Politics 2010: No love lost for some New York primary candidates

Sept. 12, 2010 at 7:26 AM
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ALBANY, N.Y., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A match brewing for three decades comes to fruition Tuesday when Adam Clayton Powell IV takes on troubled U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel in a Democratic primary race in New York.

Powell recalls how Rangel invited him into his Capitol Hill office after Rangel waged a bruising primary fight to beat Powell's father, acknowledging he essentially ended the career of the celebrated Harlem politician, The New York Times said.

Now it's the younger Powell with Rangel in his sights, unremittingly attacking the 80-year-old lawmaker, saying his conduct -- Rangel faces 13 charges of ethics violations and a public trial in the House -- is "corrupt" and calling his wanting a 21st term "pointless."

"My dad fought the system his whole career," Powell told the Times. "Charles Rangel became part of the system. He embraces the political trade and the political games, and he rejoices in the backslapping and connections."

Powell first challenged Rangel -- despite being urged not to -- in 1994 and was trounced, losing by a 2-to-1 margin.

In the contest, the Times endorsed former Seagram's executive and educator Joyce Johnson, despite her struggles in the primary, saying she "has been a strong advocate for women's rights and civil rights for many years."

The other candidates running against Rangel are banker Vince Morgan and labor activist Jonathan Tasini. A fifth Democrat, Craig Schley, is running on the Independence Party ticket.

The Empire's State's senate delegation -- Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand -- are running for re-election, face token primary opposition and are considered safe bets to return to Washington, several media outlets said.

Gillibrand, appointed when Hillary Clinton became secretary of State, has a primary challenge from the liberal wing of the party -- New York corporation counsel staffer Gail Goode.

The Republican race features ex-Rep. Joe DioGuardi, former Port Authority Commissioner and Nassau County legislator Bruce Blakeman, and economist David Malpass.

While battling each other for the chance to square off against Gillibrand in the fall, all three Republicans, for one night, agreed on one thing: the state GOP leader has dropped the ball -- not a good thing in a year when polls indicate Republicans nationally are expected to make huge gains in November, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"He didn't do right by me at the convention," said DioGuardi, who is backed by the Conservative Party.

Even Blakeman, the state party's official choice, said Ed Cox "should have put more effort into unifying around me as the designee of the party. We are spending valuable time and resources fighting each other rather than gearing up for the contest with Senator Gillibrand."

Schumer's popularity may have dipped some, but pundits say no Republican is positioned to take advantage of the slip -- and Schumer's feistiness and $21.8 million war chest aren't for the faint of heart, CQ Politics said.

The Republicans vying to run against Schumer -- political consultant Jay Townsend and former CIA agent Gary Berntsen -- both saying they're electable.

Townsend argues he's the better candidate because he's endorsed by the Conservative party, a necessary backing for any Republican running in a statewide election in New York, WNYC public radio reported.

"I'm the only one on stage tonight who will have the Conservative line," Townsend said in a recent debate. "No Republican has won a statewide election in New York without the Conservative line since Gerry Ford."

Berntsen, however, touts his Taxpayer backing.

"I have the Taxpayer line, a new line that was created. I am the Republican designee, having won by 25 percent at the convention," he said. "I will turn out a large number of Republicans, I will turn out the Tea Party, in force. The Tea Party is the new conservative movement in New York. The Conservative Party will be small in comparison."

Turning to the gubernatorial race, Gov. David Paterson, assuming office when Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace and beset by controversy of his own, chose not to seek re-election, opening up the office for both Democrats and Republicans.

With Paterson out of the picture, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of three-term governor Mario Cuomo, emerged as the front-runner to keep the seat in the Democratic fold. CQ Politics changed its rating on the general election to "Likely Democratic" from the more competitive category of "Leans Democratic."

Cuomo's opponent is private investigator Jimmy McMillan.

The Republican primary race is messier. The seemingly smooth road to November for former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio got bumpy when Carl P. Paladino, a Buffalo developer, entered the race and indicated he was willing to pump as much as $10 million of his own money into his campaign.

Lazio's campaign has been an uphill battle, the New York Daily News said. He fought off a potential challenge from party-switching Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and he's had trouble raising cash.

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