Our Primary Picks

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The New York Press has not traditonally made political endorsements, but we decided it was about time we got more active in local politics. While not quite as intense as the Democratic battle for president, NYC Democrats still have a few contests worthy of their attention in the Sept. 9 primary, so here’s our take on the key races.

Surrogate’s Court Judge

We must admit, we usually don’t pay attention to judicial candidates, but the three-way primary for the open Surrogate’s Court seat got us going. It is a position with a low profile but large implications, as the judge has jurisdiction over estates, wills and adoption cases.

If the court is known for anything other than some highly publicized cases dealing with celebrities (think Woody Allen and the Astors), it is patronage. The next judge to be elected to Surrogate’s Court must be qualified to tackle patronage and be open to reform in addition to having an astute legal mind and experience.

The two most experienced candidates, John Reddy and Judge Milton Tingling, would make fine judges. Nora Anderson, however, could fulfill the requirements of being a judge, but she’s not up to the caliber of her two opponents. She has been in private practice for a decade with no record of reform, and her campaign flyers have been illegally plastered on public property throughout Manhattan.

Reddy has an appealing way of appointing guardianships through a blind system to avoid assigning these lucrative positions to friends and donors. He has been counsel to the Public Administrator, however, and has not effected the changes necessary so far.

Our endorsement for this race goes to Tingling, who has been elected to the Civil and State Supreme courts in his own right. His experience as a judge elevates him above his opponents and his idea for appointing guardians—an independent panel comprised of community leaders and lawyers—will ensure qualified lawyers, not cronies, will take on these responsibilities.

With the chance to elect a reform-minded individual, even with the New York County Democratic Party’s backing, we are endorsing Judge Tingling.

The People’s Court: Civil Court

This year, there is also an opening on Manhattan’s Civil Court, the entry-level court in New York’s judicial system. Sometimes called “the people’s court,” these judges handle non-criminal, non-matrimonial cases up to $25,000 that can include anything from commercial accidents to credit card debts. Voters have two strong candidates to pick from for this position: Michael Katz and Nancy Bannon.

Katz has been a principal court attorney for Justice Barbara Kapnick, both in the State Supreme Court and Civil Court. He also has experience as a volunteer arbitrator for the Small Claims Court. Katz is community-minded and cares about serving the public.

Nancy Bannon has the edge when it comes to experience. She’s worked both in private practice and in a variety of New York State courts for the past 22 years. Her legal experience ranges from the Criminal Court to the Appellate Division, an unusual distinction for a would-be Civil Court judge. She currently works as the principal court attorney for Supreme Court Justice Deborah Kaplan. As Bannon points out, Katz has the right makings for a judge, but “he is where I was 10 or 12 years ago.”

In the race for Manhattan Civil Court, our endorsement goes to Nancy Bannon.

State Senate Race

We definitely like new blood, new ideas, new energy, but we’re not so sure it’s the right time to be ushering out State Sen. Martin Connor. Daniel Squadron has received a number of (surprising) high-profile endorsements, but we feel the newbie is mostly benefiting from Connor’s opponents trying to muscle him out of office. Squadron’s main campaign qualification is his newness and ability to affect reform. Connor, however, has a long history of advocating progressive issues and has already been instrumental in reforming Albany to the best of his ability as a minority member. He has promised reform during his 30 years in office but now that he’ll be a senior member of a Democrat-controlled Senate, we want to see what sort of action he takes. If he can’t do it during this term—with his experience, knowledge of process and procedure—we’ll gladly look for a new Democrat who can. But Squadron is weak on ideas regarding schools, public housing and reform and, most importantly, lacks the experience. So our vote goes to Connor.

New York State Assembly

In New York State, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is becoming public enemy number one: Progressives made him the scapegoat for the death of congestion pricing; Republicans lambaste him for stymieing a property tax cap bill with a millionaire’s tax attached; and he is one of the three men in a room—an exemplar of Albany dysfunction.

But he is not the demon of the Capitol. He is a politician with power, which he unfortunately can abuse. The most glaring and recent example being his failing to bring the congestion pricing bill to the Assembly floor for a vote. A vote would have been the honest, transparent and right thing to do.

Despite his congestion pricing blunder, he has done an excellent job advancing progressive issues that make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers: campaign finance reform, gender-identity protection and same-sex marriage.

We appreciate community activists Paul Newell and Luke Henry for taking on the Herculean task of deposing an incumbent in a Democratic primary. The press has propped up Newell, the credible alternative to Silver, for having the gumption—or nerve?—to take on the Assembly speaker.

If Newell is victorious, something will change: the quality of Lower Manhattan. Though Silver is a statewide politician, he has not made the political career-ending mistake of ignoring his district.

We feel Newell can contribute more by continuing his impressive career in activism. For progressive stances on the Assembly floor, bringing in necessary cash for lower Manhattan, Silver is the person to vote for.

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