Issue #25

People keep running for things in New York

New Developments


Last week, we mentioned that the website had just been registered. Anna Kaplan is a state senator and 2016 candidate for NY-03, so we took notice, even if we didn’t think it looked like she was running. It has since been confirmed to us that the registration was an auto-renewal from her 2016 run, and not anything for a new race.


Hawkish anti-vaxxer Rep. Carolyn Maloney has landed a third challenger in her incredibly Democratic Manhattan-based district. Peter Harrison, a NYC DSA member and housing activist, officially announced his campaign this morning. Harrison is a co-author of Data for Progress’s housing policy report, Homes For All; he says he will center his campaign on housing, highlighting policies such as rent control and increased NYCHA funding, as well as his opposition to the (thankfully cancelled) Amazon giveaway, which would have brought an Amazon headquarters to the Queens portion of NY-12.

Note: Because of Harrison’s work with Data for Progress, he has worked with this newsletter’s editor, Sean McElwee. For this reason, Sean has recused himself from editing all coverage of NY-12.


The last we’d heard from Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, she was considering running for NY-15, and was going to make a decision in June or July. She didn’t. But on August 8th, over a week after that deadline passed, she made an announcement...not that she’s in or out, but that she’s making an exploratory committee for the race.

We’ve previously noted that Cintron’s time on the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation doesn’t inspire confidence from us. But even putting her political stances aside, it seems like she’s missed the boat here electorally. The candidacy of Ruben Diaz Sr in this race raises the stakes beyond a normal congressional primary. He’s not just on the outs with most of the Bronx establishment, he’s a bigot who politicians in the area have openly talked about the need to defeat in the race, which means not having a wide open race and letting Diaz slip through because of his dedicated base. Right now, it looks like the candidate to lead the anti-Diaz charge is Councilman Ritchie Torres, who has raised the most money by far and has several endorsements.

Assemblyman Michael Blake has been in the race since nearly the beginning, has an Assembly district as a base, is the only non-Hispanic Black candidate in the race, and has a decent fundraising operation going, even if it isn’t Torres-level, so the motivation for him to stay in is clear. Ex-Speaker of the City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito entered the race last week, and we questioned the judgment of getting into a field that has already settled to the extent that it has, but she’s at least got a constituency and some name recognition to start from. Cintron, on the other hand, is truly baffling. Very few people know who she is, and she’s spent months watching the field settle, but her choice is still to put off a decision. It’s hard not to wonder if she’s waited too long at this point, and if she may not have a place to put her foot in the door.


The Cuellar campaign simply isn’t taking this race seriously. There’s no other way to interpret their behavior. First, they made the incredibly dubious claim that the candidate who is really in the pocket of the special interests isn’t Cuellar because of the millions in corporate PAC money he takes, it’s Jessica Cisneros, because the Justice Democrats are a “special interest.” They also insisted that Cisneros’s support of the Green New Deal is dangerous because there aren’t enough green jobs right now (which is the entire point of the Green New Deal, a jobs program). We kind of chalked these up to them crafting talking points for people who weren’t paying attention to the race. But this new attack line crosses the line from cynical into not even trying.

The Cuellar campaign is now claiming that small dollar donations are “dark money” because the donor name doesn’t get reported, and therefore most of Cisneros’s campaign funding is dark money. It should go without saying how phenomally stupid that is, but here’s a quick primer in case you’re unfamliar.

Elections spending can take the form of donations to a campaign or outside funds spent for or against a campaign. Donations to a campaign are unitemized if they’re an individual’s donation(s) totaling less than $200, which means the donor’s identity isn’t reported publicly; or itemized if they’re either from a PAC or total between $200-$5,600. Itemized means the donor’s name, address, and employer must be listed publicly. For an outside organization spending independently of a candidate, most organizations must list their disclosure similarly, and donations are capped at a few thousand dollars. However, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision opened up another avenue: 501(c) organizations (a nonprofit designation) can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money without disclosing donors. For this reason, they’re called “dark money”.

The conflation going on from the campaign here is wild, crossing that line from “merely” cynical into just lazy. What’s more, his campaign manager doubled down a few days later after finding Opinion Haver’s tweet on the matter, saying 


"Dark Money refers to political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where the donor is not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown."

Sorry about all those facts!

Damn, we just got owned online with facts and logic (and by a guy who makes “triggered” jokes and runs a blog he calls “an unsafe space”). Or, perhaps we didn’t actually, since the very next sentence of that source reads “Depending upon the circumstances, Dark Money can refer to funds spent by a political nonprofit or a super PAC.” Direct donations from individuals are never dark money. This is a campaign only concerned with having a response to attacks, not with making those attacks sound convincing or even plausible. It’s a campaign running on autopilot and going through the motions as long as those motions don’t involve work. That’s good news for Jessica Cisneros, all things considered.


Well that’s a bummer. Bainbridge Councilman Matthew Tirman had been mulling a primary run against mediocre New Democrat Congressman Derek Kilmer in WA-06. He recently announced that he’s decided against it. Kilmer is now opposed by only one other Democrat for re-election: Rebecca Parson, an activist from Tacoma, who Tirman specifically names (but stops just short of endorsing) in his announcement. We haven’t covered Parson before now, but Tirman taking her seriously is a good sign for her.

Endorsements this week:

New Races


After the death of longtime Rep. Louise Slaughter in 2018, the race to succeed her in this blue upstate New York district seemed like a quiet affair. Former Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle appeared to have all but cleared the field, scaring off other high-profile Democrats in this seat, which includes Rochester and most of its suburbs. A trio of long-shot candidates took him on: journalist Rachel Barnhart, Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden, and Brighton town board member Robin Wilt. The three split the non-Morelle vote fairly evenly, with only 2.5 percentage points separating Barnhart (the second-place finisher) and McFadden (who came in last place.) The surprise on primary night was just how many non-Morelle votes were cast: Morelle got less than 46%. Morelle may have made it through the primary in 2018, but it’s clear he’s at least somewhat vulnerable. In office, Morelle has been somewhat progressive, but nobody’s idea of a left-wing firebrand.

Since losing to Morelle, Barnhart has laid low, while McFadden has pled guilty to federal corruption charges. (New York, baby!) Wilt started a campaign for the Assembly after losing the NY-25 primary, but dropped out a few weeks later amid residency concerns, and then formed a new PAC for women of color in politics. Local news station WXXI reports that Wilt is leaning towards a second run. She has filed with the FEC for the 2020 election, and while she told WXXI she’s not ready to make a decision just yet, she’s been using her campaign email list to criticize Morelle for not cosponsoring the Green New Deal or student debt cancellation. Those things certainly make it sound like she’s running.

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