I present for your edification the minimum standard every eligible American should apply to their voting practices each year. “Look, honey, did you know there were elections on odd-numbered years??” 🙂
Most of us don’t have the energy, the passion of conviction, or the time to stay 100% informed on every election. We do, however, have the ability, on the night before election day, to spend a few hours researching the candidates and educating ourselves at least a little. This is precisely what I did last night with my significant other in order to prepare to vote in New York for the first time.
I am one of those people who, frankly, did not have the time to follow the campaigns with the same zeal that I follow presidential campaigns. My taste for political spin lessens with every passing month and I can’t bring myself to wade through the muck-raking and spin-doctoring for an entire campaign. That doesn’t mean I sholdn’t vote (we NEED to vote!)…but it does mean I have to do a little homework before I do. As I am not native to New York and don’t waste my time with network news anymore, I know virtually nothing about the inner workings of New York’s political engine. I do, however, have access to the internet and knowledge of non-partisan information sites. One such good site for disseminating general info about the candidates is the League of Women Voters. They are good enough to provide detailed backgrounds and web links for all of the various candidates in your jurisdiction and smart enough to avoid endorsing any candidates despite the fact that their rank and file workforce is left-leaning.
So I spent a good four hours last night methodically reading candidates’ responses to some simple interview questions provided by the LWV for NY (no spin in the questions…every candidate got the same form letter), clicking on links to those candidates’ websites. TONS of spin there…but I pride myself on being able to read through the spin and recognize buzz-words from actual ideas. If you don’t have that particular knack, it’s a skill you should hone…I mean that seriously. To be an informed voter, you need to be able to listen to what a candidate tells you about his platform and understand what word choices are rhetorically laden.
So I’ll go through the ballot in New York and explain my thoughts.
Starting with Governor.
In New York, the gubernatorial race is unfortunately very lopsided. The Democratic candidate – Andrew Cuomo has a very slick, very swag-driven campaign. His website is snazzy, he took the time to answer the LWV questionaire, he’s got his platform very skillfully laid out. The Republican candidate – Carl Paladino – is evidently clueless. Not only did he completely fail to provide a link to the LWV (a web search turned up his very rustic looking website) or answer their questionaire…but his television commercials (which I YouTube searched) were comically poorly produced and he failed entirely to expressed his agenda…they were attack ads on liberal policies in New York and nothing more. I know spin when I see it…Cuomo’s undoubtedly a political insider with a lot of “in crowd” support, which would normally turn me off, but Paladino seems completely without a clue as to what he would actually do in New York and hopelessly inept at communicating to the people of New York. I therefore voted for Andrew Cuomo.
The State Comptroller race was an interesting one. The incumbent democrat (DiNapoli) definitely has a resume that is largely driven by who he has known over the years. His political track record is…pretty weak…he has three election losses under his belt and he was not amongst the finalists for the Comptroller position when the committee to oversee the transition after the previous incumbent resigned under a cloud of suspicion regarding ethical violations (kick backs for businesses who supported his campaigns, etc) met to make its recommendation. His nomination was a big surprise. However, he does get a lot of credit for leading the panel that ousted the unethical incumbent. On the GOP side we’ve got Wilson…a man whose background includes such ENORMOUS feathers in his cap as being a leading figure on the team that reworked General Motors and saved the huge company from bankruptcy and a reputation as being somewhat ruthless in his quest to make companies run under fiscally responsible budgets (there are attack ads comparing DiNapoli pro-job-creation policies to Wilson’s firing of thousands of employees at an upstate industrial plant and suggesting that Wilson would cut government jobs and clobber New York’s artificial middle class). His ideas all seemed to be driven by logic whereas DiNapoli’s ideas seem to be driven by momentum and establishment. If you do a modicum of reading about both men, it becomes clear that this is a classic race between a politico and a foot soldier who actually knows what he’s doing and has therefore pissed a lot of people off by doig the necessary but unpopular thing on many occasions. I therefore voted for Wilson.
For State Attourney General, we’ve got a battle between a pie in the sky idealist with a background in public policy advocacy and a district attourney with a track record for being tough on crime and ending corruption in his New York City district. I’ll give you one guess which one is the GOP representative? 🙂 Eric Schneiderman’s own website emphasizes his background defending abortion clinics from “anti-choice obstructionists,” defending women in sexual harrassment litigation, protecting immigrants from swift deportation, etc etc. Dan Donovan, meanwhile, inherited an office which was hopelessly corrupt, cleaned house, and successfully raised that jurisdiction’s conviction rate to over 90%…the highest in the state for Felony conviction rates. This is a man of (outmoded) ideas vs. a man of action. My vote WITH CONFIDENCE goes to Dan Donovan.
The Federal congressional and senatorial seats are less interesting, unfortunately.
In the senate, it looks like the GOP was punting the race against Chuck Schumer. Their candidate Jay Townsend has not made more than a handful of public apeparances in New York media…nor has he bothered to answer the simple questionaire for the LWV. That’s a FAIL. Chuck Schumer reluctently got my vote.
The other senate seat is to replace Hilary Clinton (YAY!!)…and here we’ve got Kristin Gillibrand for the Dems and Joseph DioGuardi…DioGuardi is a center-pulling GOPer if ever there was one…for example, he’s pro-green-economy (but includes Nuclear Power on his list of ways to be more green…YES!), he’s anti-closed-border (not strict on immigration reform), pro-gay-marriage…he’s a fiscal conservative, but he emphasizes needing to protect medicare and Social Security (by workig to repeal Obama’s harmful “Obamacare” package and write a bill that has a chance of working long term). His opponent is a raving left-wing moonbat…LOL Seriously…google her website and enjoy the show. 🙂 DioGuardi got my vote (one from each party…that’s balance for ya)
The Congressional race that I had access to…the 1st NY State district…was very unpopular incumbent Tim Bishop vs. newcomer Randy Altschuler…Bishop is not favored around these parts because he has not been particularly forthcoming with his plans for the district and his two-year term has produced no measurable gains for the region. Altschuler is running some very aggressive attack ads and doesn’t strike me as all that great a candidate, but the tie goes to the right in my book, so Altschuler got my vote.
Beyond that, there were a half dozen new positions in Nwe York Circuit court, family court, and civil court…I abstained there because I do not know enough about New York’s justice system to make an informed decision. I did, however, support two propositions from Brookhaven Township regarding putting a cap on property tax hikes and on county spending budgets (not more than 4% per year for either).
That is a MINIMUM standard for voter preparation. I wish this standard was taught in our public schools.