As Republicans nationally continued to show a propensity for self-destruction Tuesday night, the Party’s New York faction eagerly did its part to ensure the Empire State remains a Democratic lifeline.
If ever there were a year that New York could begin a return to its days as a bastion of moderate Republicanism, this was it. With the appointment of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand resulting in an odd confluence of both Senate seats facing election in the same cycle, Republicans faced a unique opportunity to change the face of at least half the state’s delegation. Gillibrand, in addition to being appointed by the woefully inept Governor David Paterson, also faced charges of flip-flopping from previously conservative positions on guns and gay marriage. Despite her deep-pocketed fundraising prowess, Gillibrand offered a rare opportunity for Republicans to pick off a Senate seat in deep blue country. Amidst controversial stewardship by State Party Chairman Ed Cox, the Republicans recruited to take up this challenge were a veritable all-star lineup: former Port Authority Commissioner Bruce Blakeman, former Bear Stearns executive David Malpass, and former Westchester Congressman Joseph DioGuardi. The latter of the three emerged victorious, a CPA who can run on name recognition as the father of a former American Idol judge.
To take on Senator Charles Schumer, Republicans tapped political consultant Jay Townsend and former FBI agent Gary Berntsen. Townsend emerged with the dubious honor Tuesday night, a meaningless nomination in a race with no hope of victory. Schumer, perhaps the Democratic Majority Leader pending the fate of Harry Reid, has absolutely no chance of losing. Schumer is now virtually entrenched as a Senate institution, remarkable considering his surprise 1998 victory came at the expense of a three-term Republican incumbent. Given the opposition, Schumer is guaranteed a third term of his own.
In the race for Governor, New York Republicans picked up on the national trend line for self-immolation by nominating Buffalo real estate developer Carl Paladino. Defeating former Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio—famous for handing Hillary Clinton her Senate seat after attempting to shove papers at her during a debate in 2000—Paladino kicked off his campaign with a somnolent rendition of the classic line from Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Shortly thereafter, he nearly cost himself any electoral hopes after it was revealed that he’d circulated racist and obscene e-mails concerning President Obama. Before his recent surge in the polls, Paladino made headlines by suggesting that New York’s vacant prisons be used as temporary housing for welfare recipients, where they could learn valuable job skills and personal hygiene. The Party would face long odds of defeating Andrew Cuomo no matter who they nominated, but Paladino is the perfect tonic for those of us in New York who had been wishing for our very own Sharron Angle.
In a telling result Tuesday night, 20-term congressman Charlie Rangel won the Democratic nomination to defend his seat, defeating four challengers despite facing well-known ethics charges which are still under investigation. Meanwhile, on the Upper East Side, Rep. Carolyn Maloney walloped her competition from 34-year-old lawyer Reshma Saujani. In an anti-incumbent, anti-establishment, tidal wave election, New York Democrats seem willing to take their chances with the status quo. Rather than take full advantage of the favor by recruiting top tier candidates, the state’s Republicans are instead inexplicably taking a pass. If the days of Javits and Rockefeller couldn’t return to New York in 2010, they likely never will.