Eliot Spitzer’s lock on the governor’s mansion is so tight Marist didn’t even survey that race in their latest poll of state contests. Luckily, Quinnipiac did—and found the attorney general with a 73-21 lead over someone named John Faso. This is good news for Eliot Spitzer, but not-so-good news for people who support Eliot Spitzer but want their help to matter, like the Working Families Party, which has (as usual) cross-endorsed the Democrat. (He also has the Independence party line) The WFP gains clout when its votes help major party candidates win, but it looks like Spitzer might just pull this one off all by his lonesome. So emails are going around asking voters to sign up at the WFP website “pledging” their vote to Spitzer, who “knows that every vote he gets on Row E … is a vote for progressive change to solve problems with our schools, health care, housing and jobs.”
It’s just one way that people who thrive on competitive elections are trying to generate some juice out of this year’s no-contest races. It’s not easy: The Democratic dominance atop the ticket has actually made it hard for Democrats fighting tougher fights—like the bid to regain the State Senate—to get attention and money.
But that’s democracy, right? Well, kind of. The Spitzer-Faso race might not be a contest, but at least there are contestants. That’s more than you can say for dozens of legislative races across the state, where voters who bother to show up on November 7 won’t have any choice at all.
New York State has 29 reps in Congress; four are running unopposed this year: Three from New York City—Gary Ackerman, Greg Meeks, and Anthony Weiner—and Maurice Hinchey from upstate.
State races are even worse. About one-fourth of the 62-seat State Senate will be elected without facing an election: Fifteen districts have only one choice, including seven of the 25 senators from the city (Oronato, Sabini, Smith, Stavisky, Golden, Savino, and Serrano).
If you’re as assembly member from Queens, you have a 2-1 chance of not facing an opponent this year. Twelve of the borough’s 18 reps (Weprin, Carrozza, Scarborough, Markey, Cook, Clark, Lafayette, Aubrey, Gianaris, Nolan, Seminerio, and Peralta) are running unopposed, as are eight other NYC assemblymembers (Cymbrowitz, Robinson, Ignizio, Glick, O’Donnell, Wright, Gottfried, and Bradley). Statewide, 37 seats in the 150 seat body will be elected unopposed in November.
Yeah, this is nothing new. And yes, in terms of legislative outcomes, it might be nothing bad: Some of the people without opponents are among the most able and principled public servants in the biz. Plus, having an opponent doesn’t necessarily mean a vigorous race will ensue—it’s not like Michael A. Imperiale is going to give Sheldon Silver a run for his money. So why should someone run just to lose to someone who’s not that bad anyway?
Well, because it seems a little un-American to lack even the semblance of a choice in the voting booth. To know that you’ve not even a token say in the matter feels something like Britons knowing they’re going to be stuck with a King Charles someday, even if 90 percent of them feel he’s a total dork.
Luckily, there are always third parties to lighten the mood. This year there are some nifty party names to choose from, besides the familiar WFP, Greens, Independence, Conservative, and Right to Life options. Each has only a single candidate in their ranks, like the singular Jimmy McMillan from the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
Congressional candidate Yvette D. Clarke faces an opponent from the Freedom Party, one Ollie M. McClean. In one State Senate race in Suffolk County, you can pick the Integrity Party or the Strength Party (Hmmmm, if they merged, they’d be ideal!). Senator Clinton has two socialist opponents: William Van Auken from the Socialist Equality Party and Roger Calero from the Socialist Workers Party. Assembly races upstate feature the Unity, Taxpayer’s Relief, and North Country Reform parties. Manhattan Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat faces Francesca Castellanos of the Rising Voices Coalition. And State Senator Liz Krueger’s GOP opponent Phillip Pidot is also on the Growth Party line.
Guess what? They’ll lose! So will John Faso and the other folks swimming against the tide this year. They’ll be humiliated. Their signs will become kitschy tokens. We shall heartily laugh at them. But at least they stood up, so we could choose to overwhelmingly reject them. Their sure-to-be whupped asses are what democracy’s all about.