Friday, March 31, 2006

Note to Arcuri Supporter: I Am A Proud Lefty Upstart

The Arcuri for Congress campaign seems to be struggling with message control. At least I hope that's what is happening. Earlier this morning, the New York Liberal blog noted a recent trend anti-progressive slurs by supporters of Michael Arcuri. These Arcuri supporters, who I hope do not represent the majority of people behind the Arcuri for Congress campaign, seem to have forgotten that before Arcuri fight the general election, he has to win the Democratic primary. In order to do that, he has to win the support of actual Democratic voters. Insulting large groups of Democrats is probably not the best strategy for getting that support.

Since I started writing this blog, I have received many not very subtle messages from Democratic Party insiders, some from the 24th District, and some from other places around the country. These messages have been very plain in telling me that my job as a blogger should be to write in support of whatever position the party leadership takes - including its selection of annointed "recruits".

I've been told to "sit down", get back in "my place", "get in line", and "get out of the way". I've been told that I should just let the "important Democrats" do their job - picking a Democratic candidate for us all, without letting us have our say.

I can understand the kind of pressure that Bruce Tytler must have been receiving. If I, as just a pesky little blogger, get this kind of pressure to stop standing in the way of the Democratic establishment's agenda, what kind of pressure and abuse must Bruce Tytler have had to put up with? Bruce let that criticism get to him, I suspect, and that's too bad. I know from my lengthy interview with him last week that Tytler had a lot of great ideas to add to the campaign, and a good deal of serious thought about them. Tytler's campaign was not just a crass effort to advance a political career. It's clear that Tytler actually believed in something, and wanted to campaign in order to promote his ideals.

From over in Cortland County, Tytler's home territory, a member of the Cortland County Democratic Committee has left a comment here on the blog attacking Les Roberts as a "lefty upstart." Lefty upstart? Isn't that the kind of language that Republicans use? What's going on over in Cortland County that the county committee has people complaining about upstarts?

In a democracy, upstarts are to be welcomed. Ours is a nation of equality, where every citizen has the same right to participate in the political process. We Americans rejected the ideals of monarchy and aristocracy, and the claim that only the "right sort of people" should have the privilege of having a say in government. Let's not forget that the United States of America is a nation of upstarts.

In our system, today's upstarts are tomorrow's leaders. I'm not brave or selfless enough to ever want to go through the process of running for public office, but I do consider myself a lefty upstart, and am proud to be one. I do my bit, and that's what our citizenship calls upon us all to do - not to sit back and let the "important Democrats" make the decisions for us.

Lefty upstart? That's a compliment.

Poll: Les Roberts Ahead of Mike Arcuri

Yesterday, I put a new poll up on this blog, asking readers "Which Democratic candidate would do a better job in Congress?" You can see this poll over on the left hand side of the Take Back New York's 24th blog. The question is not, you will note, about which candidate someone supports, or which candidate will win the Democratic congressional nomination for New York's 24th congressional district. The question was worded to get to the essence of what people think about the relative quality of the two Democratic congressional candidates.

late march poll congress 24th district arcuri

So far, it looks like Les Roberts has a substantial lead over Michael Arcuri. A 28-point spread is hard to argue with.

What accounts for this degree of support for Les Roberts? Well, the early online presence of the Roberts for Congress campaign surely didn't hurt, and Arcuri's late start both online and offline doesn't appear to have helped him. Stealth campaigns are simply often invisible to voters, and that's not really very sneaky in the end.

It also appears that Bruce Tytler's supporters, who have made strong showings in other online polls about New York's 24th district congressional race, are probably going over to the Les Roberts camp. The only other explanation is that the Les Roberts campaign is picking up new support, while the Mike Arcuri for Congress campaign is stagnating.


The more people vote, the worse things are getting for Michael Arcuri. The poll, as it now stands is:

Michael Arcuri: 28 percent
Les Roberts: 60 percent
Don't know enough: 3 percent
Plan to vote Republican: 10 percent

That puts Les Roberts at more that twice the level of support as Mike Arcuri.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cayuga Coalition for Peace Members Organize for Roberts

Emails recently sent by members of the Cayuga Coalition for Peace indicate that members of group are overwhelmingly backing Les Roberts in the Democratic congressional primary here in New York's 24th District.

Based in Auburn, but with members spread throughout Cayuga County and beyond, the Coalition for Peace has emerged as a consistent grassroots force in local politics, addressing issues that go far beyond just the war in Iraq. The group has sponsored discussions and actions on issues as far-ranging as domestic espionage against political dissent and the political implications of electronic voting machines.

With many Democrats among their ranks, the Cayuga Coalition for Peace can be counted upon to be a significant influence in the 24th District, in voting, volunteering, and fundraising. It is not clear if there is any equivalent grassroots organization in the district that is willing to put its support behind Michael Arcuri, who has yet to take many detailed stands on the issues that motivate such groups.

For NY's 24th Dems, Bob Ney Reveals Weakness of Insider Campaigning

Yesterday, I was struck by the following bit of news from The Hill, a journal that covers matters related to the US Congress.

"Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has received endorsements from Republican Party chairmen in all 16 counties in his 18th Congressional District, according to a report in the New Philadelphia Times-Reporter. Ney has also received the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party."

Anyone who follows politics at all knows that Bob Ney's political career is headed for the dumpster. Ney has been implicated in more than one corruption scandal, including one involving Jack Abramoff - and Abramoff is preparing to testify against Bob Ney as part of a plea deal.

Bob Ney is about the worst candidate imaginable for Republicans in his district, yet all the Republican Party's county chairs in his district are endorsing his re-election. Why? Well, just as we don't yet know the particulars of Ney's crimes, we don't know the particular motivation of the Republican county chairs.

This general lesson is, however, clear: Endorsements from members of a political party's county committee often have nothing to do with whether a particular candidate is the best for the job, or even the most likely to win an election. Often, those endorsements are motivated by what county committee members believe about how a candidate can benefit them personally, or their regional faction politically. The interest doesn't have to be corrupt, but it is often shortsighted. County committees are often likely to vote to endorse a party insider because they know that such a candidate is more beholden to a local party apparatus, and so will be easier for them to manage.

Certainly some county committee members endorse according to who they believe will best represent their district in Congress. I know that my mother, for instance, who is a member of a Democratic county committee up in New York's 25th District, votes to endorse a congressional candidate according to how competent the candidate is and how well that candidate's ideals match her own. I also know, however, that some members of her county's Democratic committee are not so principled.

The truth is that many members of a county Democratic committee arrive at a meeting to vote on a congressional candidate endorsement not knowing anything about who the candidates even are, much less what they stand for. These committee members just make their way around the room asking who everybody else plans to vote for. I wish I were kidding, but I've seen this happen more than once.

It's not fair to automatically dismiss an endorsement from a county's Democratic committee, but it's also a mistake to take such an endorsement too seriously. The most important endorsement comes from the voters themselves on the day of the primary election. Come that day, most Democratic voters don't even know which candidate their county's committee has endorsed.

Professional Background of Roberts and Arcuri

Thoughts on the relevant professional experience of the two remaining serious Democratic candidates in New York State's 24th congressional district:

Les Roberts has relevant professional experience in the following areas: International relations, health care, disaster relief, science, and education.

Michael Arcuri has relevant professional experience in the law, law enforcement and politics.

So, which one of these candidates would do a better job for us in Congress? Well, that depends on what you think members of Congress ought to be concerned about.

If you care about education, international issues, health care, disaster relief, and science, then you'll judge Les Roberts to be better qualified. There's some good reason to value these issues in the 24th District in particular. International affairs are on everybody's mind these days, with the war in Iraq draining resources from every community in the USA, and Les Roberts has a long history of dealing with top level officials in the American government, foreign governments and the United Nations. Health care is an essential issue for the 24th District too, with health care costs quickly becoming the number one burden for local governments. If you're upset about property taxes, you ought to be thinking about a national health care plan of the sort that Les Roberts has proposed. Education and science are, as Sherwood Boehlert's career demonstrated, essential for a US Representative for the 24th District to address with skill. Our colleges and universities are our district's most reliable source of bread and butter.

If you care about legal issues and law enforcement, then Michael Arcuri is your man. Crime is not a big issue in the 24th District, but matters of constitutional law have never been more important. We have too many members of Congress right now allowing President Bush and the Executive Branch to play fast and loose with the law, and having someone with legal skills to take a strong stand for the rule of law would be refreshing. Mike Arcuri's professional background with the law would also enable him to be an intelligent reader and creator of legislation. Given the fact that most members of Congress passed the Patriot Act without even bothering to read it, that skill is nothing to sniff at. Arcuri's status as a career politician may be regarded by some as a liability, but the truth of the matter is that, for a member of Congress, politics does not end on Election Day. Members of Congress need to be able to maneuver amongst their colleagues in order to get business done.

Now is the time that we grassroots Democratic voters in New York's 24th District need to start discussing the relative merits of the different kinds of experience Les Roberts and Michael Arcuri would bring to the job. Arguments about who can win the race are all well and good, but in order for those arguments to be well informed, they need to be based upon an understanding of the areas of professional expertise that Les Roberts and Michael Arcuri promise to use on our behalf in the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Confused by Bruce Tytler

I have to admit that I really don't get it. I don't understand why Bruce Tytler chose to drop out of the campaign, and I don't understand why he chose to run in the campaign in the first place.

Oh, don't paint me as naive. I know full well that the fundraising figures for Tytler to be reported soon are not likely to be impressive. I also know that Arcuri is getting a lot of Democratic committee endorsements, and because Bruce Tytler would be trying to run on Democratic committee support outside of the District, he didn't really have a leg to stand on any more.

But, I'm not speaking on a strategic level. I'm speaking on a personal level. I'd like to know what was going through Bruce Tytler's mind when he decided to announce a campaign for Congress, and then when he decided to drop out.

Tytler must have know that the race would be competitive, with Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts in the running. Surely, he didn't think he'd come in on top. If he was at all realistic, he must have been planning a long, drawn out battle, perhaps based on the gamble that at least one of his top Democratic competitors would be unexpectedly eliminated because of some personal crisis or scandal.

Perhaps Bruce Tytler planned to campaign merely in order to promote his favored issues, but if that's the case, he didn't do a very good job, and barely had time to get an issues campaign started in any case.

Given that Tytler got in, I have to wonder what he was thinking when he dropped out. If Tytler really believed that he best represented the agenda most needed in the US House of Representatives, then he owed it to the district to keep running. Perhaps Tytler genuinely decided that one of the other candidates would do a better job than he would in Congress. Perhaps Tytler's interest was in seeing another candidate not succeed, and he decided that he'd do better to drop out and put his support behind the main rival to the other Democratic candidate.

Perhaps Bruce Tytler was simply offered a deal he could not afford to refuse. Maybe he was just tired.

If any of those gung ho Cortland Democrats who were so eager to sing Bruce Tytler's praises a few weeks ago would like to offer their thoughts on Tytler's departure, I'd love to hear them.

As it is now, the race for the Democratic nomination lies between Les Roberts and Michael Arcuri.

I have to say, I wish to hell I weren't working in Chicago today. I'd love to hear more about what's going on from the ground.

As it is, I feel like a bit of a schmuck for getting up early this morning to transcribe my interview with Tytler from late last week. During that interview, Tytler assured me that he would see the race through all the way to the primary. Thanks for the word, Bruce.

Here's a selection from Tytler's announcement of withdrawal:
"I plan to remain active and to talk about the issues important to the people in our district every chance I get. I thank all the people who gave their time, energy, and resources to our campaign and who believe, with me, that we can do better in the 24th congressional district"

Talk every chance you get, Bruce? I hope you mean that. I'd like to talk with you about your full reasons for dropping out, the process you went through in making the decision, and what went wrong with your campaign. Give me a call after you take a rest.

Time to Talk Torture

There is one issue that all of the candidates, Republican and Democrat, have left untouched. It's time for the silence to break.

I'm talking about torture.

It's not a hot campaign topic. It ought to be.

It's not easy for a politician to talk about. Leaders, on the other hand, are born out of the effort of learning to say that which is not easy but must be said.

It's not easy for us to hear about. It shouldn't be easy. But, we should listen anyway. Until our candidates speak on the topic, we should listen with great attention to that silence.

Torture is illegal. It has always been illegal in America, forbidden in the United States Constitution. It has long been illegal for Americans to commit torture beyond our borders, with laws explicitly forbidding it. Within the last few months, new laws forbidding acts of torture and torment by the American government anywhere in the world have been put in place.

President George W. Bush has openly declared his belief that none of these legal restrictions apply to him. President Bush has declared that he has the power to torture in spite of the law.

There is a huge, ever-growing mountain of evidence of a vast torture network run by the American government. This evidence has been collected by journalists, the United Nations, humans rights groups, foreign governments, and even the United States government itself. We have photographs, videotapes, and testimony from the tortured and from their American torturers.

It isn't just for the sake of the people being tortured that our congressional candidates must speak to this issue. It is for the sake of the American people as well. The soul of American law and freedom is at stake.

Congress has passed laws on this matter. The President of the United States appears to have purposefully organized programs to break those laws.

The gauntlet has been thrown down by the Bush White House, and now, members of Congress, and candidates for seats in Congress, are duty bound to answer the challenge. Will the Congress allow itself to be made irrelevant? Will the President of the United States be allowed to place himself above the law, in the place of a ruler with absolute power?

Our candiidates will answer these questions.

If they remain silent, their silence will be their answer.

If that is the case, it becomes our duty as citizens, Republican and Democrat, not to share in their silence. It is our duty to make torture and the disintegration of the rule of law an issue...

... even if doing so is inconvenient to the electoral strategy of our favored political party.

Of the many candidates now competing for New York's 24th district seat in the House of Representatives, only one will win. Will at least one of our candidates have the moral courage to value what is right over what is easy?

Leon Koziol's Weird Marriage Response

Why don't I consider Leon Koziol a serious Democratic candidate? Oh, there are so many reasons. There's the FEC reason, for one. In spite of Leon Koziol's supporters telling us six days ago that a problematic FEC filing for the Koziol for Congress campaign was being redone that day, there still is no filing on record with the FEC for the Koziol campaign.

Then there's the constantly pending Koziol for Congress web site, which is reminiscent of Ray Meier's "Hello, world" and "Coming Soon" little Internet campaign speeches. Leon Koziol's campaign has been saying that it will have a web site up in the next couple of weeks for over three months now.

But, my new favorite is Leon Koziol's response to the same-sex marriage question in the Utica Observer-Dispatch's survey. Our three geuine Democratic candidates each gave coherent and appropriate responses to the question:

Michael Arcuri said, "I oppose unwarranted government interference in the private lives of consenting adults, and I support laws that provide equal benefits for all citizens, to health and life insurance, inheritance and other basic rights like hospital visitation."

Bruce Tytler said, "If there are two people of the same sex who have a long, stable relationship, they should have the same rights others have. I don't have a problem with same-sex marriage, but there are a lot of different ways we could approach that."

Les Roberts said, "The federal government should play no role in who gets married or in the definition of marriage."

Good on you, guys.

Leon Koziol's response, on the other hand, missed the target by a mile. Koziol only responded, "I have two children from a marriage based upon the traditional value systems which I continue to support."

What are we supposed to make of that statement? Whether Koziol has children or not doesn't have much bearing on whether he is qualified to serve as a member of the House of Representatives. Neither does his personal support for one set of values or another.

What Leon Koziol seems to be trying to do with this statement is to attack the right of all Americans to receive equal protection under marriage laws - but to be fuzzy enough to avoid scrutiny on the matter. That's a scummy way to deal with this issue.

Last summer, a really fantastic lesbian couple moved down the street from me. They've got an adorable little daughter, of whom both women are legally mothers of. They hope to have a second child soon, and I have hopes that our children will play together for years to come. This couple has been together for years, they want to get married, and they deserve to be able to do so. To deny that family equal benefits under the law just because it doesn't meet the requirements set by right wing Christians is absurd and cruel. It's also blatantly unconstitutional, violating the 1st amendment ban on government establishment of religion as well as the equal protection clause.

Leon Koziol ought to be ashamed to stand with those religious zealots who are trying to reduce the institution of marriage down to a withered, corrupt remnant of what it should be. Marriage should be defined by love, not by hate.

What if Democracy Means Republican Victory?!?

The latest irrational spasm from the Lockstep wing of our Democratic Party came to me tonight from an anonymous reader, who wrote, in exasperated tones,

"Ray Meier wants you to have a primary, dammit"

Oh, the frustration oozes.

We're supposed to be trembling at the prospect of a Democratic primary because, supposedly, it's exactly what the Republicans want. In this line of thinking, primaries are destructive events that rip a political party apart, and leave it vulnerable to an attack from a unified opposing political party.

Of course, history shows that this anti-primary argument is a load of bull. To what history do I refer? Oh, nothing so abstract as a PoliSci case study from the 1800s, or as minor and unrelated as a state legislature contest over in Oklahoma. No, I'm talking about the political history of our own 24th congressional district, right here in the State of New York.

Remember 2004? Struggle, now. It was two years ago. We had no Democratic primary contest to speak of that year. Jeff Miller, from Utica (and yet another example of the flaws in the Oneida-centric model of our district's Democratic politics), elbowed Brian Goodell out of the competition by wrapping up all the county Democratic committee endorsements for himself.

It was supposed to be a victory for the Democrats, who wouldn't have to bother with all that dangerous primary election stuff. No, the Democrats were supposed to come out of the primary season strong, all standing united.

The Republicans, on the other hand, were going to be it tatters and shreds, hand-rubbing Democratic strategists said, because Sherwood Boehlert had to face a primary battle against right wing Republican Dr. Walrath. The primary would surely consume Congressman Boehlert in a tsunami of electoral chaos, we were told. Republican against Republican! An intra-party war of monumental proportions would leave Boehlert limping into the general election, conventional Democratic wisdom said, leaving Boehlert helpless in the face of Democratic unity.

I really heard ideas like this coming from county Democratic committee members in the 24th District in 2004. Well, what really happened?

Sherwood Boehlert emerged from his primary battle as strong as ever. Jeff Miller, on the other hand, struggled even to get activist Democrats across the 24th District to recognize his name. I remember volunteering at a county Democratic Party headquarters back in the autumn of 2004, and being shocked to see Democrat after Democrat come into the headquarters asking for pro-Kerry materials, but completely unaware of who Jeff Miller even was.

It didn't matter that the county Democratic committees all united to endorse Jeff Miller. It didn't matter that the Democrats "unified" to prevent a primary contest. Hardly any Democrats ever heard about the Jeff Miller candidacy, because there wasn't much news to tell about Miller's campaign. No primary contest equalled practically no news coverage for the Miller campaign, week after week. As a result, Miller had a pathetic showing in the general election.

Let us not spend our time fretting about what Ray Meier wants us to do. So far, Ray Meier's campaign is not showing any kind of intimidating brilliance. Meier's two campaign mottos so far, "Hello World" and "Coming Soon", paint a picture of a political understudy who never bothered to prepare for his shot at the big time.

I've got zero sympathy for worry-wart Democrats who are plagued by anxieties that democracy is bad for the Party. What are we supposed to think - that the best way to promote a progressive agenda is to abandon the foundations of what progressives are supposed to be fighting for - a government that represents average citizens, and not just powerful people who manipulate politicans as puppets from behind the scenes?

Would these Democrats suggest that, before the 2008 presidential primaries begin, all the Democrats should agree to unite behind a single candidate, with the argument that the Republicans want the Democrats to have a presidential primary? It is crass hypocrisy for some of the same Democrats who chanted "Count All The Votes" in 2000 to try to prevent Democratic voters from having the chance to go to the polls in 2008.

It is undeniable that it would be more convenient for the power brokers of the Democratic Party in the 24th District if they didn't have to bother with elections, but it's hard to see how such an arrangement would benefit the voters. Democracy is not designed to be convenient for the powerful. It is designed to be fair to all the people.

It's unfashionable to say so, in these days of win-at-all-cost Democratic frustration, but I believe that the more serious primary contests the Democrats have in congressional races across America this year, the better. I want to see Democrats duking it out in bare-knuckled but clean primary contests, not because I want to see weak Democratic candidates in November, but because I want to see our Democratic candidates come into the general election in scrappy, tough condition. No boxer ever won the world championship by convincing all his opponents before that final match not to show up. I want our Democratic candidate in the 24th District, whoever that turns out to be, to show up to the start of the general election with hands that are already thickened with callouses.

As much as Democratic voters are tired of losing, they are even more tired of seeing namby pamby Democrats in Congress fail to stand up to the Republicans. We're sick of seeing Democratic politicians offer mushy talk on the issues that matter to us. The Republicans did not establish their control over all three branches of the federal government with timidity and triangulation. They fought like hell to squeeze the Democrats out of government, and we're sure as hell not going to get Democrats back in government by apologizing for the ideals that we know are right.

Think that only Michael Arcuri can win this primary? Okay, prove it. Have him win the primary - without all this whining about how holding an election is an unfair obstacle blocking Arcuri's march to greatness.

We Democrats are capable of disagreeing about who we want the nominee to be, and then pulling together for the general election to support a nominee chosen by our voters. Dissent from the party line is not a source of weakness. In a democratic system, dissent is a source of strength - for those candidates who are not too arrogant to listen to it.

What if democracy means we have a Republican victory? Well, then, at least we still have our democracy, and I prefer that imperfect result to achieving Democratic victory through undemocratic means.

But that's me. I'm an idealist. I care more about progressive principles than political victory. I'm not sure that all our candidates share those priorities.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Republicans Have Non-Position Positions on Iraq

I was amused yesterday to read the responses of the candidates for New York's 24th District Republican congressional nomination to the issues questionnaire sent out by the Utica Obbserver-Dispatch. It was fascinating to me to read perspectives so intensely out-of-touch with the real concerns of the citizens of the 24th District and of the USA.

Democrats Bruce Tytler, Michael Arcuri, and Les Roberts each did a much better job of providing appropriate, substantial responses to the questionnaire than the Republican candidates did.

The most entertaining part for me came in seeing how Brad Jones and Ray "Hello World" Meier tried to answer the question on Iraq. What they managed to do was to answer the question without offering any real answer at all.

Where do Ray Meier and Brad Jones stand on the war in Iraq? Their position is this: Someone ought to develop a position.

I'm not kidding! Here's what they wrote.

Brad Jones:

"I stand behind our commander-in-chief; however, we need to establish legitimate goals that we can measure our progress against."

Ray Meier:

"You can't rewrite history. We need to articulate a clear plan to stabilize the Iraqi government, turn the government and defense of their country over to them and start bringing our troops home in an orderly way."

Is this the best that Jones and Meier can offer? Their plan for Iraq is that someone else needs to come up with a plan. Sorry, but that's been the plan of the Bush Administration for the last three years: Eventually, we'll think of something... Any minute now we'll come up with a plan... We're turning the corner... And another corner...

Progressive Democrats in the 24th District are coming up with real, specific plans to get us out of Iraq. All the Republicans can do is pass the buck and procrastinate.

With the Republican position for dealing with the Iraq War disaster, it's like the Ray Meier for Congress camapign web site keeps on saying: All the answers are perpetuallly coming soon.

County By County: Democrats in the 24th District

A couple days ago, I wrote a quick article discussing the fact that, in spite of prideful claims by Oneida County Democrats that nobody can win the 24th District Democratic nomination without winning Oneida County, Oneida County actually contains a minority of the Democrats in the 24th District.

The article clearly upset many Oneida Democrats, but facts are facts. In order for a Democrat to win the 24th District Democratic nomination, the best bet for a Democrat is to reach out beyond the borders of Oneida County. A Democrat like Michael Arcuri or Leon Koziol could easily win the nomination contest in Oneida County and lose the district.

A lot of people seem to forget that there is no electoral college for this primary race. A Democrat who gets the majority of votes in a county does NOT seize all the votes for that county. If Bruce Tytler, for example, got just 20 percent of the votes in Oneida County, all those votes would remain with him, even if Mike Arcuri got over 50 percent of the Oneida County vote. Then, by getting a majority of the vote in most of the rest of the counties in the 24th District, Bruce Tytler could coast to an easy primary victory over Arcuri, in spite of the loyalty of Oneida County Democrats to their local guy.

As I've pointed out at the local blog Finding Ulysses, high turnout in counties other than Oneida can easily counter for the Oneida Democrats' raw weight. Typically, less than ten percent of voters actually turn out for a primary election, so organized turnout efforts can turn presumptions inside out. It's a matter of simple math, but some Oneida County Democrats seem unable to grasp it. Let me provide the information about distribution of Democrats in New York's 24th District, then, in text and graphic form, to make it plain.

24th district democrats new york

Broome County: 6.7 percent of district Democrats
Cayuga County: 12.3 percent of district Democrats
Chenango County: 6.5 percent of district Democrats
Cortland County: 7.5 percent of district Democrats
Herkimer County: 8.9 percent of district Democrats
Oneida County: 30.9 percent of district Democrats
Ontario County: 3.7 percent of district Democrats
Otsego County: 6.8 percent of district Democrats
Seneca County: 5.2 percent of district Democrats
Tioga County: 2.4 percent of district Democrats
Tompkins County: 9 percent of district Democrats

Monday, March 27, 2006

Utica Observer-Dispatch Brings on the Substance

Thanks for the people at the Utica Observer-Dispatch for bringing some substance to reporting on the race for Congress in New York's 24th District today. Everybody ought to go on over to their web site to check out the responses candidates gave to a questionnaire the paper sent out to them asking about seven issues.

I'm away on business in Florida today (don't get too jealous, it's only a bit warmer than Upstate New York today, and I'm working inside the mirrored glass tower of a corporate building before being whisked away tonight to the Windy City), so I'm not able to look at a paper copy, but I do have to warn you that the online format of the responses is not the best - I'd like to know what the questions are that the candidates are responding to, for instance. But that's nit picking. All around, this is a very good day for the voters of the 24th District. Now, could the other papers in the area cover this content, please? I don't know many in Geneva who read the Utica newspaper.

Thanks especially to Ray Meier who, without any information on his web site other than that he is "coming soon" (good for you, Ray!), has now dispelled any illusion that might be a moderate. Ray Meier looks almost as right wing as they come, just on this side of Rick Santorum.

In his responses, Meier manages to throw in a little gay-bashing, opposition to stem cell research, and supports George W. Bush's tax policies, which include the outrageous Paris Hilton Multimillion Inheritance Tax Break.

Ray Meier sent out a clear message to the people of the 24th District today: If you like what George W. Bush has done to America, vote Ray Meier for Congress. Just like that long-promised evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he's coming soon!

Bruce Tytler Calls for Investigation of Energy Markets

I spoke to Democratic candidate Bruce Tytler last week, and one of the things that struck me about him is the degree to which the economic needs of the 24th District influence the actions he would like to take as a member of the US House of Representatives. This approach was evident in his ideas about energy policy. He told me,

"High energy costs are hurting businesses. They're hurting households. We see it in our personal budgets. I know local businesses could not expand like they would have liked to because of increased energy costs.

I've talked to some business leaders, and they're not completely convinced that it's all market related. I understand the value of having a free market, but it has to be regulated. I think that was established over 100 years ago when you had the Gilded Age disparities between the rich and the poor and the undue influence that the big corporations had. Markets have to be regulated, and the first thing I'm going to do is investigate the energy market and see what's going on there and why energy costs are so much higher, even in different areas of the state."

More on my talk with Bruce Tytler to come...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What is the goal?

As the name of this blog suggests, it is dedicated to taking back New York's 24th congressional district. But, taking the district back from who... and for what purpose?

I'll admit that, at first, my focus was pretty squarely on replacing Sherwood Boehlert, and getting a Democrat elected. The more I wrote, however, the more I realized how important it would be to get a good Democrat, the right kind of Democrat in office.

Look around at some of the Democrats we've got in Congress right now, and you'll see what I mean. There are some pretty nasty characters in the bunch. Senator Joseph Lieberman is the most infamous example, but there are plenty of bad Democrats in the House of Representatives too.

Consider craven Bud Cramer, right wing Democrat Lincoln Davis or deplorable Dan Boren. They're some of the worst members of Congress period, and they happen to be Democrats.

There's a bad history of congressional Democrats from New York State making extraordinarily bad votes. Many of our New York Democrats on the Hill, including both of our senators, voted to help Bush start the Iraq War. They knew better, but were afraid of losing support for re-election. New York State Democrats in the House of Representatives like Brian Higgins and Carolyn McCarthy just recently voted to extend extraordinary powers for President Bush to spy against Americans - in spite of the recent proof in the form of revelations of multiple programs initiated by the Bush Administration, outside of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, to send government spies to keep watch on law-abiding American citizens for no reason other than that they disagree with the policies of the President.

When these politicians made these votes, it didn't matter that they were Democrats. All that mattered is that they voted the wrong way.

So, while I'm a Democrat, I'm not so naive as to believe that all we have to do in the 24th District is get any old Democrat to represent us in the House of Representatives. Before we all stand in line behind any Democratic candidate, we need to subject that candidate to the most detailed scrutiny to make sure we aren't getting a Democrat who will stand with the Republicans, and weaken the Democrat's credibility with voters. For the good of the Democratic Party, we voters need to critically examine every Democratic candidate that comes our way.

Some people, including many readers of this blog, believe that it's dangerous to engage in such critical examination of our Democratic candidate. They suggest that questioning our Democrats is a bad thing to do, and will weaken our chances of getting a Democrat in the House of Representatives. They seem to believe that the role of this blog should be to help all the Democrats stand behind the frontrunner in the primary election, and prevent other Democrats from launching dangerous challenges. They propose that I ought not to criticize the shortcomings of our Democratic candidates, and should focus all my fire on the Republican candidates.


We have over five months until the primary election. We should use that time to ask serious questions of our Democratic candidates, and challenge them when they fail to meet the standards that we deserve. The purpose of the primary race should not be to pick a candidate quickly so that all questions can be put to rest. The long time of the primary race should be used to force the Democratic candidates to prove their mettle. We need to temper our candidates, to strengthen them with the heat of our criticism. If we try only to get the process of selecting a Democratic candidate over with as soon and with as little controversy as possible, then we will enter the general election with a marshmallow candidate who has been spoiled by our lack of scrutiny.

Some people complain that I should be more fair to the Democratic candidates. In response, I say that I am more concerned with being fair to the Democratic voters. The voters deserve as much information as possible about the candidates. The voters deserve a more thorough debate. The voters deserve much more time before they are pushed to stand united behind one candidate. Our Democratic candidates can handle themselves, and don't need to be coddled.

Contrary to the protestations of the Democratic Party leadership, I believe that an election is no time for voters to overcome their differences and stand united behind one candidate. I say that an election is the last time when voters should do so.

This is no game. The outcome of this year's election could well determine the well-being of our district, and influence the path of the American nation, for the next generation. Such matters should be considered with more gravity than the kind we give to team sports.

Citizen first. Democrat second.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

News Flash for Oneida Democrats

Here's a quick Saturday afternoon news flash for Oneida County Democrats who believe that Michael Arcuri can win the Democratic nomination just by sitting comfortably on his political connections in his home county: The large majority of New York's 24th District Democrats do NOT live in Oneida County.

Percentage of 24th District Democrats living in Oneida County: 30.9

Do the math now... Yes, that's 69.1 percent of Democrats in the 24th District who have no particular history with Michael Arcuri and the Oneida Democrats.

The oft-repeated claim that a Democrat can't win the nomination in the 24th District without winning Oneida County is not even close to being true.

It's time for the Utica Democrats to come out of their cave and deal with the district as a whole. It's a big district, folks.

Les Roberts Offers New Path on Iraq War

On a national scale, the Democratic response to the disaster of the Iraq War has become a disaster all its own. After the dazzling performance by John Murtha last year, the Democrats in Congress seem to have collectively decided to pull their heads back into their shells. Sure, the congressional Democrats fire off a shot about the idiocy of starting the war in the first place, but let's not forget that many of those same Democrats on the Hill voted to help Bush start the war in the first place.

Even at a time when the American people are solidly against the war, and over 70 percent of soldiers in Iraq believe we need to be gone from there within the year, the Democrat's position of the Iraq War has become ineffective, largely because it's dominated by a timid, hair splitting approach that still fails to recognize the gravity of the problem. We see scores of Iraqis killed every day, by each other, and the former Iraqi Prime Minister that the United States maneuvered into power calls what's going on a civil war. Yet, we have Democrats in Congress, and Democratic congressional candidates, offering bland non-solution solutions like establishing "benchmarks" on our path to Iraqi Democracy, victory, and peace.

At a time when the situation in Iraq is becoming worse, not better, establishing benchmarks to "monitor our progress toward a stable democratic Iraq" is inadequate, and Democrats who offer plans that stop at such bureaucratic reshuffling demonstrate a lack of the kind of vision America needs to get us out of this mess. We need the Democrats to offer bold, imaginative strategies for ending the war in the least painful and humiliating way possible. It's time for us to get realistic, and acknowledge that the glowing, glittering victory Bush promised us three years ago is never going to happen.

The American people already know that. It's the Republican and most Democratic politicians who seem unable to accept reality. They're still afraid of being identified as "anti-war", not realizing that such political timidity is what enabled the United States to start the Iraq War in the first place.

Les Roberts is going to some trouble not to make too much out of his war record, though it is the kind of record that he ought to be proud of. It is the primary strength of his campaign - yet, he's decided not to use it, allowing himself to be identified in the public mind instead as some kind of mild-mannered epidemiologist. Do most people in the 24th District even know what that is?

It's a shame, because even Republicans are moving toward opposition to the war. Les Roberts has the experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, and elsewhere to bring him a kind of credibility that can cross party lines, so that he could win not just the Democratic nomination, but the general election as well. As it stands, Les Roberts has been made the underdog by the implicit DCCC endorsement of Michael Arcuri. Underdogs only ever come back to win when they act with boldness.

The material of such boldness already exists within the Les Roberts for Congress campaign - the campaign just needs to shake off its fear, and use it. I'm talking about the Iraq Position Paper recently released by the Roberts for Congress campaign.

The position paper goes to great length to summarize that dangerous position America finds itself in with the Iraq War, but the best part are the innovative proposals that Roberts makes at the end of the paper. Roberts proposes that, in order to end the war in the most painless way possible, the United States:

1. Win back the trust of the Iraqi people by ending suspicions that the United States is in Iraq in order to make American corporations rich through the exploitation of Iraq's oil resources. Les Roberts proposes a five-year ban on American for-profit corporations working in Iraq, as a way of showing that we have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart.

2. Set a timetable for withdrawal. The refusal to set a timetable for withdrawal has not been effective in stopping the violence - in fact, the vagueness of such an approach has made the violence worse. Les Roberts proposes that we make it clear to the Iraqis that they are going to be the owners of their country, and they'd better get it in shape fast.

3. Congress should set an end date for the authority of President Bush to wage war in Iraq. Congress made a mistake in giving President Bush the power to start the war in Iraq, and Congress can take that power away from President Bush as well. Setting an end date gives the Bush Administration the message that it needs to change its failed Iraq War strategy in profound ways, and either win the conflict quickly, or start preparing to pull American soldiers out of harms way in a manner that is best for both the Iraqi people and for our military forces.

This is the kind of bold solution that the Democrats should have been proposing years ago. It's high time that our Democratic candidates and representatives in Congress step up to the plate and get serious about ending this war.

Don't run away from who you are, Mr. Roberts. Communicate your plans with the strength in which they were conceived, and you will earn the respect of the 24th District.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts Open Up To Voters

Over the last two days, I've had the chance to talk to both Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts about their stands on the issues. As I listened to them speak about what matters to the people of the 24th District, I was powerfully impressed with the depth of knowledge and insight that both of these candidates bring to the race.

Arranging a time to talk with Roberts and Tytler was not at all difficult - something any voter in the 24th District could do. It seems that they regard open contact with voters as a matter of course, something that candidates for public office are duty bound to make possible. Their idea of campaigning seems more connected with us, the voters of the 24th District, than the model used by their rivals. They've got the sadly unorthodox idea that the average Democrat in the district matters just as much as the people I have heard too often referred to as "important Democrats".

Here in my little village of Trumansburg, the Les Roberts campaign has made several visits, and that's smart. We may be small, but we've got a heavy concentration of especially active progressive Democrats. In a village of just 1,600 people, over 125 turned out in last Saturday's bitter cold for a march for peace through downtown. To understand how many people that is, try to picture 4,680 Uticans marching against the war through the streets of that self-important city - it's the same percentage. Now, how many people actually showed up to march in Utica in commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of the war this last weekend? Did even 125 people manage to come? In political demonstrations - and in political elections - turnout is everything.

[Where's Waldo Challenge: It seems some supporters of Michael Arcuri have the strange idea that I must be some kind of right wing Republican plant. A few have announced that they're going to try to find out who I really am. After all, they reason, with that strangely Uticentric attitude, how could any Democrat dare to criticize Michael Arcuri in public? Well, it just so happens that I'm in the front page photographs of the Trumansburg peace march in both the Ithaca Journal and the Trumansburg Free Press. So, if you Uticans can lower yourselves to look outside your fair city and look at those photographs, you'll be able to see who I really am.]

During that anti-war protest, people were talking quite a bit about politics, and about Sherwood Boehlert's announcement that he would retire. People were ecstatic about Boehlert's retirement - after all, as much as Democrats feel duty-bound to praise Sherwood Boehlert these days, the fact is that Boehlert voted in favor of allowing Bush to start the Iraq War, and supported Bush's foolish war afterwards.

Who's name do you think was on the lips of the people in Trumansburg? It wasn't Michael Arcuri, that's for sure. When I brought up Arcuri's name, no one even knew who he was. No, people were talking about Les Roberts - and there's a good reason for that. Les Roberts has actually campaigned in Trumansburg.

Before Michael Arcuri could even stir himself to make his announcement speech, Les Roberts had come to Trumansburg to meet with Town of Ulysses Democrats, and the campaign manager and field director for the Les Roberts campaign came to meet with Democrats here on three separate occasions. Les Roberts is scheduled to come to our village again in April, to speak to more Democrats in our Fire Hall. Trumansburg Has Michael Arcuri ever been over here?

I've made the offer to help Mr. Arcuri arrange a visit to Trumansburg, but that offer, like the requests for an interview with Mr. Arcuri, have fallen on deaf ears. I got the same attitude from Leon Koziol's office. Yesterday, a member Koziol's campaign committee wrote over here to ask me why I'm not giving Koziol any positive press. One important reason for the lack of positive coverage of the Koziol campaign is that Leon Koziol hasn't bothered himself to send me any positive materials related to his campaign - whereas Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts have.

This Koziol campaigner asked me, in exasperated tones, if I am still on "the 'contact test' trip". Yes, I am.

In my opinion, the first and fundamental test of a candidate's worthiness is that candidate's willingness to get back in touch with a voter who has expressed interest in helping the campaign. This is not a presidential election. It's not even a race for the United States Senate. In a race for the the United States House of Representatives, keeping in close contact with the people of the district is essential. A busy schedule is no excuse. All the Democratic candidates are busy. None of them, not Leon Koziol, and not Michael Arcuri, are so important that they can't bother to speak with a voter, or arrange for their campaign manager to do so.

Thank you to Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts for take a bit of time with me to talk about the issues. Your outreach in my direction of the district reassures me that your campaigns are making similar efforts elsewhere. If we are to take back the 24th District, that's the kind of work we need our candidates to do.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Leon Koziol Struggling To Get Up To Bat

Over a month ago now, right after his announcement speech, rumors were being spread that that Democratic candidate Leon Koziol had huge amounts of donations lined up. 20,000 dollars was ready to be given, we were told. Leon Koziol was going to campaign to win, they said.

Then, for over a month, there was silence. Now, over on the New York Liberal discussion boards, a person identifying himself or herself only as "tampa813", has left the following message:

"Campaign Koziol will be hosting a fundraiser on Sunday March 26, 2006 at "The Hartford Queen", Commercial Dr. New Hartford, NY from 3:00pm-5:00pm.

All are welcome and tickets can be purchased at the door for only $20.

For further information, please contact Campaign Koziol @ or by phone at (315) 735-2271"

Here's the thing: Leon Koziol still doesn't have any paperwork filed with the FEC. That means that the Koziol for Congress campaign, if it exists, has brought in next to nothing in donations - if anything at all. The laws of campaigning are very clear on this matter: As soon as a candidate brings in $5,000, paperwork must be filed. In practice, many candidates file well before bringing in $5,000 in donations - witness Brian Goodell and Jeff Miller, who filed paperwork for 2006 before making early withdrawals from the race.

So, for now, the Koziol for Congress campaign, while publicly announced, has no legal status. Will he ever make it up to bat? Will the fundraiser at the Hartford Queen even break even?

What the heck is Leon Koziol up to, anyway?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bruce Tytler Offers Expansive Vision of Economic Development

It's a short statement, but it provides a big wedge to open up the debate on economic development in the 24th District:

"Our problems simply cannot be solved by tax policy adjustments and changes; we need reforms on how our children are educated and our approach to job growth. Rising healthcare costs and the high price of heating oil have left behind those of our citizens on a fixed income."

This statement comes from a recent press release from Bruce Tytler's campaign. It's a brave, direct refutation of the tired old Republican lines about "tax relief" as an economic panacea for the 24th District, and for America.

Have you taken a moment to step back and notice that the Republicans have been doing so-called "tax relief" for years now, and it hasn't made a real difference? No matter how much Republicans cut away at the infrastructures of our communities, it doesn't make things better. Sherwood Boehlert and the Republican Party have had more than a generation to provide competent economic representation for the 24th District, and they just haven't done it.

Witness Boehlert's latest attempt at playing the economic development card, and you'll see what's wrong about the Republicans' approach to economic development. Boehlert is crowing about developing the Family Dollar store chain within the 24th District. Dollar stores? We have to do better than that. Republican leadership in the 24th District has our communities racing toward the bottom.

Just look at the new Republican candidates' claims for what they'll do for economic development, and you'll see that it's the same old bull. Brad Jones says he wants to consolidate, reduce, and lower standards of what we can expect from our government. This approach is nothing more than the dismantling of the 24th District's cities and villages, piece by piece.

Bruce Tytler's comments are welcome, and they're right. It's time to invest in our communities, not strip them clean. Republican fiddling around with decimal figures and the IRS isn't going bring the 24th District back to the economic vitality that it ought to be enjoying. We need visionary leaders who are willing to do more than just beg companies like the Family Dollar to bring in low wage jobs and cheap junk to our neighborhoods.

We need to rebuild, and the plain fact is that the Republican candidates in this race are not interested in rebuilding. The only plan the GOP has for economic development is to discount and outsource. The Republicans have had 23 years in the 24th District to get it right. They failed. Let's not keep walking down the same road.

Ray Meier for Wal-Mart Greeter

ray meier for congress hello worldRay Meier's web site still has nothing on it but the message: "Hello, world." in little words in the upper left-hand corner of a big field of white.

On one level, I have to admit that this very silly mistake just gives me the chuckles. So, I couldn't hold myself back. If Ray Meier's first thought on running for Congress is just to say, "Hello, world," well, then maybe he shouldn't be running for Congress after all. Maybe Ray Meier should be applying for a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart, where he could say hello to people all day long, without all that pressure of having to come up with all those difficult statements about where he stands on the issues.

That's where, jokes aside, Ray Meier seems to be incompatible with the United States House of Representatives. Whether we're Democrats, Republicans, or political independents, we need someone to represent us in Congress who doesn't think of communicating with us as an afterthought. We need a representative who is willing to communicate with all of us, whether we write big checks for his election campaign or not.

A man who can't think of anything to say online for the first week of his campaign than, "Hello, world" does not fit that bill.

Sorry, Ray. Cheer up, though. I hear that the employment standards at Wal-Mart are not so stringent, and I think you'd look good in a blue vest.

How Long Will Ray Meier Play The Internet Idiot?

It's been five days now since people found Ray Meier's campaign web site at - and five days since Ray Meier became the 24th District's Internet village idiot.

Ray Meier had months to prepare his web site - Sherwood Boehlert says so. Boehlert told Ray Meier far in advance that he was not going to run for re-election in 2006. So, Ray Meier could have easily prepared his campaign web site offline, and kept it a secret until Congressman Boehlert announced. He didn't need to tip his hat. He could have registered the web site as or something like that. It's what Eliot Spitzer while he was still trying to keep people guessing about whether he would run for Governor. This is standard practice - not rocket science.

Yet, what did Ray Meier do? He registered himself a web site just two days in advance of Sherwood Boehlert's announcement, and then put up a goofy message, like a kid who doesn't know what to do with himself.

Here's all of what Ray Meier had to say about why we should vote for him:

"Hello, World"

That's it. No graphics, no other text. Just a white screen and the words: Hello, world.

I understand Ray, that for some people, explaining themselves is a difficult thing to do. Not everybody is a good writer. Still, I think that you might want to refine your campaign announcement online to something beyond Hello, World.

Let me make the following suggestion for expanding the content of your web site, so that it's more comprehensive, and deals with the issues that matter to the people of New York's 24th congressional district:

Hello, world.

Hello, America.

Hello, New York.

Hello, Finger Lakes.

Hello, Adirondacks.

Hello, Utica.

Hello, Cortland.

Hello, Auburn.

Hello, War in Iraq.

Hello, record-breaking Republican borrow and spend Congress.

Hello, corruption scandals.

Hello, attacks on freedom.

Hello, failed GOP energy policy.

Hello, government spying on American citizens.

Hello, jobs going overseas.

Hello, Republican Paris Hilton Millionaire Inheritance Tax Exemption.

Hello, global warming.

Hello, trade deficit.

Hello, cuts in education.

Hello, cuts in health care for senior citizens.

Hello, radical right wing agenda.

Hello, kitty.

Ray Meier Follows in Secretive Path of Boehlert

A couple days ago, I wrote about how Republican candidate Ray Meier has refused in the past to return an issues questionnaire distributed by Project Vote Smart. The questionnaire is a simple document sent out to all the candidates for state and national office in the United States, and it merely asks the candidates to state where they stand on the most important issues of the day. It disturbed me to see that Ray Meier had refused to provide those answers about the issues to his voters.

This morning, I was disappointed to see that Ray Meier would not be the first Republican to represent the 24th District who has refused to cooperate with Project Vote Smart. Sherwood Boehlert, it turns out, also decided not to give voters in our district information about his positions. He would not complete the Vote Smart questionnaire.

Call me crazy, but I fear the consequences of having a politician who likes to keep secrets from voters representing the 24th District in Congress. If Ray Meier won't even tell us where he stands on the issues, then what other secrets will he be keeping from us?

There's still time for Ray Meier to change his ways and fill out the 2006 Project Vote Smart Questionnaire. Will he do the right thing this time, or will he let us down again?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who in Arcuri Campaign Started the Disinformation?

Over the last few days, the questions about Democratic candidate Michael Arcuri's position on abortion have been flying around the blogosphere. The Arcuri for Congress discussion board was removed from the Arcuri campaign web site after questions about abortion were asked there. So, speculation began in many quarters that Michael Arcuri is Pro-LIfe (anti-choice ;) ) and didn't want to answer the question because he didn't want the issue of his opposition to legal access to abortion to ruin his chance to win the Democratic nomination.

It seems that the Arcuri for Congress campaign has become aware of the problem presented by these questions. It's a good thing, because, as the informal poll on the right hand side of the Take Back 24 blog front page indicates, the majority of Democrats now open to Michael Arcuri's campaign would reject Arcuri and vote for another Democratic candidate in the primary if they found out Arcuri was Pro-Life.

The Arcuri for Congress campaign has sent an email out to its supporters, and part of that email has been forwarded to me by someone named Jim (he doesn't provide a full name or email address). That selection from the email is seen below:

"The Message Forum has been temporarily removed from the website. It was done reluctantly because Mike most certainly wants a free exchange of ideas. But he also is still a sitting District Attorney... and is responsible for the integrity of the office. He does not want his campaign website being used by disgruntled individuals to undermine the integrity of the office. Until we figure out how to handle that, the message board will be down."

I was struck by this email because it suggests that the Arcuri for Congress discussion board was taken down for reasons other than we were otherwise told at first. The message from Arcuri's email, quoted above, clearly shows that Arcuri was involved in the decision to take delete the discussion board from his web site, and that his motivation was to prevent certain kinds of messages from being seen there. For one reason or another, Michael Arcuri didn't want the contents of a message on the Arcuri for Congress campaign discussion forum to be seen by the public - this much is admitted to in the email from the Arcuri campaign.

But, that's not the message we got from Arcuri campaign insiders. The message we got from Arcuri campaign insiders is that there was a software problem. Maimun Kahn, an Oneida County Democrat who on her blog says that she is working with the Arcuri for Congress campaign, also states in a comment on her blog that "I was the one who asked for the upgrades on the discussion boards that are being worked on so I can use it as the campaign tool I need."

Bob Hyde, the webmaster for the Utica County Democratic Committee (which has pro-Arcuri messages plastered all over it, but nothing for the other Democratic candidates), said knowingly in a comment on this blog that the reason the Arcuri for Congress discussion forum was deleted was just "a glitch in a website".

Both Maimun and Hyde suggested the problem was with software, not with the effort to censor content on the Arcuri web site that Arcuri didn't want people to see. Arcuri's email to his supporters contradicts that, and I'm inclined to believe the email. It's mighty suspicious to me, though, that two people with the Arcuri campaign separately fed me the same disinformation about what was behind the sudden deletion of the Arcuri discussion forum.

This episode suggests that the Arcuri campaign has some serious problems in organizing its communications. When the Arcuri campaign encounters problems, it needs to speak quickly, and truthfully, and with a unified voice. People like Maimun Khan and Bob Hyde should not be speaking about what's going on in the Arcuri campaign before the Arcuri campaign is officially ready to speak. They certainly should not be spreading disinformation about a growing controversy. What Khan and Hyde should have been told to do is to call Arcuri first.

This episode has further eroded the credibility of the Arcuri campaign, and it didn't need to. From the start of the Arcuri campaign's deletion of its discussion forum, I have been asking for communication from the Arcuri campaign. They would have been wise to heed those requests, but instead, they let the problem fester. It has now been festering, without response, for 5 days. The issue could have been over with in 5 minutes.

Mr. Arcuri, I'm a Democrat, and I want a Democrat to win. My only interest has been to open your campaign up so that the public can see who you are, and what you stand for, instead of getting the minimum amount of information possible from you, which has been the pattern so far. If I am pointing out these problems in your campaign, then you can be sure that the Republicans will find much worse and be much more brutal about it.

If you are going to be the Democrats' candidate, Mr. Arcuri, then you need to put your house in order. No more bumbling with communications issues like this. You need to take care of these things immediately and decisively, instead of letting campaign volunteers or aides, speaking on their own, try to do the talking for you.

The Arcuri campaign is always free to send me messages for clarification or dissemination - on the record or off the record. The same is true of the other Democratic campaigns, too. So far, the Les Roberts for Congress and Bruce Tytler for Congress campaigns have been making much better use of this blog as a resource.

Arcuri's campaign has seemed more interested in leaving me in the dark as much as it can than in utilizing this blog as a platform for communications. My requests for information have gone unanswered. Promises to contact me by email have not come to fruition. I've sent a request to two of Arcuri's campaign advisors for an interview with Mr. Arcuri, to help him get out his message, and that request has been met with silence.

What are we supposed to think about a candidate who runs a campaign more interested in secrecy than in communicating its message with the voters, and why should we Democrats accept the Washington D.C. insider declarations that you'll serve us best when you won't even talk with us?

Anonymous Jim has said that the Arcuri campaign plans on revealing Arcuri's campaign positions, on issues including abortion, through the Utica Observer-Dispatch on Sunday. Jim says that the message that led Arcuri to delete the message board on his web site was about something else other than abortion, and that the abortion messages just happened to be there at the same time.

Jim says. Jim says. I shouldn't have to be reporting on what some anonymous guy named Jim says. I should be reporting on what Michael Arcuri says, or at the very least, what Steve Cox says.

Help me out with this, guys, will you?

Bruce Tytler on Sherwood Boehlert

Earlier today, I wrote an article examining the praise of Sherwood Boehlert given by both Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts after Boehlert's announcement that he would retire from the House of Representatives. Well, Democratic congressional candidate Bruce Tytler has also made his own statement about the retirement announcement of Sherwood Boehlert last week:

"I would personally like to thank Congressman Boehlert for his many years of service to my hometown district. No matter how much a candidate may differ in his views on leadership and direction of our nation, they both have a vested interest in the benefit on the common good.

Now I believe it is time for me to work for the people of Central New York. Our problems simply cannot be solved by tax policy adjustments and changes; we need reforms on how our children are educated and our approach to job growth. Rising healthcare costs and the high price of heating oil have left behind those of our citizens on a fixed income.

I see a future for our district, our state and our nation that does not force the people to choose between food on their tables, their much needed medicines and paying to heat their homes. It is in the spirit of hope and prosperity for all, that I will serve our district."

One can note here a much more restrained praise for Boehlert coming from Tytler than from either Roberts or Arcuri. Although Tytler remains polite, praise for "years of service" is damningly faint indeed - equivalent to an award for attendance. If praise must be given, and it probably must, this is the formal, yet minimal, way in which it ought to be expressed.

The formal nod to the past has been given. Now, let us move on to the real meat of the campaign: The issues.

Sherwood Boehlert is the New Sandra Day O'Connor

I was afraid this would happen. I understand the strategic significance of the maneuver, but it does leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Retiring Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert has become the new Sandra Day O'Connor.

You'll remember how, with the two Supreme Court nominations of right wing judges Samuel Alito and John Roberts last year, that all of a sudden, Democrats became great lovers of Sandra Day O'Connor. Never mind all of Justice O'Connor's votes to support right wing causes. Never mind that Justice O'Connor was one of the five justices who voted to prevent votes from being counted in Florida for no good constitutional reason, thus appointing George W. Bush into the White House. Oh, no, from the time that Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, she became every Democrat's ideal for what a Supreme Court Justice should be.

It was just a rhetorical tactic, of course, and a pretty transparent one at that. The minute Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, Democrats had nothing to lose by praising her, and everything to gain. They could create the idea of a moderate Republican Justice in Americans' minds that no nominee could ignore. If the Bush Administration tried to depict a nominee as like that public image of Sandra Day O'Connor, then the Republican base would rise up in arms.

Let's remember that this tactic ultimately failed. Oh, sure, it derailed Harriet Miers, but in her place, America got Samuel Alito, a judge even more extreme in his right wing views.

So, I'm kind of disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Democratic candidates in the 24th District here in New York State now rushing out to sing the praises of Sherwood Boehlert.

This weekend, Michael Arcuri sent out a press release stating, "I particularly want to salute him for trying to use his moderating influence on important questions of public policy. He represented this district well because he mirrored the moderate views of a majority of the residents in the 24th Congressional District."

Les Roberts came out with a similar statement about Boehlert: "Sherwood Boehlert has been a strong voice on environmental issues, and he and his staff have helped hundreds of people in the 24th District when problems arose with their federal government."

These senators didn't have to stab Caesar before they praised him. Lucky for them, Caesar decided to retire first.

It's not the worst thing for these Democratic candidates to make such a rhetorical gesture, I suppose. I'm not going to join them, however. I'm glad that Sherwood Boehlert is going away. Sure, every once in a while, Sherwood Boehlert did something worthwhile in Congress. Most of the time, however, Sherwood Boehlert either voted in support of the right wing agenda or was too weak to succeed in his feeble attempts to resist portions of that agenda.

Was Mike Arcuri right when he said that Boehlert "represented this district well"? Not in my book. Sherwood Boehlert supported Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq. He voted, more than once, for controversial legislation to help Bush spy on the American people. Boehlert also favored George W. Bush's policies to help America's wealthiest families get more wealthy, while leaving the rest of us out to dry.

The Paris Hilton Millionaire Inheritance Tax Exemption? Boehlert voted for it. How was that representing the 24th district well? How many millionaires do we have in our district?

What about Sherwood Boehlert's supposed saving grace, that he supported science and the environment, and protected them from Republican attacks? The truth is that Sherwood Boehlert was mostly ineffective in that effort. Boehlert was too feeble to stop George W. Bush's efforts to replace solid science with junk science, and was too weak to protect environmental standards from his Republican colleagues.

Everyone says that Sherwood Boehlert was a nice man. That may be true. I've never met him in person. However, he was not a good representative for the people of this district. It's out of fashion to say so now, but the record speaks for itself. The people of the 24th District can do better.

Now we have the opportunity to pick someone who can give us better than another meek, weak, mushy, milquetoast politician who hides from the issues. It's time to have a completely open, honest, and robust debate on all the issues that matter.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where Does Brad Jones Stand on Iraq?

The strange world of the 24th District Republicans is laid out plain for us all to see on the Brad Jones for Congress issues page.

Here are the issues Brad Jones has listed as important to his campaign:

  • Economic development
  • Indian Land Claim
  • Energy
  • Consolidation
  • Health Care / Medicaid
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Stem Cell Research
  • Abortion

    Why isn't the Iraq War on this list?

    Our soldiers are in the middle of what Iyad Allawi, Bush's first pick as Prime Minister of Iraq, has called "a civil war", and Brad Jones thinks that stopping stem cell research is more important?

    These are not the values of the 24th District, Mr. Jones. Our nation is at war, and whether or not you were wise enough to oppose that war from the start, it at least deserves to be on your list of issues that you need to deal with as a member of the United States House of Representatives.

    Failure to address this issue is, in itself, good reason for voters to judge you as disqualified for office.
  • Arcuri Web Forum Still Down, Fundraiser Going Strong

    Here's a good indication of priorities of the Arcuri for Congress campaign:

    It's days now after the discussion forum was removed from the Arcuri for Congress campaign web site. That discussion was removed after repeated questions from constituents about what Arcuri's position on abortion is.

    Arcuri's friends in the Oneida County Democratic Committee are insisting it's all just a little web glitch. A little web glitch that hasn't been repaired in 4 days. A little web glitch in a discussion board that was working just fine. A little web glitch that came after the Arcuri campaign deleted a question asking Arcuri about his position on abortion.

    Oh, that's some glitch. I guess the Arcuri campaign has been working on that glitch full time, to get the Democratic grassroots voters of the 24th district the opportunity to be heard again.

    Well, maybe not full time.

    It seems that, while those questions about Michael Arcuri and abortion were left deleted, the Arcuri campaign had the time to issue two press releases over the weekend, one of which was for a big fundraising reception to be held three days from now.

    Do you want to get in to that reception to try to ask Michael Arcuri a question? Well, then, pay up: Tickets to get in cost $65.

    Priorities: Delete relevant questions from grassroots voters, and let that "glitch" keep on going, but above all else, don't let that fundraiser for Democrats who are willing to pay to have Michael Arcuri's ear fall by the wayside!

    Les Roberts to Speak in Syracuse About Iraq Experience

    I got the following message in the mail this morning from the Cayuga Coalition for Peace - centered over in Auburn. It seems that the Syracuse Peace Council is involved in the effort as well.

    "100,000 Iraqi Civilian Deaths: A Story of Media Spin"

    A discussion with Dr. Les Roberts

    Thursday, March 23, 7 pm

    Westcott Community Center (826 Euclid Ave., Syracuse)


    Dr. Les Roberts' study estimating that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was cited by Project Censored as the second most under-reported story of 2005. The story received very little press coverage in the US, but much more in both Canada and Europe.

    Les has studied mortality caused by war since 1992, having done surveys in Bosnia, Congo, and Rwanda. He has worked as an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for the World Health Organization in Rwanda during their civil war. He has worked in more than 30 countries, including five war zones, as a Public Health Service Officer for the U.S. Government and is currently a Research Associate and Lecturer at Johns Hopkins.

    Please join us.

    For more information: Carol Baum, 472-5478"

    Ray Meier Refuses Project Vote Smart

    Those of us in the 24th District who are looking for clues to the public character of Ray Meier, who will likely announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination to replace Sherwood Boehlert in Congress, might do well to consider the information that has been gathered over at Project Vote Smart about Meier's political positions:

    Absolutely nothing.

    In 2004, Ray Meier point blank refused to fill out an NPAT, the National Political Awareness Test that is sent to all candidates for state and national office by Project Vote Smart. Here's what you'll find when you try to look up Ray Meier's political stands on

    "Senator Raymond a. Meier repeatedly refused to provide any
    responses to citizens on issues through the 2004 National political awareness test

    Senator Raymond A. Meier refused to provide this information when asked to do so by:

    Major news organizations and key national leaders of both parties including,

    John McCain, Republican senator
    Geraldine Ferraro, former Democratic congresswoman
    Michael Dukakis, former Democratic governor
    Bill Frenzel, former Republican congressman
    Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart president"

    What does this tell me about Ray Meier? It tells me that Senator Meier doesn't want voters to know where he stands, because he's afraid that if the public knew his positions, he would lose their support.

    Maybe you can get away with that kind of insult to the voters in a campaign for State Senate, but it's not going to fly in a race for the United States House of Representatives.

    The NPAT has yet to be collected by Project Vote Smart this year. Let's hope that, in 2006, Ray Meier thinks better of his past stubborn refusal to be accountable to the voters.

    Fill out the questionnaire, Mr. Meier, so that we can see who you really are.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Arcuri: Show Me What You Want Me To See

    Over the last couple of days, I've had my hackles in reaction to the style of the Arcuri for Congress campaign.

    Although Mike Arcuri has practically no information out in public about his stands on important issues, and has been publicly campaigning for a little over a week, I saw the message sent on the national scale that I was supposed to believe that the Democratic primary is practically all sewn up here, with Arcuri the victor. That has raised my hackles.

    Seeing the Arcuri campaign delete questions off their discussion forum, and then delete their discussion forum altogether, thus avoiding questions about abortion raised my hackles even more.

    At various times so far in this race, I've been accused of being a hack for the Les Roberts campaign, for the Michael Arcuri campaign, and for the Bruce Tytler campaign. I've also been accused of taking money from the Republican National Committee to write this blog. Whenever I offer criticism or an unflattering picture of one particular candidate, supporters of that candidate seem to think that I must be in league with their opposition.

    For the record, I'm just a guy. I'm a self-employed consultant who has business outside the district, and none within it. A good deal of my work is in qualitative research, but I also have some entrepreneurial fingers in some political work - outside the 24th District. No one in the 24th District is paying me to do anything at all. I don't even get money for mowing anybody's lawn here.

    I came into this race with no allegiances. I just wanted a new representative in Congress. I have not endorsed any candidate, and I still don't have enough information to do so. I happen to think that all three candidates have strengths, but that all three candidates need to do a lot more to communicate relevant details with voters.

    I write what I see. In the last couple days, I have not liked what I've seen about the Arcuri campaign. But, if the Arcuri campaign is upset with what I'm writing, then I'm willing to take a look at any redeeming material they have to show me. If they want me to like what I see in the Arcuri campaign, then I'm begging them to show me of Arcuri what they want me to see.

    Get in contact, Arcuri people. You have my information.

    Want me to see that you're not shutting down the discussion board on the Arcuri site to prevent voters from asking questions that make you nervous, on issues like abortion? Then show me the documentation that this is all just some kind of computer glitch disaster, as one of the people affiliated with your campaign has claimed.

    Want me to see that Arcuri has a clear position on health care? Then articulate one. Don't just say that you think that people need good health care, and leave it at that. That's not nearly good enough.

    Want me to see that Arcuri has a position on Iraq that is different from George W. Bush's? Show me.

    Want me to see beyond the muddled assertions of Arcuri that this is no time to be neutral, yet it is time to be a nonpartisan moderate? Then show me what kind of Democrat Arcuri is. In detail.

    Michael Arcuri's team has spent months maneuvering behind the scenes so that, after just one week of officially being in the campaign, and no public polls or information on a single dime raise by Arcuri, they could have Washington D.C. publications sweep in and declare Arcuri to be the favorite, the frontrunner.

    You reap what you sow. If you want Arcuri to be seen as the Democratic frontrunner, then that means that he's going to get the majority of the scrutiny, and I do intend to keep up my scrutiny.

    So, the Arcuri campaign has two options. The Arcuri campaign can have me scrutinize their campaign with their help, seeing some rich information about what Arcuri is doing right. Alternatively, the Arcuri campaign can keep holding all its cards to its chest, and not let me or the other Democratic voters of the 24th District know very much about who Michael Arcuri is and what he wants to do as a member of Congress.

    It doesn't take a genius to see which option will have me writing more positively about the Arcuri campaign. If Michael Arcuri keeps on campaigning with an attitude of secrecy, then he will elicit the same kind of suspicion that the secrecy of the Bush Administration provokes among thinking Americans.

    I don't want things to be this way. I want to see an open campaign, and to sing the praises of the candidate.

    I want to be positive about Arcuri, but I can't do that without meaningful information. I'm not so partisan that I'm just going to fall in line and say that I see an open door, when in fact what stands before me is a padlock and an activated burglary alarm.

    We voters should not have to beg for information about the people who are asking for the privilege of representing us in our government.

    We know that Michael Arcuri is too intelligent not to have clear policy positions on the important matters of the day already worked out. It's time to share those positions.

    Come on. Let's do this the right way.

    My Limit on Scandal Mongering

    Discussion of Michael Arcuri's failure to deal with the abortion issue is spreading around the Internet like wildfire this afternoon, and that fire is heating up fast.

    As I've mentioned before, Democratic candidate Michael Arcuri's campaign team appears to have deleted a comment on its web site's message board asking about Arcuri's position on abortion, then deleted the entire message board when the question was asked again.

    Democrats here in New York's 24th district are beginning to feel mighty uneasy about Arcuri's silence on the issue, given how easy it would be for Arcuri to put a simple statement up on his web site describing his position on abortion. Arcuri is a lawyer, so let's not pretend that he doesn't have his opinions on the subject all worked out.

    Yet, there's a limit I have in how far I'd like to see this debate go. Here's a message that was left on this blog not too long ago, to illustrate:

    "I could tell you exactly why Arcuri fails to answer that question [about abortion] but it would need to be in a private manner, or you could just call his EX-wife and/or EX-mistress and ask them."

    I really don't care if one of the Democratic candidates has had a sexual affair. For that matter, I don't care if one of the Republican candidates has.

    We all do stupid things. Everyone, including politicians. The word is that Mohandas K. Gandhi had sexual affairs outside of his marriage. That didn't make him less of a leader.

    What I care about in this race is a discussion of the ideals that shape a candidate's public life, and the competence with which the candidate is able to promote those ideals. Michael Arcuri seems to have some high ideals about public justice, and has carried those out in his public life as District Attorney. Les Roberts has some high ideals when it comes to war, disaster preparedness, and public health, and has worked in accordance with his ideas through his adventures working in war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Zaire.

    I do fully understand that other people care about the sexual affairs of candidates, and that's one of the reasons I believe it is unwise to reduce the field of Democratic candidates to just one, handpicked by party bosses who live halfway across the country. It's more likely than not that the national and local media would attack any one of our Democratic candidates without mercy if the candidate was found to be having a sexual affair.

    I have no way of knowing if this rumor of a past sexual affair involving Michael Arcuri has any basis in reality. It's quite likely that the rumor is baseless, or a half-truth, handed to me by somebody from a rival campaign. I'm not from Utica, and I really don't like to get involved in nagging narratives like this one. I've seen a lot of people inside and outside politics have their lives ruined by sexual affairs, and I would never want to get involved in trashing somebody involved in a sex scandal. They've already got enough pain to deal with.

    What would qualify as a legitimate scandal, in my book? Breaking the law without a good cause, like civil disobedience, would probably qualify. Public, rude behavior would also be worthy of note, as would addiction to alcohol or drugs. Still, compared to support for an ill-conceived policy or connection to public corruption, these personal failings would be secondary.

    Readers, if you catch me falling from that standard during this campaign, call me on it.

    Ray Meier Caught Flat Footed

    I'm starting to think that 2006 may be the last year of Internet amateurism in American politics. Slow, steady, and clunky seems to be the rule for Internet services offered to congressional candidates here in the 24th District.

    The latest example is Republican Ray Meier. Ray Meier has been planning for weeks, nay, for months, to replace Sherwood Boehlert as the establishment Republican candidate for Congress here in the 24th District. Rumor is that Meier is going to make his big announcement speech tomorrow.

    So what has Meier been doing to launch his campaign online? Not much.

    It was just last Wednesday, March 15, that Ray Meier bothered to register the domain for his web site, And what, pray tell, will you find if you go to

    ray meier hello world

    Apparently, all that Ray Meier is prepared to say to the voters of the 24th District at this time is "Hello, world."

    Hm. Hello, Ray.

    This is a campaign beginning that rivals Jeanine Pirro's now famous question, "Do you have page 10?” Never fear, loyal Republicans. I understand that Ray Meier plans to get some revisions onto his web site very quickly.

    The new web site will offer a much more comprehensive picture of Ray Meier's thoughts on how to represent the 24th District in Congress effectively: "Hello, world. My name is Ray."

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Michael Arcuri and Abortion - Why won't he answer the question?

    Democrat Michael Arcuri won't answer constituent questions about his position on the abortion issue.

    Why not?

    Twice, two different constituents have asked Michael Arcuri what his position on abortion is, and Arcuri has not answered.

    Once, when a constituent asked the question about abortion on the discussion forum at the Michael Arcuri campaign web site, the question was deleted by the Arcuri for Congress campaign.

    The next time, when a second constituent used the discussion forum to ask Arcuri what his position on the legality of abortion is, the entire discussion forum was removed from the Arcuri for Congress campaign web site.

    Over on the right hand side of this page, you will find a link to the Arcuri for Congress web site. I have changed that link to point to the address of the discussion forum that the Arcuri for Congress campaign web site has deleted. I will keep the link pointed to that address until Michael Arcuri answers the question.

    Michael Arcuri, what is your position on abortion?

    There are three reasons it bothers me what Michael Arcuri has done with his discussion forum.

    1. First of all, it reveals to me that the Arcuri for Congress campaign thinks it's a problem when voters have a voice. It gives the appearance that Arcuri is afraid of answering voters' questions in general.

    2. The abortion issue is a vital one for this election. South Dakota has just banned all abortions - even when women are raped, or when girls are the victims of incest. There will surely be a Supreme Court case challenging Roe v. Wade, and Bush has stacked the court to overturn the right to an abortion. Abortion is, therefore, an issue that the Congress will have to deal with. We need to know Arcuri's position on the issue. I'm starting to wonder: Is Arcuri Pro-Life?

    3. Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Party boss from Illinois, has instructed all his "recruits", of which Michael Arcuri is one, to avoid talking about abortion. So, this brings up a disturbing question: Is Michael Arcuri taking orders from Rahm Emanuel? We need a Congressman who can be his own man.

    We don't have Sherwood Boehlert to kick around any more. So, it's time for the Democratic candidates to get serious. Michael Arcuri, what is your position on abortion?

    Given that the Arcuri for Congress campaign has removed the discussion forum from its web site, the New York Liberal web site has created its own Arcuri for Congress discussion forum. Until Arcuri decides to actually listen to voters again, you can go over there for a no holds barred discussion of ALL the issues, including abortion.

    24th District Democrat: How Are We Different From Republicans?

    I spoke to a Democrat in Cortland County (no, it wasn't Bruce Tytler) yesterday after Sherwood Boehlert made his retirement announcement, and after Illinois Democratic Party Boss Rahm Emanuel made his ill-timed pronouncement that Mike Arcuri is his "recruit" for our district.

    Here's what this Democrat had to say:

    "We don't know anymore if what Arcuri is saying is coming from him or from a DNC advisor. I really have to say, this is a dark day for the dems for two reasons. First, our DCCC chair was dumb enough to let this slip. Second, how are we now different from Republicans if we are just supposed to be soliders, standing in line and taking whatever the higher ups say as the truth? Elliot Spitzer, when he came to Cortland, talked about Democrats being the party where there are no foot soilders, where everyone has an equal footing and is on equal ground. You don't need big money in a race, you just need to connect with the people and bring your message to them."

    It sounds like a stupid question, but I've found that, sometimes, the stupidest questions are the wisest questions of all: How are we Democrats in the 24th District different from Republicans?

    If they want to earn our support, our Democratic candidates need to answer this question in two aspects:

    1. How should our policies be different from the policies of the Republican Party?

    2. How should our process for selecting our candidates and campaigning be different from the process used by the Democratic Party?

    In my opinion, there's been far too much emphasis on merely winning back this seat in Congress, without enough attention to the way that we do so. I'm a Democrat, and I want a Democrat in this seat, but I don't want it so badly that I'm willing to sit by quietly and watch our local Democratic infrastructure become corrupted in the process.

    That's why, as of this morning, you'll notice that I have expanded the mission statement of this blog, at the top of the page, to be broader than just opposition to the Republicans. This race isn't just about beating them. It's about figuring out who we are, and communicating that to voters in a compelling way.

    So, I'd like to hear responses from readers as well as the candidates on this matter. How are we Democrats different from Republicans, in terms of policy and in terms of process?