Not much Tea Party here in N.Y.

One of the curiosities of the election that is hard upon us is that with Tea Party fervor sweeping t

One of the curiosities of the election that is hard upon us is that with Tea Party fervor sweeping the country we have so few Tea Party candidates here at home.

The Republican Party, riding the Tea Party wave, is about to sweep the House of Representatives, pollsters assure us, and eat into the Democratic majority in the Senate, but here in New York state and more particularly here in the Capital Region, it is politics more or less as usual, the one glaring exception being the Republican candidate for governor, that Tea Partier extraordinaire, Carl Paladino.

He is the one candidate who not only wants to cut spending and so forth but also has the loony streak that is the mark of the true Tea Partier, manifested in his case by sending pornographic e-mails, calling George Pataki a “degenerate idiot,” likening Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to the anti-Christ and threatening to “take out” an obnoxious reporter.

Below him, what do we have? Not much.

We have Republican Chris Gibson challenging Democrat Scott Murphy for Murphy’s seat in Congress and relying heavily on Tea Party talking points, like denouncing “socialized health care” and “cap-and-trade,” calling for the elimination of the federal Department of Education and citing Nancy Pelosi as the next thing to Satan. That’s about all.

He stumbled badly a couple months ago by seeming to support construction of an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, putting out a statement saying he believes in “freedom and equal protection under the law,” and, saying of Muslims, “We must honor their right to practice their religion.”

“In the effort to save America we should never violate her,” he said. “In my view any attempt to single out Islam would be a violation of the Constitution.”

He gave his bona fides as a combat veteran who had himself been wounded by terrorists, but you know how it went over with the Tea Party and with right-wing Republicans in general: Equal protection for terrorists? Saints preserve us!

The next thing you knew he was back-pedaling and saying he hadn’t really meant it. He pulled the statement from his Facebook page and posted a new one declaring, “I do not support the construction of a mosque and have always felt it’s neither the time nor place for it.”

Not the sort of waffling that would get him a contract with Fox News, that’s for sure, in case he loses the election.

No, they’re a lackluster bunch, these second-tier Republican candidates, with none of Paladino’s sparkle.

Jay Townsend — have you heard of him? He’s the challenger to Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. A market researcher and ad man, he’s running about 40 points behind Schumer in the polls, offering ho-hum denunciations of the federal bureaucracy and Nancy Pelosi. Sort of like the Tea Party on autopilot.

Joe DioGuardi — how about him? He’s the challenger to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who, of all Democratic incumbents ought to be beatable. He’s about 30 points behind her, touting his accounting experience and wistfully praising the Tea Party for its wholesome effect on Congress.

Harry Wilson — have you heard of him? He is the challenger to Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. A former hedge-fund manager and of course Republican, he joined Team Obama to lead the turnaround of General Motors and has been endorsed by The New York Times for his financial expertise.

So what kind of Tea Partier could that possibly be? No kind at all. He comes on as sane, practical and responsible. He’s running about 17 points behind DiNapoli, a poor creature of Assembly Democrats who assumed the comptroller’s job by appointment, with no apparent credentials.

Then there’s Dan Donovan, Republican district attorney of Staten Island, running against Democratic state Sen. Eric Schneiderman for the job of attorney general, being vacated by Andrew Cuomo. He likewise appears sane and responsible and is running about seven points behind Schneiderman, who also appears sane and responsible.

Odd, isn’t it? If it weren’t for Paladino, New York would be completely out of the national mainstream.

Even locally, there’s very little. Only Ted Danz, Republican challenger to Paul Tonko for Tonko’s seat in Congress, who offers himself as a small businessman and deplores the health-care reform act.

They all deplore health-care reform, the Republicans, often employing the buzzword “socialist,” and they all praise small business, Republicans and Democrats alike. If you listen to them talk, after about 20 minutes you feel you should genuflect every time “small business” is mentioned, such is the reverence accorded it.

I had to look it up to satisfy myself it wasn’t a religious concept.

Nobody talks about guns, though, except for Donovan, who, far from touting them as symbols of American freedom, boasts of keeping them off the streets of Staten Island, so that’s another way New York differs from true Tea Partyland.

Most politicians here seem to make the calculation that singing a hymn of praise to gun ownership would not win many votes — though I do remember Assemblyman George Amedore doing it last time and winning.

As for other local races, the candidates have their strengths and weaknesses but they too lack the essential looniness.

I hope this is not still another sign of our state’s decline.

Categories: Opinion

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