News 

Release

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Media Contacts:
Dick Dadey, 917-709-2896
Alex Camarda, 212-227-0342, x24

CITIZENS UNION ANNOUNCES STATE CANDIDATE PREFERENCES IN SEPTEMBER PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN NYC

In its 100th Year of Candidate Evaluation, Historic Civic Group
Supports the Reelection of Only Six Incumbent Legislators

Good Government Group Also Supports
the Election of Seven Challengers to Current Incumbents,
Backs Four Candidates in Open Seats and
Passes on Supporting the Reelection of Seven Incumbent Legislators

Dismayed by Paradox of This Years Election Season in NYC:
Lack of Quality, Viable Challengers to Many Entrenched Incumbents
while Elected Officials with Solid Records on Reform Face Stiff Opposition

Chooses Rick Lazio over Carl Paladino in Republican Primary Election for Governor


On the 100th anniversary of its historic practice of informing voters about candidates for elected office and supporting those candidates who are effective and committed political reformers, Citizens Union today announced its remaining preferences for the September 14th primary election. Elections are about making choices, sometimes difficult ones, which is why Citizens Union diligently tries to honor its century old responsibility of informing voters of both parties about all candidates and providing important guidance in competitive elections to New Yorkers who exercise their civic responsibility to vote.

Of the twenty-four state legislative contests it evaluated, Citizens Union prefers a total of seventeen candidates, of which only six are incumbents. Another seven are challengers. The remaining four candidates it supports are running for open seats in the state Assembly. It also issued a "No Preference" in seven state legislative races, deciding not to support either the incumbent or the challenger, mostly because the challengers were not credible or strong enough in their efforts to oust incumbents whose reelection we could not support.

Of the six incumbent legislators Citizens Union supports, three are current state senators: Toby Ann Stavisky over Isaac Sasson and John Messer (Queens 16), Jose Serrano over Mark Escofferey-Bey (Bronx/ Manhattan 28) and Bill Perkins over Basil Smikle (Manhattan 30). The other three are members of the Assembly: Andrew Hevesi over Joe Fox (Queens 28), Jonathan Bing over Gregg Lundahl (Manhattan 73), and Peter Rivera over Luis Sepulveda (Bronx 76).

Of the six challengers Citizens Union is supporting, four are running for the state senate: Gustavo Rivera over Pedro Espada (Bronx 33), Lynn Nunes over Shirley Huntley (Queens 10), Carlos "Charlie" Ramos over Ruben Diaz Sr. (Bronx 32), and Mark Pollard over Velmanette Montgomery (Brooklyn 18). The two challengers Citizens Union prefers in the Assembly are Sergio Villaverde (Bronx 78) over Jose Rivera, and Anthony Miranda over Jeffrion Aubrey (Queens 35).

Citizens Union also chose not to support the reelection of seven incumbent legislators or the election of their challengers. These are: incumbent Herman "Denny" Farrell Jr. and challenger Ariel Ferrera (Manhattan 71), incumbent Joan Millman and challenger Douglas Biviano (Brooklyn 52), incumbent Joseph Lentol and challenger Andre Soleil (Brooklyn 50), incumbent Barbara Clark and challenger Clyde Vanel (Brooklyn 33), and incumbent Michael Miller and challenger Nick Comaianni (Queens 38). Citizens Union also took a pass on incumbent Nelson Castro (Bronx 86) and challenger Michele Adolphe (Brooklyn 42), whose opponents we were unable to interview.

The candidates it supports in each of the four open seats for Assembly are John Duane (Queens 26), Francisco Moya (Queens 39), Robert Rodriguez (Manhattan 68), and Guillermo Linares (Manhattan 72). In the open seat in the Senate, Citizens Union backs current Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat (Manhattan/Bronx 31).

For the Republican nomination for Governor, the historic good government group prefers Rick Lazio over Carl Paladino. Lazio demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the major issues facing the state, and provided a series of comprehensive strategies to reform Albany and address the states fiscal woes. Among his reform priorities are supporting an independent redistricting process, empowering the comptroller to certify that the budget is actually balanced according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), establishing a more independent ethics oversight agency accompanied by full disclosure of outside income earned by elected officials, reforming the member items process, and limiting the role of money in politics through eliminating fundraisers in Albany during the legislative session and capping contributions by registered lobbyists. We are pleased that he reaffirmed his pledge to veto any legislative district lines that are drawn directly by the legislature and oppose any effort to keeps in place the practice of partisan gerrymandering.

Citizens Union did not raise with Lazio his campaigns focus on the placement of an Islamic Cultural Center in downtown Manhattan, but how he has addressed it was later discussed during our boards evaluation of him. Although justifiable concerns exist about the tenor of his comments concerning this issue, we did not factor that into our decision to prefer Mr. Lazio over Carl Paladino in the Republican primary for governor, because we did not raise it with him.

Citizens Union did not succeed in meeting with Paladino or receive a response to its candidate questionnaire from him, and is basing its preference decision on only evaluating Lazio and the responsibility to provide guidance to Republican Party primary voters who need to make a choice and vote for a candidate.

"Reform of our states government is the number one issue on voters minds this election year," said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. "New Yorkers are clamoring for change to business as usual in Albany. The voters are tired of budgets characterized by gimmickry rather than transparency, corruption related to member items, and a redistricting process which undermines accountability by ensuring little to no competition for office. The preferences issued by Citizens Union provide a clear signal to voters which incumbents have made an effort to bring change to Albany and which ones have stood in the way of reform and need to be replaced."

Perhaps best capturing the mood this election year is the race in senate district 33 in the Bronx, where Gustavo Rivera is challenging incumbent state senator Pedro Espada. Espada has become a symbol for hubris, corruption and wrongdoing in the state legislature due to ongoing investigations by the attorney general and federal authorities and his leadership in bringing senate business to a month-long halt last summer. Citizens Union not only prefers Rivera because of the multitude of ethical issues surrounding Espada, who refused to meet with Citizens Union, but also because Rivera showed impressive knowledge of different issues facing the state and committed to bringing greater transparency and accountability to the member-item process. Rivera is also a strong supporter of redistricting reform and opposes the continued direct role of the legislature in drawing the district lines.

Citizens Union also prefers Charlie Ramos, who faces an uphill fight against Ruben Diaz, Sr. Diaz has been outspoken in his opposition to redistricting reform, voting against it in committee this year while Ramos supports an independent commission in drawing district lines. Creating a buffer between legislators and those who draw district boundaries is also strongly supported by Lynn Nunes, who Citizens Union likewise prefers over incumbent Shirley Huntley in southeastern Queens. Nunes also backs an independent board to oversee ethics, and has been active in the community to address the fallout from the foreclosure crisis.

"While Citizens Union backed more challengers than incumbents in the races we evaluated for the state legislature in the City," noted Alex Camarda, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, "some incumbents have been supporters of reform including Bill Perkins, Jose Serrano and Toby Ann Stavisky. We prefer them, and recommend voters send them back to Albany to continue their efforts and join with newly-elected reformers to advance change in the Capitol."

Perkins, who faces the greatest challenge of the group from a thoughtful and impressive opponent Basil Smikle, is deserving of reelection. His success in bringing long-needed accountability to the states many authorities shows his commitment to taking on complex and difficult challenges worthy of reform, and his strongly expressed support for an independent commission to draw the legislative district lines makes him Citizens Unions choice. In spite of Smikles singular focus on charter schools, which made him less well-rounded or informed a candidate as the incumbent, he is nevertheless the kind of challenger Citizens Union would like to see more of, but not necessarily in races where there is as effective an incumbent as Perkins. Unfortunately, quality challengers taking on incumbents with solid records on reform was a trend in the races we evaluated. This was the case not only in the Perkins-Smikle race, but also in Joe Foxs challenge of Andy Hevesi, and Isaac Sassons effort to unseat Toby Ann Stavisky. The challengers are New Yorkers who would serve well in the legislature, if only they were not running against incumbents supportive of reform.

Meanwhile, entrenched elected officials who are opposed to reform facing real competition is a rarity. This was best illustrated by particular races in the assembly (Brooklyn 33, Brooklyn 50 and Manhattan 71), where incumbents face little meaningful opposition and Citizens Union made "no preference", preferring neither the incumbent nor the challenger. Assemblymember Denny Farrell in district 71, for instance, who is the powerful Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means committee faces a challenger in the primary for the first time in 18 years in Ariel Ferreira. While Ferreira supports many reform initiatives, he has raised little money and lacks significant support. Farrell, meanwhile, opposes numerous reforms essential to changing Albany from redistricting to applying GAAP to the state budget process. While we commend Farrell for interviewing with us and being open about his positions on the issues, we dont hare his assessment that the Assemblys performance is "superb" or reflects the feeling of the vast majority of New Yorkers and therefore, make "no preference in the race." Similarly, Barbara Clark in district 33, who faces controversies surrounding her funding of organizations with questionable spending practices, and opposes reform to the member item system, has little real competition. Likewise, Joseph Lentol in district 50, who opposes independent redistricting and election-day voter registration, faces a perennial candidate with little money and a history of shifting party ideology. This marks an improvement however over the previous 35 years, when Lentol never had any Democratic party primary opponent.

There are some assembly districts, primarily in open seats, where reform issues are, however, breaking through and voters have real choices. Francisco Moya promises to bring dignity and integrity to the 39th in Queens where he and Hiram Monserrate, who was expelled from the state senate, square off. Citizens Union supports Moya. In the open seat in Queens 26, voters in the democratic primary have a choice between three candidates, with Citizens Union preferring John Duane, a former Assemblyman in the 1980s, who fully supports our reform agenda and demonstrates in-depth policy knowledge. Seven candidates are competing in the democratic primary in Manhattan 68, where Citizens Union backs Robert Rodriguez as the best agent of change.

The open seat in senate district 31 covering Manhattan and the Bronx similarly offers more choice and better opportunity for the advancement of reform. Both Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat and Mark Levine are strong advocates of reform with Citizens Union preferring Espaillat based on his long-term commitment to reform, his track record of achieving results, and able representation of his assembly district.

Citizens Unions in-depth analysis and background information of candidates, including written summaries for the interviews of over 50 candidates, for these and other races for the upcoming primary election will be available on Citizens Union#39;s website at www.citizensunion.org. The website presently contains questionnaires for all of the candidates who have submitted their responses, including candidates that Citizens Union did not ultimately interview. The 100th version of the annual Citizens Union Voters Directory, a print version of the online materials with a list of all preferred candidates, will be available next week.

A summary of the races and candidates Citizens Union prefers or evaluated is listed below:

Citizens Union 2010 Candidate Primary Election Preferences
for Selected State Senate Seats in NYC
(Incumbents indicated in bold)

Legislative DistrictPreferred Candidate
Senate District 10Lynn Nunes
Senate District 16Toby Ann Stavisky
Senate District 18Mark Pollard
Senate District 28Jose Serrano, Jr.
Senate District 30Bill Perkins
Senate District 31Adriano Espaillat
Senate District 32Carlos "Charlie" Ramos, Jr.
Senate District 33Gustavo Rivera

Citizens Union 2010 Candidate Primary Election Preferences
for Selected State Assembly Seats in NYC
(Incumbents indicated in bold)

Legislative DistrictPreferred Candidate
Assembly District 26John Duane
Assembly District 28Andrew Hevesi
Assembly District 35Anthony Miranda
Assembly District 39Francisco Moya
Assembly District 68Robert Rodriguez
Assembly District 72Guillermo Linares
Assembly District 73Jonathan Bing
Assembly District 76Peter Rivera
Assembly District 78Sergio Villaverde

Selected State Assembly Races in NYC that Citizens Union Evaluated
but Did Not Express A Preference for Any Candidate in the Race
(Incumbents indicated in bold)

Legislative DistrictCandidates Evaluated
Assembly District 33Barbara Clark, Clyde Vanel
Assembly District 38Nick Comaianni, Michael Miller
Assembly District 42Michele Adolphe*
Assembly District 50Joseph Lentol, Andre Soleil
Assembly District 52Douglas Biviano, Joan Millman
Assembly District 71Herman "Denny" Farrell, Areil Ferreira
Assembly District 86Nelson Castro**

*incumbent Rhoda Jacobs declined to be interviewed
**challenger Hector Ramirez declined to be interviewed


Citizens Union of the City of New York, a nonpartisan force for good government for more than 100 years, works to inform and engage New Yorkers, to ensure local and state government values its citizens, addresses critical issues, and operates in a fair, open, and fiscally sound manner.


299 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10007-1976
Peter J. W. Sherwin, Chair • Dick Dadey, Executive Director
info@citizensunion.orgwww.citizensunion.org