Politically, the year ahead will offer the usual crop of indicted pols, unpopular policies and heart-stopping surprises. Nonetheless, I’ll offer my thoughts on what interesting things could happen over the next 12 months.
Retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s second brush with blood clots causes her to rethink another presidential bid. Survivors of similar health scares report that they saw themselves and their lives differently, with one going so far as to say that frequent airplane travel—a requisite for presidential runs—makes future blood clots a “crap shoot.”
As a result, Andrew Cuomo will seriously position himself to run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The IDC/GOP governing hybrid may be a “one-off” as Cuomo pivots to show what a Democratic governor in a one-party state can accomplish.
To that end, Cuomo will lead the Stewart(-Cousins) Restoration after the suburban leader of the state Senate Democratic Conference successfully builds it into a fighting force to be reckoned with.
Despite the best efforts of Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Josh Fox, this is the year when shale gas exploration finally gets the green light from state regulators. The Cuomo administration unveils fracking regulations that will prevent negative health impacts and, hopefully, drive private sector job growth in the state’s Southern Tier.
In the city, ex–TV host Eliot Spitzer emerges as the business sector’s last-minute alternative to the current crop of mayoral hopefuls, including Joe Lhota. Unlike Lhota, Spitzer can self-finance, and unlike John Catsimatidis, he’s both accomplished and polished.
But none of that will deter the borough GOP organizations from becoming outposts for disaffected Democrats. Like the state Senate GOP minority, they are willing “fusion” partners in order to maintain patronage access.
After much wrangling, handwringing and cajoling, city GOP leaders settle on an ethnic dream ticket of Catsimatidis for mayor, Adolfo Carrión for comptroller and A.R. Bernard for public advocate. Joe Lhota reluctantly agrees to become the sacrificial lamb for governor in 2014.
This, however, may be the year that New York City party bosses and identity politics finally fade away, to be replaced by personal relationship building and, to the consternation of liberals, shared religious values. The hemorrhaging of patronage on the local level is killing county political organizations. Individual politicians, the relationships they forge and the databases they build count more than the party machine.
2013 will also be the year where the myth of a singular Latino community is proved to be wishful thinking. Puerto Rican leaders have been whistling past that particular graveyard for a long time. In New York’s growing Hispanic neighborhoods in Queens, the last Puerto Rican state senator elected to office is about to begin a prison term. His replacement, José Peralta, is a Dominican-American. The successor to Peralta’s former Assembly seat, Francisco Moya, is Ecuadoran. Up in the Bronx, lovelorn Puerto Rican Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera was defeated by Mark Gjonaj, an Albanian-American, after black voters swung to him.
The year ahead may also finally see the rise of conservative Democrats in primary elections. Conservative Russian, Orthodox Jewish and Hispanic evangelical voters will unite behind class, cultural and political conservatism rather than ethnic identity. At least that’s the thinking behind Rev. Erick Salgado’s bid for mayor.
Lastly, what would political predictions be without mention of the city Board of Elections? The Board’s worst nightmare comes to pass when the Democratic primary fails to produce a clear winner and the candidates enjoin the Board from certifying the results in time for a runoff.
I raise this possibility to highlight the fact that the boards of elections across the Empire State are asked to conduct 21st century elections under statutes devised in the last century.
Incompatible, sometimes contradictory and ambiguous passages create outcomes that paint the city Board as incompetent and inefficient. For example, state election law conflicts with the New York City Charter rules governing runoff elections.
Equally outdated patronage rules prevent the boards from functioning as professional managers of elections and custodians of democracy. Partisan wrangling and the lack of enforcement powers neuter state Board of Elections efforts to be an effective watchdog.
The fiasco that will be the 2013 city primary elections finally prompts the state Legislature to enact the necessary reforms to protect the integrity of our elections.
Like the Chinese curse says: “May we live in interesting times.”
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin represented the Bronx for eight years.
Tags: A.R. Bernard, Adolfo Carrion, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Andrew Cuomo, Board of Elections, Eliot Spitzer, Erick Strickland, Francisco Moya, Hillary Clinton, Hydrofracking, joe lhota, John Catsimatidis, José Peralta, Josh Fox, Mark Gjonaj, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, naomi-rivera, Southern Tier