If you can think of anything less gripping than statewide political primaries in New York please let me know. The only thing I can think of myself is the presidential vote in this state, the hard, inescapable fact being that there are twice as many Democrats as Republicans in New York.
This means that anyone who wins the Republican primary for a statewide office as, let’s say, Wendy Long just won for U.S. Senate, has only the slimmest of chances of actually getting elected, just as any Republican running for president has only the slimmest of chances of capturing this state’s Electoral College votes, the last Republican to have managed it being Ronald Reagan.
It also means when you get a gaudy character like U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel winning a Democratic primary in New York City, his election in November is practically guaranteed, since there are no Republicans in New York City. (That’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one.)
I confess I have developed an attachment to Wendy Long, even though I have never met her and even though she is a rock-ribbed Republican who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of my least favorite judges. (I don’t know what “rock-ribbed” means, but I’m sure it applies.)
I have developed the attachment solely on the basis of the emails she sends me. I get them every day, with subject lines like, “Former Yonkers Mayor and 2006 U.S. Senate Candidate John Spencer Endorses Wendy Long for United States Senate,” “Wendy Long Says ‘No, No, No’ to Raising the Debt Ceiling, Congressman Turner says Yes, Yes, Yes!” “Finger Lakes Tea Party Patriots Endorse Wendy Long for US Senate,” and so on, day in and day out. If I feel lonely when I get up in the morning, I open my email and there Wendy is, greeting me. (I feel justified in calling her rock-ribbed knowing that Finger Lakes Tea Party Patriots support her.)
I suppose she’ll lose in November. She’s running against Kirsten Gillibrand, who is a Democrat and has $10 million in what reporters call either her war chest or her coffers, and furthermore enjoys the energetic support of her original patron, Sen. Charles Schumer.
Turnout in the primary was something less than a stampede. In five central New York counties for which I was able to get figures, only 5,715 Republicans voted out of 161,512 who are registered, which works out to 3.5 percent.
Did I refer to Rep. Charles Rangel as gaudy? I meant only that he was censured by the full House of Representatives for such digressions from ethical norms as not paying taxes on rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic, occupying multiple rent-controlled apartments when you’re only supposed to have one and using his office to raise money for an institute named after him at City College of New York.
That might have done in a lesser man, but he rose to the challenge and emerged victorious yet again, even if he did have to give up his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee along the way.
Now I guess we yawn our way to November.