Originally Published: September 4, 2009
Supports the re-election of State Senator Martin Connor and election of John Reddy for Manhattan Surrogate
Citizens Union today announced that it has decided to prefer incumbent Martin Connor over challenger Daniel Squadron in the highly competitive race for the 25th State Senate District, representing lower Manhattan and parts of brownstone Brooklyn. It also announced a preference for John Reddy, Jr. in the race for Manhattan Surrogate.
CU reached its decision in the 25th Senate District after having interviewed both Connor and Squadron three weeks ago and hosted a debate between the two candidates last night at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.
Though Citizens Union commends Squadron for issuing an eleven-point reform agenda, it believes that Squadron would be in no stronger a position than Connor to advance such a reform agenda should the Democrats remain in the minority in the State Senate. Citizens Union also thinks that Connor, because of his knowledge and length of service, would undeniably be in a stronger and more experienced position to effectively advance critical reforms than his challenger, should the Democrats become the majority party in the Senate. There is little in Squadron’s experience – or Squadron’s articulation of the issues – that Citizens Union believes would make him more effective in bringing about reform than Connor.
That being said, Squadron is an appealing candidate in many ways. He is ambitious and engaging, though voters could benefit from hearing more specific ideas on how he would address some of the state’s pressing issues. Citizens Union is pleased to see that Squadron has placed at the forefront of his candidacy a compelling commitment to fighting for real reform.
As part of its evaluation of candidates for elected office, Citizens Union also assesses candidates on the basis of their knowledge of local issues and connection to the communities they seek to represent. In that regard, Citizens Union is concerned about Squadron’s lack of involvement in any local community organizations and his limited connection to the district, having only moved to the Carroll Gardens neighborhood two years ago. Our concern about his knowledge of the district was underscored when Squadron cited, in response to a direct question, that his first action as a legislator would be to begin a listening tour of the district to formulate his priorities. While it is admirable that he is open to hearing from constituents, this is something CU believes he should be doing now as a candidate, so that if he is elected, he will enter office with a specific and clear agenda for his district – something he has not yet been able to fully articulate.
Citizens Union is also concerned about Squadron’s failure to comply fully with the law requiring candidates to disclose their financial holdings so voters can know, in advance, of any possible conflicts of interest that the candidate may have or potential avenues of influence to which he might be subjected. Squadron’s less than forthcoming response on the state disclosure form and subsequent dodging answers when pressed about his failure to comply, give us pause about his commitment to transparency in government and the requisite accountability of candidates and elected officials. As part of its criteria, CU prizes ethical conduct by candidates and adherence to high ethical standards, especially of first time candidates.
Of significant concern though to Citizens Union is also Connor’s thirty-year hold on the seat and his connection to the entrenched interests of Albany that have made the state legislature resistant to change and more responsive to the narrow interests than the public interest. Connor’s effectiveness has been rightly questioned by voters and Squadron. But in the end, conflicted as we are, it is CU’s belief that Connor is the preferred candidate between the two. It is our hope that should Connor return to Albany, and possibly in a new political landscape, he will provide both the state and the district with an experienced hand who has the potential to bring about the needed reform he has so long espoused and CU has supported.
If Connor finds himself re-elected as Senator and the Democrats gain control of the State Senate, Citizens Union in two years will hold him accountable, as well as his Democratic colleagues, for how well they handle their new responsibilities and whether they successfully achieve long overdue reform in Albany.
In the race for Manhattan Surrogate, Citizens Union evaluated both Reddy and Nora Anderson. It did not meet with Milton Tingling, the third candidate. In choosing Reddy, CU was impressed by his knowledge of the Surrogate’s Court and the proceedings it handles. His plan to reform the Surrogate’s Court showed an admirable thoughtfulness that earned our support for his election.
The criteria for determining CU’s support for a candidate is as follows:
- Support for Citizens Union’s reform agenda shall be a primary criteria used in deciding its support for a candidate.
- Evidence of ability to wage an effective and competitive campaign shall be considered, but not be determinative.
- Ability to advance CU’s goals, if elected, shall be considered, but not determinative.
- Incumbents will be held accountable for their record of reform in office and shall be judged accordingly on the basis of their demonstrated support for CU’s issues.
- State, local, or community issues specific to the race’s jurisdiction shall be considered (as determined annually by the CU Board and Local Candidates Committee) as will candidates’ ability to grasp these issues, propose thoughtful solutions, and represent the interests of their constituents, but these factors shall be given less weight than are CU agenda issues.
- The practice of ethical conduct and adherence to high ethical standards shall also be seriously considered.
- For citywide or statewide races, CU not only will evaluate candidates against the above criteria, but also gauge their knowledge and command of other issues as defined by the Board and their proposed approach in addressing them.
- Evaluation of the candidates and the decision to support a particular candidate shall be made without regard to political party and in a non-partisan manner.
The Citizens Union Voters Directory, with a list of all preferred candidates, and evaluations of the candidates are now available online at: www.citizensunion.org. In addition to help the voters delve more deeply into candidates’ positions, their responses to Citizens Union’s questionnaire have also been posted on the Citizens Union website.