The dynamics of Governor Kathy Hochul’s chief judge selection and denial reveal which faction (or region) is running Albany. Surprise, it’s not Long Island.
Hector LaSalle is the presiding judge of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department. He is eminently qualified, having been selected along with six others by Commission on Judicial Nomination – a body created to remove politics to the extent humanly possible from the judicial nomination process – for the governor’s approval, and decides cases based on the facts.
The Brentwood native’s nomination was derailed by deep-pocketed and powerful outside interest groups, and the progressive New York City Democrats entranced to their siren song. Instead of rushing to the defense of her nominee, Hochul took a laissez-faire approach— lest she offends the Majority Leader of the New York Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a progressive.
Who came to LaSalle’s defense but Senator Anthony Palumbo, a Republican from Long Island. Who launched a suit clarifying the constitutional question arisen and prevented such abuse of senatorial power from transpiring again but Palumbo?
While it is shocking to the casual observer that the governor, theoretically the most powerful person in New York State, would acquiesce so quickly to intraparty fighting, it really isn’t. This behavior from the Senate is moving from the realm of the sporadic to a developed pattern, whereby New York City’s representatives to Albany are increasingly dominating high-profile decisions while the governor watches.
And while this may be true to her mantra of restoring the Legislature as a coequal branch of government, this probably isn’t what she had in mind. For the Legislature, with all its rules and machinations, is still, thankfully, confined to the constraints of the New York State Constitution – as Palumbo’s case shows.
This latest debacle proves the value of sending doers to Albany from our region – elected officials from Long Island who aren’t bound to mandates and campaign funds from New York City but from the locals that entrusted them to go to Albany.
Looking back at the past few debacles of ideological convictions jettisoning good governance, we have examples from the progressive left. These progressives, though they number few, are hijacking the Democratic Party across the state, pushing for initiatives harmful to the region – such as high-density housing requirements overriding local zoning laws, banning gas and oil appliances, and pushing a pro-criminal agenda.
Regionally, and surprising to some, when we look for who has a pragmatic agenda, the agenda of getting results, we see champions in the local Republican Party.
We now have a Republican Party, at least locally, doing press conferences on affordable housing and access to childcare. This is not because these are positions taken by the national party, but because these are problems faced by their constituents— problems that deserve solutions.
Whether it is Assemblyman Doug Smith fighting for education dollars, Senator Dean Murray putting forward a plan to increase childcare and fight Hochul’s housing plan, or Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick holding the line on government spending, we see a range of dynamic figures putting their constituents first. It is palpable.
If one is concerned with ideology hindering practical decision-making, look no further than the actions of the New York State Democratic Party, which, since Cuomo’s unsanctimonious fall, has been unable to control its left flank. Now, the Democratic Socialists of America and other leftist organizations, whose membership does not reflect the State of New York nor the Democratic Party, have the strength to challenge the institutional Democratic Party.
Locally, we still have Democrats willing to buck the party on Hochul’s housing plan, such as Senator Monica Martinez and Assemblyman Fred Thiele. But how much longer can we rely on their voices? Former Assemblyman Steve Englebright, while running unsuccessfully for re-election, stated that he voted in favor of bail reform to protect his district’s education dollar from his own party. This was despite his seniority in the Assembly.
There is no weapon in the zealot’s arsenal not deployed to get their way; this is true of all ideological convictions. And it is something we have already experienced.
The electorate would be wise to place region above party in the election of state and local representatives who mostly deal with the mundane aspects of governance. As salacious and exciting as a handful of topics are, will the representative that pays lip service to social and cultural causes protect your town?
While we are far away from any immediate elections, local political organizations are choosing their candidates. Some candidates are tried and proven, and some are green to politics.
Remember to ask them where they stand before you let them sit.
Pull the lever for Long Island.