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The Reformer


About Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation

Citizens Union of the City of New York is an independent, non-partisan force dedicated to promoting good government and political reform in the city and state of New York. For more than a century, Citizens Union has served as a watchdog for the public interest and an advocate for the common good. We work to ensure fair elections, clean campaigns, and open, effective government that is accountable to the citizens of New York. We do so by informing the policy debate and influencing the policy outcomes that affect the lives of all New Yorkers. Believing that an informed citizenry is the cornerstone of a thriving local democracy, Citizens Union Foundation – the non profit research, education, and advocacy organization affiliated with CU – publishes Gotham Gazette, a front row seat to New York City policies and politics.

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Welcome from Dick Dadey, Executive Director

Welcome to the Primary Election edition of The Reformer, the e-newsletter of Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation.

The New York 2006 election is an historic opportunity for reform and also marks the first time in over 50 years that the offices of Governor and Attorney General were both open seats in which no incumbent was running for either office. The last time this happened in 1954, New Yorkers elected Averell Harriman as Governor and Jacob Javits as Attorney General.

Citizens Union is pleased with the refreshing and specific ways all the candidates for statewide office propose to reform state government. Citizens Union believes that the functioning of state government has been crippled, owing not to any one individual, but rather to a collective culture of the status quo that all incumbents support and foster. Ours is a political system that lacks in accountability and a state government that values political power over serving the interests of the citizens and taxpayers of New York. To improve the transparency and accountability of our politicians, Citizens Union’s candidate evaluations record positions on key issues of reform and help inform the public.

I wish to thank the scores of the volunteers from across the city who form Citizens Union’s Local Candidates Committee. They spent many hours interviewing and evaluating candidates this summer. As non-partisan volunteers, they play a vital role in the work of Citizens Union.

Since 1910 Citizens Union, as part of its non-partisan work, has informed the citizens of New York City by evaluating and preferring candidates for elected office. This year as in every election year Citizens Union urges you to exercise your right to vote and engage your government.


Primary Election Updates

Citizens Union Preferences In Primary Elections

On August 24, Citizens Union announced its preferences for the 2006 Primary Elections. Many key contests for State Assembly and State Senate seats were evaluated by non-partisan interview teams from Citizens Union’s Local Candidates Committee. Our teams focused on the open seats in this year’s election and several other races that appear to be competitive. This year, for the first time ever, Citizens Union has taken the historic step of evaluating candidates for statewide office. Citizens Union does not evaluate candidates for federal office or the judiciary.

The Citizens Union Preferred Candidates are:

Statewide Races
Governor – Democratic Primary – Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General – Democratic Primary – Andrew Cuomo

Senate District 18 – Democratic Primary – Velmanette Montgomery
Senate District 20 – Democratic Primary – Eric Adams
Senate District 21 – Democratic Primary – Kevin Parker

Assembly District 43 – Democratic Primary – Jesse Hamilton
Assembly District 46 – Democratic Primary – Alec Brook-Krasny
Assembly District 57 – Democratic Primary – Hakeem Jeffries

Senate District 30 – Democratic Primary – Bill Perkins

Assembly District 68 – Democratic Primary – John Ruiz
Assembly District 72 – Democratic Primary – Adriano Espaillat
Assembly District 74 – Democratic Primary – Brian Kavanagh

Senate District 13 – Democratic Primary – John Sabini

Assembly District 22 – Democratic Primary – Terence Park

Staten Island
Senate District 24 – Republican Primary – Robert Helbock

The “Preferred” rating reflects a candidate that Citizens Union deems not only qualified for the office being sought, but committed to an agenda of positive reform in Albany. Candidates not preferred may nevertheless be highly regarded by Citizens Union. These distinctions are generally reflected in the commentaries. The “Preferred” rating will apply for the Primary Election only. Citizens Union will continue our candidate evaluation process after September 12th to review the general election races and issue endorsements for the November election.

A “No Preference” rating may result when there is insufficient information available, when one or more of the candidates has not been interviewed, or when a determination has been made that the candidates are of equal merit.

The Citizens Union Voters Directory, with evaluations of the candidates is available on line. To help voters delve more deeply into candidates’ positions, the candidates’ responses to Citizens Union questionnaires have also been posted on the Citizens Union website.


Ballot Access Concerns

In commenting on the state legislative contests, Doug Israel, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at CU and CUF, said, “While impressed with the candidates we have supported, we were underwhelmed by the lack of competitive primaries that are taking place. Too many candidates were either discouraged from running, knocked off the ballot using arcane rules, or simply not able to raise the money and mount the kind of campaigns necessary to challenge incumbents. This is why reform is needed to allow for a greater number of candidates to run for elected office.”

Writing for Gotham Gazette, Sydney Beveridge, CU-CUF Policy Associate, has reported on this topic:

“When it comes to the state legislature, most New Yorkers almost surely, will have a doubt-free fall. Over the past 16 years, New York has had few competitive legislative primary election races, and fewer still that resulted in the unseating of an incumbent, with just three such instances in the past three elections. Even legislators with criminal charges don’t always lose their seats.

“Another problem is when various candidates are bumped off the ballot at the last minute, essentially clearing out swaths of the field after the planting but before the harvest. This summer, with mixed results and piles of legal fees, many senate and assembly candidates have had their petitions or residencies challenged. Whether frontrunners or on the fringe, members of this vanishing crop must devote time and money to defending their candidacies. Like so many Plutos, candidates are bumped off the ballot, emptying the solar system of primary elections and excluding the public from the decision of who their next representatives will be. ”

Click here to read her article, “State Races and Incumbency – How New York is not Connecticut.”


CU Hosts Spirited Debates for State Legislature

As part of our mission to promote an informed and engaged electorate, Citizens Union hosted three candidate debates leading up to the September 12th Primary Election. The debates were well attended, drawing standing room only crowds at each event, illuminating candidates positions on a range of issues, including reform of state government, and even quite lively as candidates exchanged spirited barbs in their appeal to voters.

To see local press coverage of the debates click on the links below:

Senate District 13 – Hiram Monserrate and John Sabini
Assembly District 74 – Sylvia Friedman, Brian Kavanagh, Esther Yang or for a transcript
Assembly District 22 – Julia Harrison, Terence Park Ellen Young

Useful Election Information for the Primary on Tuesday, September 12th

Before you head to the polls this Tuesday, be sure to visit the following sites for some general election information:
New York City Board of Elections for information on the list of candidates running for office, phone numbers to your borough and city Board of Elections and answers to frequently asked questions.

The New York City Council has also created a website to provide more information on new options available for voters with disabilities such as voting on ballot marking devices.

Know your rights on Election Day, click here to view the New York State Voter’s Bill of Rights.



CU Calls for Lengthened Public Comment Period for Atlantic Yards Proposal

Responding to the schedule set for public hearings on the $4.2 billion development proposal for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, Citizens Union joined with a coalition of civic and community groups including Municipal Arts Society, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign, several elected officials and the three affected community boards to call on the Empire State Development Corporation to increase opportunities for the public to formally comment on the proposal and the related Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

CU is concerned that not only is the 66-day comment period an inadequate window of opportunity for the public to digest a 2,000 page environmental impact statement, but that the hearings are scheduled at very inopportune times. The first hearing took place the last week of August when community boards were in recess and many New Yorkers were on vacation, and the final hearing is scheduled for September 12, the date of primary elections in New York City.

To read Citizens Union’s full statement, click here. To view coverage in the Brooklyn Downtown Star, click here.



Annual Dinner

Citizens Union will honor four great New York City leaders at our Annual Dinner on Tuesday, October 24th at the Waldorf=Astoria:

  • Partnership for New York City – Business Leadership Award
  • Elizabeth Stribling – Civic Leadership Award
  • Peter F. Vallone, Sr. – Public Service Award;
  • Richard Kahan – Robert F. Wagner Jr.

If you are interesting in making a sponsorship gift to our Awards Dinner by purchasing a table, tickets or contributing, please click here. For more information, contact Sara Stuart.


Gotham Gazette News and Highlights

Gotham Gazettes’ The Citizen covers immigrant involvement and perspectives on the elections.

In 9/11 + 5 Josh Brustein reports on five years after the attacks by examining how New Yorkers are observing the anniversary and where are we now in planning and rebuilding of the site. Next week there will be an extended commentary on 9/11 health issues.
Visit Gotham Gazette on Monday for the 2006 Primary Election Guide for the Last Minute Voter which will provide the most user friendly and comprehensive coverage of the campaigns and the issues.

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