Monday, September 27, 2010

Welcome to the wacky world of NYS gov't, where the trick is knowing how to make which wheels turn the right way


Here's the caption that appeared under this photo this afternoon on the City Room blog: "Rick Lazio announced he was withdrawing from the governor's race on Monday in Manhattan." No need, it seems, to identify the woman shooting that death-ray glare at the Rickster. Hmm, she does seem intimately familiar with the sap whereat she's glaring.

by Ken

Welcome to the wacky world of New York State election law, where our motto is, "Ya want a certain result, I know a guy what knows a guy."

Can you tell what's wrong with this report filed this afternoon on the NYT's City Room blog?

September 27, 2010, 12:02 PM

Lazio Drops Out of Governor’s Race


Former Representative Rick A. Lazio has agreed to have his name removed as the Conservative Party’s candidate for governor, in a decision that bolsters the candidacy of the Republican candidate, Carl P. Paladino.

Mr. Paladino is expected to agree to have his name replace Mr. Lazio’s on the Conservative Party line, according to a person close to Mr. Lazio who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to upstage Mr. Lazio.

Mr. Lazio had been under pressure from Republican Party officials to exit the race on the Conservative Party line ever since he lost in decisive fashion to Mr. Paladino in the primary.

Mr. Paladino, a multimillionaire developer from Buffalo, is running an insurgent campaign fueled by Tea Party support against his Democratic rival, Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general.

While Mr. Paladino appears to be making some inroads against Mr. Cuomo, who enjoys a large campaign war chest and a much more formidable organization, he would have had a difficult time winning had Mr. Lazio remained on the ballot.

In a state where Democratic voters far outnumber Republican voters, Mr. Paladino will need every vote he can get, and many voters who may have supported Mr. Lazio would be expected to back Mr. Paladino.

For the Conservative Party, the deal allowing Mr. Paladino’s name to be substituted for Mr. Lazio’s was critical. For any party to remain on New York State’s ballot, it must receive at least 50,000 votes. Had Mr. Lazio stayed on the ballot, that was not considered a sure outcome.

So what's wrong with this story? Nothing, except that it's illegal. No, it's not illegal to publish crap reporting. What's illegal is what our Rick purports to be agreeing to. Naturally he has every right to announce that he won't campaign as the Conservative Party nominee. He doesn't, however, have any legal authority to authorize having his name removed from the ballot.

Mr. Halbfinger correctly reports the Conservative Party's stake in getting Mr. Lazio off its ballot line. The central reality of officially recognized minor parties in New York State is the bottom-line requirement that to remain on the ballot -- any ballot for any office anywhere in the state -- for the following four years, a party must field a gubernatorial candidate who draws at least 50,000 votes. It was the nail in the coffin for the unlamented Liberal Party (which political wags liked to point out was neither liberal nor a party) in 2002, when, ironically, it gave its gubernatorial nod to the soon-to-tank Andrew Cuomo.

As I pointed out recently, now-Governor-in-waiting Cuomo used the 50,000-vote rule to blackmail the genuinely liberal Working Families Party into accepting his considerably more rightward platform before he would accept its ballot line. There was next to no chance that the WFP could scrounge up a candidate who could rack up those magic 50,000 votes.

Ironically, the Conservatives placed themselves in that same trap, back when the dreadful Lazio seemed the certain GOP nominee. Sure he was unelectable, but he could garner them their 50,000-vote fix. Until it turned out that he couldn't manage much more than half of Paladino's vote total in the primary. And unlike the WFP, which could at least abase itself and agree to Cuomo's terms for accepting its nomination, the Conservatives seemed truly trapped, because by law it was too late to remove Lazio from the ballot, unless . . . unless . . .

The crucial missing piece of information was included by the Daily News's Celeste Katz and Ken Lovett, whose account was posted an hour before the NYT's Halbfinger's:
Bronx County Republican Chairman Jay Savino confirms that Rick Lazio will be nominated for Supreme Court judge at the party's nominating convention tonight, judgeship being one of three ways (other than moving out of New York or dying) that Lazio can get off the ballot for governor.

"We had a meeting of the county executive committee, and we discussed our judicial options, one of which was Rick Lazio, and I anticipate tonight he will be nominated," Savino said.

Which presumably also, by the way, explains the timing of the Lazio "decision" to yield the Conservative ballot position to Paladino. With the Bronx GOP set to decide tonight who its judicial nominees will be, that's the last chance to get Lazio the hell off their line, short of forcing him to move out of state, or having him killed. Presumably no official announcement of the nomination had been made when Lazio announced his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race because, according to the Daily News reporters, he and Bronx GOP chairman Savino had been "playing phone tag" regarding the judicial nomination. Savino is quoted as saying, "I believe that he will accept, but I can't say that I've had a conversation with him personally."


So I think we can consider it a done deal. But there's still something distinctly weird about the deal. Usually when party bosses use a judicial nomination to clear the path to nomination for a more favored candidate, they're actually paying the SOB off with a judgeship. Whereas Lazio isn't getting a judgeship, he's just getting a nomination -- for a judgeship in the Bronx he stands very little chance of winning. In fact, it's a job he doesn't even want. (Remember that in NYS, the Supreme Court is about as un-supreme as you can get. It's basically our bottom-level state trial court.) As my colleague Phillip Anderson (of The Albany Project) points out, Lazio "doesn't have to move to the Bronx, campaign for the job (which he won't) or serve if he's elected."

Presumably our Rick's plan all along was to return to the moneyed halls of JPMorgan Chase, which has already made him a millionaire, albeit one with, already, some serious ethical questions. He just didn't expect to be, er, available so soon. More like, oh, November 3. So what he's getting out of the deal is off the ballot, so he can put this nightmare gubernatorial race behind him and get back to his real world of bankster megabucks.

My thought here is that we should all band together and campaign like crazy for our Rick and put him over the top. Heck, he'll have more name recognition than anyone on any of the Bronx judicial slates. Can you imagine anything more delicious than Rick winning a judgeship that makes him commute to the Bronx, of all places, and at paltry judge's wages?


Earlier today Howie tweeted an alert to a tweet from Alaska's onetime governor. She is, presumably, buoyed by this boost to her teabagging pal Carl Paladino's gubernatorial prospects. As usual, though, nobody gets it wronger:
Rick Lazio: u r Commonsense Conservatives (& other freedom-loving NY'rs) hero today. Thanks 4 selfless act 2 allow your great state 2 thrive

Well, she's never been one for, you know, facts, our princess.

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At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All politics is this wacky. I assume you know about the Chiltern Hundreds:


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