Take Back Congress - New York

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Illinois Party Boss Interferes in 24th District Election

A report out from Bloomberg News yesterday afternoon cites Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic congressman from Illinois who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, referring to Michael Arcuri as "one of his key recruits this year."

One of his key recruits?

Pardon me, but since when does a politician from Illinois get the power to choose who the Democratic candidate for Congress in New York State's 24th congressional district will be?

The answer is simple - he doesn't. We do. We, the Democrats of the 24th District.

I don't care if you're pro-Arcuri, or pro-Roberts, or pro-Tytler. You ought to be offended that Rahm Emanuel believes he can just hand pick which Democrat will represent us in the general election.

Rumors have it that we still live in a democracy, and the way our Democracy works is that we, the people, are supposed to have the power to select our own leaders. Apparently, some people with the national Democratic Party are working to squelch those rumors.

In fact, they're setting out rumors of their own. Although there are no public opinion polls on this Democratic primary race and the only publicly available campaign finance information shows that Michael Arcuri had raised NO money by the end of the last filing deadline, with a suspiciously synchronized timing, all the establishment political reports in Washington D.C. have been reporting that the Democrats in the 24th District are all solidly behind Michael Arcuri.

I've been following this race for every day for three months now. I live in the District. I've attended campaign events here. I've been getting information from many sources within the District, and I can tell you one thing for sure: The Democrats of the 24th District are solidly behind nobody yet. The Democrats of New York's 24th District haven't had time to make up their minds yet. We just found out yesterday afternoon that Sherwood Boehlert is retiring, so how could we District 24 Democrats possibly have come to a conclusion about which Democrat would be the best candidate to take on the Republican candidate? We don't even know for sure who that Republican candidate is!

The people who write those political reports have not actually bothered themselves to come to New York's 24th District. They're just relying on what their inside sources in the DCCC, like Rahm Emanuel, are saying. They're assuming that whomever Rahm Emanuel supports, the Democrats of the 24th District will support.

The fact is that we have two very good Democratic candidates besides Michael Arcuri: Les Roberts and Bruce Tytler.

Since I first reported on Rahm Emanuel's poorly-timed comments yesterday, many people from outside the 24th District have been sending me angry messages telling me to shut up and get out of the way of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They're telling me that I ought to be happy just to have the chance to get another Democrat in Congress - even if I have no say as a Democratic voter on which Democrat gets to represent my home district.

These comments miss the point of what a primary election is all about. A primary election is not an obstacle to having a strong Democratic candidate in the general electiom. A primary election is the tool through which our nation remains a democracy. It is the right and responsibility of local Democrats to choose their own representatives. That's not a problem - it's a basic right that Americans fought the Revolutionary War for. It's downright unpatriotic to try to deprive American voters of that right.

We should not kid ourselves into thinking that all we need to do to bring an effective, clean, government into power is just to get the Republicans out of Congress. The problem is much trickier than that. Ideologically, I disagree with the Republicans, and I want them out of office. But, I'm not so stupid as to believe that Democrats are not susceptible to the same corrupting influences that have brought us a slew of Republican scandals, with Jack Abramoff and beyond.

If Michael Arcuri wins a Democratic primary election fair and square, that's fine. If Michael Arcuri gets the Democratic nomination by pressuring the other candidates to quit the race before the primary, however, that's a sign of trouble for us Democrats of the 24th district.

If Arcuri wins the nomination solely because of money and resources pumped into the race by Rahm Emanuel, then we 24th District Democrats have some serious soul searching to do. If Arcuri goes on from such a nomination process to win the general election, he will not represent the people of the 24th District in Congress. He will represent the interests of Rahm Emanuel.

I don't write this blog so that Rahm Emanuel can have another loyal foot soldier in the House of Representatives. I write this blog because I want to participate in the democratic process, and have a member of Congress who is more accessible, and more accountable to the voters, than Sherwood Boehlert has been.

It seems that many Democrats on the national level, who only a few weeks ago were dismissing our district as unwinnable, are now opportunistically trying to manipulate our election. These Democrats seem not to care very much about the democratic process. What they care most about is a win for their team, to help them expand their power.

More and more, it seems to me that we 24 District Democrats all being played for a bunch of suckers. Are you going to play along, like a good sucker?


  • I'll be honest, I think you are vastly overreacting to the situation. Rahm Emanuel is charged with taking back the House for the Democrats, thus in each race he and the DCCC go out and recruit who they think is the strongest candidate. From what I've heard, the DCCC and a lot of people in Washington and Oneida County, have been excepting Sherry to retire this cycle for at least a few months. The DCCC went out early and talked to the Democratic political big wigs in the area and came to the conclusion that Michael Arcuri was the strongest Democrat to run in an open seat race and had a reasonably good shot against Sherry too. From the DCCC's perspective having a single candidate early in the race is better than not having one until mid-September. Also from the DCCC's perspective the job titles go as follows DA > Mayor > Professor.

    I have advocated in the 25th leaving it up to the committee endorsement process rather than dragging it out until September. The 24th is an even more difficult district because it does not have a huge population base like the Syracuse area. The Democrats will be better suited with a candidate who can spend the time getting his name out in all areas of the district, talking to swing voters and conserving money rather than speaking to the voters who are already with him.

    And about the money situation. Les Roberts only raised 40K, that much could feasibly be raised in 10 phone calls.

    Rahm Emanuel may be heavy handed at times, but he not look for a foot soldier he's looking for a winning candidate.

    By Blogger The Watcher, at 8:41 PM  

  • As a former resident of the 25th District, I can tell you that I would fight you every step of the way to make the 25th District primary a rubber stamp. That's the way that despotic governments work, not the way that we're supposed to do things in the USA.

    Primaries are not a waste of time for candidates. They're a challenge to the power of the people who sit on the Democratic committees, and that's why a lot of establishment Democrats get so irritated with them.

    Primaries give candidates the opportunity to get stronger - if they're smart enough to use the opportunity. They engage voters' interest earlier than would otherwise take place. They give people the feeling that they actually can make a difference, and it's not all rigged.

    You're not going to get high Democratic voter turnout in a general election where the voters have had no hand in the selection of the candidate.

    Don't be so eager for victory that you run roughshod over the people you need to get you there - the voters.

    By Blogger 24 Independent, at 5:51 AM  

  • When it comes to big wigs, well... a member of Congress is supposed to represent us ALL - not just the big wigs.

    I'll choose democracy over victory every time.

    By Blogger 24 Independent, at 5:52 AM  

  • 1998 - 7%
    2000 - 8%
    2002 - 9%

    That is the turnout among registered Democrats in the Democratic Primary. I don't have numbers for 2004. In 2002 of the Democratic Primary voters 66% had voted in all 4 of the last election, 83% had voted in 3 of the last 4.

    I understand your sentiment, but in New York, that's just not how primaries work. They are low turnout affairs among people who are going to vote in the general and who are going to vote for the Democratic nominee. Primary or not, it will have no effect Democratic turnout.

    By Blogger The Watcher, at 9:37 AM  

  • Watcher, I agree with you to the extent that that's how things are. In order to really win at what counts, we have to move toward what can be. Isn't that why we're in this?

    Accept what's there, and then work like hard to make things better. I think that's why you and I write in these majority Republican districts.

    By Blogger 24 Independent, at 3:28 PM  

  • It's Rahm Emanuel's job as DCCC Chairman to take back the house. He is going to do that by finding candidates that can win, and have proven they can win. Mike Arcuri has done that. If Roberts stays in the race, he will be beat 66% to 33%. SAVE THIS POST!!! It's the best bet of the century. This race will be a $4 million dollar seat, and the Republicans will send $2.5 and the Dems $1.5, the race will be 51% Arcuri, 49% Meier.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 PM  

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