls are open from 12 noon to 9 p.m.

The focus on the the last-second uptick in advertising to counter the nearly 10 to 1 funding advantage Breslin has over Martland is key here. So, too, are times the projected closeness of the race as mentioned.

Yes, yes, it's an e-mail to supporters meant to drum up enthusiasm....but given the recent attention given to Breslin's lackluster performance as Senator and the jolt of energy it gave Martland's upstart campaign, I wouldn't be surprised if either candidate's internal polling was giving them the message that things are in fact looking very close.

It would explain just why Breslin has spent more on this primary campaign than any campaign he's ever run. Martland made not of this yet again in the YNN coverage, and he continues to repeat messages like this each day on the campaign trail:

Martland Accuses Incumbent Neil Breslin of Trying to Buy the September 14th primaryTimes Union says Breslin spent $184,449 in July and August

(September 9, 2010, Albany) State Senate candidate Luke Martland today accused 14-year-incumbent Neil Breslin of trying to buy the September 14th primary election by spending $184,449 between July 12 and September 3, 2010. (Times Union)

“Neil Breslin can’t run on his record so he is trying to buy the election,” said Martland who has campaigned door to door for 90 days to win the primary on September 14th.

“I don’t have a huge campaign war chest funded by insurance companies, lobbyists and special interests,” added Martland. “Instead, I have knocked on doors and spoken to voters everywhere in Albany County from Albany to Altamont, from Colonie to Coeymans, from Watervliet to Westerlo and every place in between."

The only thing I have to add to that is that I'm sick to death of adding the link to Breslin's fundraising contributors to remind you that all that money is coming from the likes of AIG, Morgan Stanely, Geicko, Bank of America, and all sorts of other big Wall Stree lobbying firms and political action committees. That should be old news to anyone who's been paying attention to Breslin for any period of time, and people really need to start looking this stuff up for themselves. Maybe that will happen eventually...

More recently, these two direct responses to Breslin's recent attempt to distance himself from Senate dysfunction luminaries like Pedro Espada and make claims that he's one of the good guys in the State Senate. The general Martland theme is Neil Breslin Says One Thing and Does Another:

Neil Breslin says he is a fighter for the people of Albany County –

Breslin voted to increase state taxes by $9 billion in the last two years.

Higher taxes cause suffering for middle class people, seniors and small businesses.

One in four people in Albany live in poverty according to the NYS Community Action Association. (TU March 18, 2010)

Neil Breslin voted to furlough public employees.
Health insurance premiums in Albany County went up nearly 15% in the past year according to the NYS Insurance Dept. (TU March 18, 2010)

Neil Breslin is not a fighter for the people of Albany County. He is a leader of the status quo that raises taxes harming middle class people, seniors and small business. He takes campaign contributions from insurance companies, lobbyists and special interests.

Luke Martland will fight for budget reform, to hold down taxes and state spending, create jobs and put the people of Albany County first.


Neil Breslin says he is a reformer and “has made cleaning up the Senate a top priority.”


Neil Breslin opposes term limits for legislators.

Neil Breslin refused to disclose his tax records, law firm client list and salary.

Neil Breslin voted for an ethics bill that would have protected lawyer legislators from revealing their outside income and would have prevented the creation of an independent body to oversee the Legislature.

Neil Breslin refused to return more than $125,000 in contributions from insurance companies and lobbying firms he accepted in the last 18 months while he was chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee.

If you support the status quo in the state Senate, vote for Neil Breslin.

Luke Martland supports term limits, legislative oversight and full disclosure.

If you want meaningful change, vote for Luke Martland.

These have been appearing daily in my inbox, and I wouldn't be surprised if more were to follow in the final days of the campaign. Interestingly enough, the main source the Martland campaign is using to prove Breslin is not the squeakly clean champion of the people he claims to be is the local newspaper...

Neil Breslin


"For All The Right Reasons."

...which this week gave Senator Breslin their endorsement for re-election. The Times Union editorial board on Friday presented what I consider to be one of the worst cases for returning Breslin or any incumbent to office I've ever read.

In fact, I think they've endorsed Breslin for all the wrong reasons.

Judging by the commentary on the TU's own Capitol Confidential blog, I'm clearly not alone in my assessment that this endorsement pandered to a powerful incumbent, ignoring key issues to Martland's detriment and highlighting inconesequential and previously unmentioned minor issues to count towards Breslin's favor. For crying out loud, one section of the endorsement even makes note that the paper's publish and editor sits one several boards of directors that (surprise!) recieved regular support fromthe Senator.

Read the endorsement for yourself and make up your own mind, of course, but as I read it, I wasn't surprised by the fact that the establishment rag endorsement the establishment bum. It was the weakness of the reasoning behind it that knocked me flat. I get the impression both reading responses and talking to voters that this is how the endorsement has fallen in the public's eye.

But Breslin is still trying. In the past few days, the mailer pictured below has been distributed arond Albany County, attempting to make a guy who voted for Pedro Espada for Majority Leader look like a guy who actually stood up to him:



It looks pretty effective to the untrained eye or uneducated voter at first glance. The fact is that Breslin is appealing to just that kind of thing with this mailer; not only did Breslin have the gavel in his hand during the 2009 Senate Coup that gave Espada the Majority Leader's post, but his was one of many Democratic votes that gave it to him in the first place. If any Democratic Senator wanted to take a meaningful stand against Espada, that was the time. Breslin is now one of several Senators statewide, including Espada himself, spending lots of money in their primary re-electionc campaigns trying to convince the public otherwise.

They might buy it, and they might not. But either way, this is still just the primary. With the polls opening in just two days, perhaps it's time to wonder a little about the general election. Smart money still goes to Breslin thanks to his long tenure in office and his family ties to the the County Executive and one of the County Judges, all three of then brothers, but Breslin's electoral fight may not be over after that. While Albany County is overwhelmingly Democratic, it was a first-term Republican Senator and County Executive that Breslin and his brother suceeded to start their decades-long powerhold here. In such an anti-incumbent year, and with a noisy Tea Party segment in the Capital Region, I wouldn't be surprised if probably Republican nominee Bob Domenici couldn't present a serious challenge to Breslin after what has become a bruising primary for the Senator.

Indeed, opposition to Breslin from the right and right-of-center has already begun, and they aren't waiting for the general election to target him. This week's TU Inside Politics columnist sees reporter JOrdan Carleo-Evangelist follow-up on earlier reports that the state-level pro-gun rally has been sending fliers around Albany County encouraging Democrats to vote against Breslin in the primary.

Gun-rights group can't think past primary

The state's biggest gun-rights advocacy group trained its sights on state Sen. Neil Breslin this week, dispatching postcards to its members in Albany County urging them to vote against Breslin in next week's Democratic primary.

The Breslin camp, for its part, wasn't much sweating the ire of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which accused the 14-year-incumbent of consistently sponsoring and voting for "all gun control measures."

The group's PAC, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Political Victory Fund, paid for the mailing.

Breslin's campaign said the senator is proud of his record on gun control -- and for many Democrats generally, the association's distaste is something of a badge of pride.

And that's where it gets weird.

While the rifle and pistol association was imploring its members to vote "against" Breslin on Sept. 14, the group is not endorsing Breslin's lone Democratic opponent, Luke Martland.

Tom King, the association's executive director, explained the mailing this way: "We're saying that we just don't think that Neil Breslin is the man for the job anymore."

Astute observers (or conspiracy theorists) noted that the group might just be trying to weaken Breslin in hopes that he'll lose the primary to Martland, who would make an easier mark for Republican candidate Bob Domenici.

So we asked whether the NYSRPA would be backing Domenici come November, but King said no decision has yet been made.

Given that Dominici is throwing in his lot with the local Tea Party -movement- standstill (something that doesn't make any progress can't be called a movement, after all) and that he's touting former military experience (at least I think he is...don't all Tea Party types?) I'm guessing the gun nuts will go his way eventually. But what's interesting here is, as Carleo-Evangelist's headline points out, they are focusing on Breslin's primary election, not the general.

This speaks to two truths. First, given Albany County's current thirty-plus point registration advantage for Democrats, winning the primary is essentially rubber stamps a general election victory. We're certainly not unique in that respect, but toss in the County's history as being the deathbed of the last of the great urban Democratic machines in just the past generation and you get both a boost to that argument and a second angle that better explains this tactic against Breslin.

See, I make a lot of noise here as a progressive, but I can acknowledge that the Albany County Democratic Party is just that, the Democratic Party. It's not the Progressive Democratic Party, not at all. In fact, the party power players have a conservative bent if you ask me, and most others would probably agree it's most firmly grounded in the center. Such is the nature of self-perpetuating powerful political establishments, but that's beside the point. It's a Democratic environment where the right-wing Guns, Gods, and Gays arguments could work to the tune of a few thousand votes. Trust me: you would be amazed at the language I hear come out the mouths of some of the old white dudes in past committee meetings. Especially during the 2008 presidential campaign. And this contingent certainly can't use the Gays part of the argument this year...

In any case, the ultimate thing to take away from this is that even if Breslin does walk away with the Democratic nomination, his margin of victory may end up mattering in his fight againt the Republcian nominee. It will remain an anti-incumbent year, and if Breslin demonstrates weakness in a primary after 14 years as an incumbent, you can probably prepare for continued and increased media coverage as the big story shifts from Martland's to Domenici's outside chance of taking the Senate seat away from Breslin.

Such is the State of the Race just 48 hours from the closing of the polls, and such are the reasons why I'll have pulled the level for Luke Martland by then. If I can't encourage you to do exactly the same, I at least hope you enjoyed reading and encouraged you to go to the polls this coming Tuesday and vote for somebody, dammit :-) Stay's not over until it's over.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SD-46: State of the Race 9/5 to 9/9

Sen. Breslin's Political Future In Question Thanks to Martland's Spirited Primary Challenge

Welcome to another edition of State of the Race for the Albany County State Senate seat. Incumbent Senator Neil Breslin and his challenger Luke Martland are both in the fight of the thier lives as Breslin seeks to defend his seat of 14 years and Martland looks to turn years of public service experience into his first elected position. It has evolved from a safe-bet for the Senator to an outside chance that Albany County might just get a new State Senator.

The Times Union's Jordan Carleo-Evangelist profiled the race for newspaper readers at the one-week-to-go mark. If you missed the previous editions of the State of the Race or are just tuning in as many voters may be, this article is a great summary of how things look and how we got here. Everything is covered, from Breslin's place as one of three ruling brothers in Albany County to his widely publicized gaffe on prior-approval to Martland's crticisms of his insurance lobby bankroll and even a testament to just how well Martland is doing with voters. It is highly recommended reading for those hoping to catch up in the last few days before the primary.

For regular readers, welcome back! And get ready for the biggest update yet, in the shortest time frame since our
previous edition, as we head into the home stretch in the most important Democratic primary in the Capital Region this year...

(Cross-Posted on The Albany Project)

Luke Martland


"Take Albany Back"

The biggest development for Martland's campaign was the release of his second television advertisement, this one entitled Good Question, Mr. Breslin:

The ad once again attempts to turn this now infamous footage of the Senator's flub into a haymaker, and I can't fault Martland for it at all. The fact that Senator Breslin was caught on camera not knowing the actual contents of a bill he sponsored in his committee in what is supposed to be his area of expertise after months of talking it up for months would have been a godsend to any challenger. The fact that Martland is the first Democratic primary challenger to Sen. Breslin in his 14 years to have the funds to re-broadcast what was already the most damaging new story in his career is another reason the Senator is pulling out all the stops (and the full contents of his substantial war chest) to defend Martland's spirited first run for office.

Funding for avertising campaigns was a topic explored in the TU Local Politics report on the ad. It reveals that Breslin is has spent over $120,000 in broadcast advertising for last month alone...for a primary race. The funding advantage averages out to about ten to one in Breslin's favor, but today, Martland pointed out that the amount of money Breslin is pouring into this thing is just ridiculous:

Martland Accuses Incumbent Neil Breslin of Trying to Buy the September 14th primaryTimes Union says Breslin spent $184,449 in July and August MARTLAND

(September 9, 2010, Albany) State Senate candidate Luke Martland today accused 14-year-incumbent Neil Breslin of trying to buy the September 14th primary election by spending $184,449 between July 12 and September 3, 2010.

“Neil Breslin can’t run on his record so he is trying to buy the election,” said Martland who has campaigned door to door for 90 days to win the primary on September 14th.

“I don’t have a huge campaign war chest funded by insurance companies, lobbyists and special interests,” added Martland. “Instead, I have knocked on doors and spoken to voters everywhere in Albany County from Albany to Altamont, from Colonie to Coeymans, from Watervliet to Westerlo and every place in between."

Martland's campaign claims he has spent the past 90 straight days campaigning door-to-door. This is an impressive feat, and no doubt Martland's advantage in that department is increased physical endurance thanks to his time spent serving in the Marines. But he's been fighting with words, too, and yesterday he unveiled an extensive list of state problems he'd combat as State Senator. His press release and press conference yesterday was a policy wonk's dream and should leave no doubt whatsoever as to where Martland stands on economic issues. The entire platform is included below in full:

Martland Unveils Plan to Revitalize New York’s Economy

((September 8, 2010. Albany) – State Senate candidate Luke Martland today unveiled his plan to revitalize New York’s economy by reforming the budget process, cutting taxes, spending and borrowing, freezing the growth of state government, remaking government and reducing mandates.

“New York’s Government is broken and is failing New Yorkers,” said Martland. “Budgets are late every year, taxes keep going up, jobs are fleeing Albany Co. Now we know one of the reasons why – our Senator, Assistant Majority Leader Neil Breslin can’t even be bothered to read or understand the bills he votes on.”

“If elected, I will propose the following plan to get New York’s budget and fiscal house in order. These five steps will provide the foundation to address our State’s chronic budget problems,” said Martland.


New York’s budget, when the legislature bothers to pass one, is riddled with accounting gimmicks and untrue revenue projections intended to mask the budget’s true cost. For example, the 2010-11 budget has been described as “…riddled with cheating and basic math errors,” and relying on “… at least $5 billion in gimmicks and dubious assumptions.” Over the last few years the legislature has consistently counted revenue projections that are clearly false.

If we want to ensure that the State budget is truly balanced, then we must change the budget process so that is transparent, accurate and free of the accounting gimmicks of the past. I will push for the following changes:

Creation of an independent budget office which will produce an independent analysis of any legislation and its true cost to the taxpayers. If legislation has a cost, the sponsor of that legislation must delineate specifically how that cost will be paid for.

Adoption of Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles (GAPP) in preparing the budget.

Adoption of a five year financial plan to better plan budget decisions.

End to sweeps where funds collected for one purpose are taken to pay for general government operating expenses.

The debt of public authorities should be reported as a financial obligation of the state and incorporated into the budget process.

Consider a certification requirement so that the independent Budget Office, or Comptroller’s Office must certify that a budget is truly balanced.

These reforms will help ensure that the budget is accurate, transparent and that legislators can no longer use gimmicks, “… cheating and basic math errors …” to hide their irresponsible borrowing and spending.


In a time of crisis, true leaders lead by example. New York’s elected officials must step up and set an example by making sacrifices and curbing some of the most egregious examples of governmental waste. As State Senator, I will propose a series of steps, including:

An immediate 10% cut in salary for all legislators. I will propose this, and even if it is not adopted I will take a 10% cut myself.

Sharply reduce salaries for political appointees throughout the government. New York Government is rife with political appointees who are paid excessive salaries. The Authorities Budget Office recently released a report detailing some of the inflated salaries at State Authorities. For example, some of the examined authorities were paying top earners between $230,000 and $580,000 in salary. A large proportion of staff of some authorities are paid over $100,000 a year. And, at least $6.6 million in bonuses were paid out to public authorities across the State according to the same report.

I will propose legislation that no one who works for the State government, no matter what the position or title can make more then the Governor in total compensation.
Force dramatic reduction of pork and member items: I will push for a 50% reduction in member items for the 2011 – 12 fiscal year. In addition, all member items should be included in the regular budget and voted on as part of the regular budget process.

These measurers can produce substantial savings, especially going forward. Even more important, these measures will show leadership by example and help eliminate the most notorious misuses of taxpayer money.


Everyone agrees that New York’s government is inefficient and bloated. To truly shrink and rationalize State government and help balance the budget, we need a fast and complete reorganization. This reorganization must encompass not only agencies, but also public authorities – in other words all parts of New York’s sprawling governmental apparatus.
I will propose legislation establishing a two-step process that will revolutionize State government within two years:

First, I will propose legislation authorizing an independent top-to-bottom review of the structure of state operations, agencies, authorities and other entities. This review, to be conducted by outside efficiency and business experts primarily of the Governor’s choosing, will focus on how to deliver government services more efficiently and at less cost, and how to streamline and rationalize State government. Specifically, the study should recommend:
Major restructuring, including merging and eliminating agencies, authorities and other entities to shrink the size of State government.

Rationalizing how government works, for example, by consolidating support functions to eliminate redundancies and by bringing New York’s government into the 21st Century.
How to sharply reduce the number of public authorities (there are currently 500), fold their operations into agencies in order to eliminate redundancies and reduce the role of the “shadow government”.

Using performance and cost / benefit measures in accessing use of state funds and which projects will continue to be funded, and how to quickly adopt existing technology to save taxpayer money.
The study should be completed in six to nine months, and its findings will be used to inform the Governor’s decisions to restructure government.

Second, I will propose a law giving the incoming Governor broad authority to carry out the suggested reorganization. Under this legislation, the Governor will have authority to order, without legislative approval, the merger, restructuring or elimination of any agency, authority, office, board, commission or other entity. The governor’s emergency powers will end in two years.
The goal of this two-step process is to quickly provide an overall blue print on how to shrink and improve State Government and then give the Governor emergency authority to carry out this fundamental change. If successful, within two years, New York’s government will have been restructured to be smaller, more efficient, less costly and to provide better services.


The next step to restoring New York to health is to freeze government to create a breathing period until the broad restructuring plan is in place. Starting in January 2011, I will propose a temporary, but total hiring freeze, lasting approximately six months. This hiring freeze will cover all State positions, including consultants, so called “essential” positions and public authorities, and the only exceptions would be for the new Governor to bring on his immediate staff and new agency leadership. There should be a similar freeze on any new projects and the issuance of new debt.

This hiring, contract and debt freeze is intended to bring the seeming never ending growth in New York’s government and debt to a stop and allow the new administration time to develop and implement the re-organization plan discussed in Step III. Once the reorganization plan is in place, the freeze can be lifted as the plan is implemented.


New York State’s ever growing bureaucracy has resulted in more and more regulation that stifles businesses and opportunity. Local taxes, including school taxes, have been driven higher by unfunded state-imposed mandates that increase local costs. I will introduce legislation to establish a two step process to lessen this regulatory burden.

I will propose legislation to establish the temporary Office of Mandate Relief and give the head of that office - the “Repealer” - authority to repeal and invalidate any existing regulation or rule. This office will be in existence for two years and will be headed by a gubernatorial appointee and staffed with personnel drawn from existing State agencies on temporary assignment. The head of this office - the Repealer -will have authority to strike down any regulation and rule imposed by a State agency, authority or office without the necessity of going through the normal process and without the consent or approval of the agency or the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR).

The actions of the Repealer should complement the process of restructuring State government and within two years the Repealer should be able to dramatically cut down the thicket of State regulations and rules, at which point the office will cease to exist.

The most important step in solving our budget crisis is something intangible – competence.
Writing a bill, negotiating a bill, and complying with the law is what legislators do. It is their job. We now know that Neil Breslin – Assistant Majority Leader, 14 year incumbent and one leaders of Senate – doesn’t care enough to do his job. He cannot be bothered to read or understand the bills that come out of his committee and that bear his name, bills that he boasts about. That was his decision – a decision to not do his job because he did not care if what he said was true or not.
The same holds true for why the budget was late. It’s not that Neil Breslin and his colleagues couldn’t pass a budget on time. They are required to by law and that is why they serve in the government. It’s that they decided to not even try. They ignored the law, did not schedule committee hearing or negotiating sessions, refused to put forth proposals and made no attempt to meet the April 1st deadline. Then they did nothing for four months, only worked 3 days a week, take long weekends off and took weeks of vacation time. Our legislators – especially our Senators – intentionally refused to do their most basic job because they are incompetent and lack the back bone to make any tough decisions.


We have yet to see anything so substantive or specific from the Breslin campaign. Speaking of which...


Neil Breslin


"For All The Right Reasons."

Breslin has gone from being a sure-bet for re-election in the last cycle to a very vulnerable long-time incumbent in a rapid period of time. The general air of anti-incumbency across the country combined with the recent negative media spotlight cast upon him has cause Breslin to become one of the biggest primary spenders this cycle. In fact, according to this report, Breslin is protecting his seat more vigorously than Pedro Espada:

An analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group found that 10 of the state's 30 costliest legislative primaries since 2000 are taking place this year, with candidates rapidly spending six-figure sums to fight challengers or take on incumbents.

"They are shaping up to be the most expensive," said Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG's legislative operations and research coordinator. He analyzed financial documents that detailed spending from July 12 through Sept. 3.

For example, state Sen. Neil Breslin, a Delmar Democrat, has spent more in this time period -- $184,449 -- against challenger Luke Martland than he did in all of the 2008 election cycle. Martland has spent $33,773 so far.

In the Bronx, Pedro Espada, who has been shunned by many fellow Senate Democrats due to last year's coup in which he briefly joined the Republicans, has spent $130,978 while his primary challenger Gustavo Rivera has spent $91,875.

Emphasis mine - SP

Those numbers present Sen. Breslin's greatest advantage over his upstart opponent. For years, Breslin has been the largest recipient of contributions from lobbyists for the insurance and banking industry. My conventional wisdom tells me that he's been saving it up for a raining day, and if he's spending this amount of money then somebody must be making it rain. I can recall Breslin's war chest exceeding $400,000 and edging towards half a million in the several terms I've been watching him. Never once has he had to drop this much in so short a time. Nor did I ever expect he'd be running a campaign that will go down in history as one of the top twenty most expensive primaries in State Senate history.

If there were any naysayers in the Breslin camp that insisted their candidate would win with a 75% margin and virtually no campaigning like in 2008, the Senator's actions in the past few weeks of 2010 should have them hard pressed to admit that the Senator has never felt as threatened in his political life and that he is, in fact, fighting for his political life.

For all of the talk of money influencing politics, a situation like this presents a problem to the well-funded incumbent: you aren't going to get as much bang for your buck against your upstart challenger. There's only so much pro-incumbent sentiment going around in an anti-incumbent year. You're going need as many political endorsements and cross-constituencies as possible.

But Breslin hasn't bagged any good news like that recently. Just today, CBS6 News added another bruising tale to their archives of Breslin revelations: Rep. Scott Murphy will not endorse the Senator in the race. Of course, he's not endorsing Martland either, but he does note that the 46th State Senate district and his own 20th Congressional District don't actually overlap. Still, politicians from nearby districts are typically brought in to make critical endorsements when things get tight.

The fact that Murphy is witholding any involvement in the race will probably speak to Martland's advantage, even though he doesn't throw in a good word for Martland either. Why? Because even though Murphy's office represents area outside Albany County, he is still a well-known and popular local leader. Thanks to his Murphy's own amazing ascendacy to Congress being a national political story last year itself, he's also probably a better-known and recognized commodity that the area's own Congressman, NY-21's own Paul Tonko. So what we have here may not be as inconsequential as this cute little news piece looks. It may be a revealing indicator that support for Breslin isn't only eroding door-to-door, but office-to-office in the halls of government. In other words, the smart sailors don't board sinking ships.

Is Breslin's ship truly sinking, though?

"Duh....good question."

In all seriousness, we'll know the answer in five days....and counting. Thanks for voting, thanks for reading, and stay tuned...the next State of the Race update is coming soon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

SD-46: State of the Race 8/31 to 9/5

Post-Debate Media Narrative Solidifies as Candidates Hit the Airwaves

In our pre-Labor Day update to last week's installment, the State of the Race moves from previewing a defining debate between incumbent Senator Neil Breslin and his Democratic primary challenger Luke Martland, to rounding up how the arguments played out at the event and in the media.

Needless to say, the debate itself has garnered plenty of coverage. So has the recent meetins of the candidates with various editorial boards around Albany County. The candidates have moved from establishing a narrative in the media to having to build upon it, re-shape it based on how their opponents have shaken things up.

In that sense, Senator Breslin this past week has finally summoned his deep political power in the district and has been campaigning more actively. This lead Martland to continue sharpening his criticisms of his opponent, and evena few other sources echoed these concerns. And the race continues to attract deeper local and more prominent statewide attention.

Below the fold is your pre-Labor Day wrap up on anything and everything happening in this fast-developing race.

(Cross-Posted on The Albany Project)

Luke Martland


"Take Albany Back"

This week, Luke Martland continued bothering Breslin, as Capital Tonight put it, by responding to Breslin's first television advertisement (available in last week's update) by releasing a commercial of his own. Not surprisingly, it features footage of what has become the most defining news story of the campaign thus far:

Not a bad first start, if you ask me. Neither was Martland's performance at his stop at the Times Union editorial board. Breslin went as well, and both candidates sounded off on a couple of statewide issues. At least, these are what the TU chose to highlight. In Martland's case, he shared his view that opposition to the proposed mosque down The City is equivalent to outright bigotry. The article reveals that Martland was actually at Ground Zero on 9/11, and did his part to save lives that day. It also goes on to note that this isn't an area where the two candidates disagree, and offers Breslin's stance on the issue as well as Martland's personal opinions.

On a more relevant political note, Martland took some time in an interview with the Troy Record where he admitted that he has a tough fight ahead if he wants to defeat Breslin. It's a candid article released just before the debate that sums up the political realities and the strategies of the candidates quite well for those just joining us.

At the end of the week, and at the start of the post-Labor Day home stretch, Luke Martland's ground work is complete. He's now officially in the public eye, even if he is a newcomer, and the next weeks' news will be even more pivotal to his chances of success.

Neil Breslin


"For All The Right Reasons."

If Luke Martland came out swinging in the last couple of weeks, then this was the first week of Senator Breslin's full-blown attempts to save his seat. Up until the last update, the Senator would mostly brush aside his opponents persistent attacks. But after the big news report, his re-election campaign went into high speed.

This week, one of the more interesting stories is from the blog of Libby Post, former Empire State Pride Agenda coordinator. In this post, she reveals that she will be supporting Breslin despite the fact that he is being opposed by Martland, who is openly gay. The post is very thoughtful and again reveals one of the tighest and toughest splits in the Albany County electorate in this race. Breslin certainly has supported LGTB rights in the past, but this post is not without it's reply from Martland himself on why continuing to support Breslin in this regard may be flawed given the alternative Martland himself represents.

In official news, Breslin's performance in the newspaper room resulted in a little sparring match between the Senator and the Governor's office. Breslin was quoted as saying Paterson is total failure, goin so far as to say he had "no moral compass." He also used the opportunity to continue to rail on his colleagues Sens. Diaz and Espada, something he's been doing more frequently since Martland began to criticize Breslin for voting to give Espada that Majority Leader's post.

The comments drew a response from Gov. Paterson's office via an aide which turned things around rather nicely:

Gov. David Paterson’s top spokesman Morgan Hook said the governor is supportive of Sen. Neil Breslin but “sensitive” to stresses that may have led Breslin to criticize him.


“That being said, this is an election year, and the governor certainly appreciates that many elected officials who have never faced a primary before are fearful and anxious about their upcoming elections,” Hook continued, “and he is certainly sensitive to those concerns."

I'm sorry...I thought this tongue-in-cheek response was actually the best political comment to come out of the lame duck Governor's office in a while. Like Martland's comments on the mosque, I don't see much coming out of this story beyond some political junkies getting their jollies. The big stories that people are going to be talking about over the barbeques this Labor Day weekend will probably continue to be guided by the extensive coverage of the recent debate and the continued spotlight on Breslin's negative press from last month's prior-approval bill mix-up.

I think I got all those covered for this week. Thanks for voting, thanks for reading, and stay tuned...the next State of the Race update is coming soon.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SD-46: State of the Race 8/24 to 8/30

Media Coverage of Dark Horse Challenge Intensifies

Breslin Accepts Challenge To Debate Martland

In the race between 14-year incumbent Assitant Majority Leader Neil Breslin and his primary challengerLuke Martland news has been constant and consistent in the past week. So much so that infrequent as-it-happens or after-the-fact updates are implausible.

So begins the SD-46 State of the Race 2010 series, much in the same manner I ran the series for the 2008 Democratic Primary for Congress in NY-21 two years ago. While this one isn't quite that big, and no political story around this area is this year, Albany County's primary for State Senator has taken center stage along other major local races.

This entry will wrap up the last seven days activity on the campaign trail, and there was quite a bit of movement on both ends. To start, I no longer have to link to Sen. Breslin's official State Senate page; his name in blue now takes you to the campaign website that finally appeared this past week. The biggest news for me is that now both candidates finally have my interview questions, and their answers will be forthcoming.

But the biggest news for the voters is the big debate about to happen between the two candidates. Shortly after Martland challenged Breslin to return insurance-industry related donations, Martland then took his moment in the spotlight to challenge Breslin to a debate too.

It's happening tomorrow. So that's the setup for what's happened up until now, and a little bit of what to expect to come.

For what transpired in between, click below the fold for the state of the race...

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Luke Martland


"Take Albany Back"

As mentioned, it was a little less than a weeks' time before Sen. Breslin accepted his opponent's challenge to debate publicly. The League of Women Voter's will be holding that debate tomorrow, and coverage will surely follow and likely define next weeks' news cycle.

This week was still dominated by various fallout from this story in which the incumbent was featured in a prominent television news broadcast that revealed he misunderstood the Prior-Approval Insurance bill he's been touting for months. This was a gift as good as gold to the Martland campaign, and once in the spotlight, he made continued use of the media to make his calls, both for Breslin to return campaign frunds from insurance companies and to debate him publicly.

He did this by traditional media outlets and some newer means. Over on the Martland Campaign's YouTube Channel, you can find his recorded versions of his two telephone town hall meetings he's conducted already. This was used by Congressional primary candidate Tracey Brooks two years ago, and it's notable that she ended up with the most votes in Albany County, if only by a slim margin. It may indicate that this method of outreach may work well in this area, and Martland is making use of it.

He's also using YouTube to archive two major radio interviews. First with the ultimate inside scoop guy, Fred Dicker, on his morning radio show last week:

And also with rising local media luminary Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Press Room:

Naturally, both interviews cover much of the same material that will likely be covered in my own forthcoming interview with the candidate. But they serve as good introductions with little fanfare over the public airwaves. If anything, this Martland's "name recognition week," and yes, while no polls have been conducted, I'd be surprised if all this media attention both on the newcomer bucking the system and the old-timer messing things up hasn't given Martland the m-word in all this.

That was this week in Luke Martland's campaign. Stay tune for next time...this week, Martland will be meeting with editorial boards from several major local publications.

Neil Breslin


"For All The Right Reasons."

Before the media circus, I was searching daily for a new Neil Breslin for State Senate website. It's no surprise that it's up now and that Team Breslin is in full campaign mode. For the longest time, that domain would take you to his old 2008 page, which simply said "Thanks for voting!"

But a little negative media attention for you coupled with a positively exponential increase in attention for your opponent with less than a month to go will kick things into high gear. The Breslin campaign has already started television advertising, and is also posting stuff to YouTube:

And so the race moves into Air Wars mode. Breslin has quite the cash advantage on his opponent, and for that reason alone I'd guess he is unlikely to meet Martland's challenge to return campaign funds from donors with insurance industry ties. But will Martland have enough to compete in the expensive realm of broadcasting and even cable?

It remains to be seen. But the campaign funds issue was synopsised, complete with Breslin's response to Martland's challenge, printed in this Friday's Inside Politics column of the Times Union:

The Democratic primary for Albany County's state Senate seat heated up this week when challenger Luke Martland called on seven- term incumbent Neil Breslin, the chairman of the Senate's Insurance Committee, to give back tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the insurance industry.

Breslin brushed aside Martland's claims of a conflict of interest, saying his legislative record makes it clear he's no friend of Big Insurance.

Both men say they favor publicly financed elections. But Breslin said legislation to that effect would never pass now as the state's economy continues to founder and that he is forced to operate within the system that currently exists.

Besides, it's not just about him, he said. "I'm on a team," Breslin said, referring to the Senate's Democratic conference, which is trying desperately to hold onto its three-seat majority after a tumultuous two years in power.

Breslin, who is assistant majority leader, said some of the money he raises can help defend Democratic seats elsewhere.

As of earlier this month, Breslin had a robust $420,619.73 banked. That's roughly 10 times more than Martland's $42,727.76.

Emphasis mine - SP

Statements that I believe to be poor excuses have been italicized, simple facts bolded.

The fact is that this race has heated up to temperatures that conventional-wisdome and, for lack of a better word, political-groupies would have predicted a few months ago. Yet Breslin's significant cash advantage, while not quite as exponential as last time, is much much larger than Martlands.

The poor excuses? I've covered that before. Like this past week, it's history now, and all opinions are just rough drafts in response to changing situations anyway.

The Primary is Tuesday, September 14th. Thanks for voting, thanks for reading, and stay tuned...the next State of the Race update is coming soon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SD-46: Martland's Stand: Breslin's In Good Hands

Challenges Committee Chairman to Return Industry Contributions
Cites Conflict of Interest Challenge to the Tune of $125K

In the past week, Senator Neil Breslin has been the subject of widespread scorn and scrutiny thanks to heavy play of this embarassing story. It revealed that Breslin, now Chairman and longtime ranking member of the Seante Insurance Committee, did not know what was in his own bill.

Yesterday, Luke Martland took full advantage of the recent scrutiny and held a press conference. Since the root cause of fiasco's like this is the influence of lobbyist money on both legislators and of lobbyists being the real writers of legislation, Martland has called on Breslin to return $125,000 in campaign funds, saying this money presents a conflict of interest to any Senator.

The story once again made broadcast headlines. For the record, CBS6 is still reminding folks of Breslin's "huh, wha?" folly in it's promotional spots. This video comes care of competitor WNYT, and other stations are also picking up the storyline. This is a huge change for the district: two years ago when Breslin faced his first primary challenge, nothing was ever braodcast on the race; this year, I have to hop between channels!

Here's the news coverage:

The full uncut Martland statement is below the fold.

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project)

Martland Challenges Breslin to Return Insurance Contributions

State Senate Candidate Luke Martland Challenges Incumbent Neil Breslin to Return His Insurance Company Campaign Contributions
Cites Conflict of Interest for Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Breslin

(August 23, 2010. Albany) – State Senate candidate Luke Martland today called on 14-year incumbent Neil Breslin to return the more than $125,000 in campaign contributions he has accepted in the last 18 months while serving as chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee.

“As chairman of the State Senate Insurance Committee, Neil Breslin has accepted more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from the very same companies that his committee controls legislation over,” said Martland. “He should return all of those contributions so that there is no possible conflict of interest or appearance of improper influence.”

“It’s simple,” said Martland, “if you are in charge of passing legislation that will determine how much an industry makes in profit, you should not be accepting contributions from that industry.”

Breslin accepted more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from Aetna, Empire Health, CDPHP, Met Life, New York Life, Empire Dental and other insurance companies from January 2009 to June 2010 according to the New York State Board of Elections.

CBS6 Albany broadcast a series of stories beginning on August 18, which found that Neil Breslin did not know the contents of a prior approval insurance bill he sponsored and touted.

“We now know that Breslin, the Chair of the Insurance Committee, does not understand his own bills,” said Martland. “Legislation like the prior approval bill that Breslin did not understand have a huge impact on insurance company profits. If Neil Breslin does not understand these bills, who does? Who produces these bills? Who influences their content? Even if it is currently legal under New York’s “Swiss cheese” campaign laws to accept money from the same companies you oversee, it is unethical and Neil Breslin should return these contributions so there is no appearance that insurance companies are buying access or influence.”
Martland has already shown leadership on ethics issues. In May, Martland released his own tax and salary records and called on Breslin to release his tax records, law firm salary and client list. Breslin refused.

Luke Martland was raised in Albany, graduated from Albany High School and Princeton University and worked his way through Brooklyn Law School. He has served as an Assistant District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Attorney General’s office. He also ran the State’s sex offender registry at the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany.

Luke Martland’s stand on issues can be found at

Luke Martland is also on Facebook and Twitter.


Emphasis mine - SP

I find the bolded statements by Luke Martland extrememly hard to disagree with. The only thing I might add is that Breslin has accepted far in excess of $125,000 from the insurance and banking industry since he's been in the Senate. The Martland campaign might have also added the American Insurance Group, (aka AIG) to the list of companies Sen. Breslin has been in bed with, considering that this company played such a devastating and integral role in the recent financial meltdown.

It turns out that a solid media frame has evolved around this race that has completely turned that tables. Now instead of Luke Martalnd looking like an upstart challenger, Neil Breslin is looking more the defensive old-timer. And frankly, Breslin is making it worse for himself by failing to respond to the charges in story after story. To my knowledge, he still hasn't agreed to publicly debate Luke Martalnd under the watchful of the League of Women Voters, and that challenge was made weeks ago.

What does all this mean for a guy like me who's wanted change in this Senate district for some time?

Actually, it means that change has arrived. Even if Luke Martland's efforts don't get him into the Senate, the biggest problem in this district has been the combination of an unaccountable politician and an unaccountable press. In light of these new media events, I can say that we've finally got some a decent showing of accountability in the Capital Region press corps, and with that accountable politicians will follow. Whether that means we get a change of Senators or if it means a current Senator changes his ways, that is still the improvement I've been looking for all along.

Therefore, continued blogging on this race is getting more and more enjoyable. Stay interviews with both candidates have been delayed a week, but are still forthcoming, and nowadays you never know what will make the airwaves!