Times Endorses Less-Liberal Democrat in NY-13


The New York Times doesn’t always endorse the most liberal Democratic primary contender. Today the paper backed Michael E. McMahon for the Party’s nomination to the House of Representatives in New York’s 13th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.

“As the only Democrat in the Council from Staten Island, Mr. McMahon has proved adept at reaching out to moderates and conservatives,” said the Times. “That broad appeal would be an advantage in representing this conservative-leaning district…”

McMahon’s opponent, Stephen A. Harrison, must be wondering how he can catch a break. Though he managed to take a respectable 43 percent of the vote against incumbent Vito Fossella when he ran for this seat in 2004 — despite being outspent 10 to 1 — the Staten Island Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, the UFT, and even the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee (which does not usually endorse during a primary) have come out for McMahon.

The candidates’ statements at their own websites give some idea of their differences.

On Iraq, Harrison says “Bush’s war in Iraq is a disaster on so many levels and it must end,” and that “America”s need for oil was the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq.” McMahon begins by pointing out that his District is “home to hundreds of patriotic Americans currently serving their country in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, and to over 30,000 military veterans” before staking out his own cautious endorsement of withdrawing troops.

McMahon also supports capital punishment and “nearly all means of addressing the nation’s energy problems, including offshore drilling,” the Times reported earlier.

Harrison’s big endorsements mainly come from traditional backers of more-liberal candidates, such as Democracy for New York City, Progressive Democrats of America, Peace Action, and the Stonewall Democrats.

It may be that Democratic heavies figure a little conservatism might provide them with a margin of victory in this reliably Republican District this year. Fossella has been knocked out of the race by scandal, and this year’s contenders for the GOP nod are not so strong.

Robert Straniere is the Richmond County Republican Committee’s choice for the nomination, and he has the important Staten Island Right-to-Life endorsement — though the dean of Staten Island Republicans, Guy Molinari, has said Straniere has “brought nothing but grief to the Republican Party” in his 20-year career.

Though Dr. Jamshad Wyne will be Straniere’s only official opponent in the September 9 primary, other contenders are stubbornly hanging in — last week Independence Party candidate Carmine Morano announced a letter-writing campaign to persuade Staten Island Republicans to write his name in on primary day. Carmine Morano had already asked voters to write him in.

Small wonder Alicia Colon of the New York Sun was downbeat about GOP prospects last Friday: “There’s a good chance that the Republicans will not be able to hold this district and that Staten Island will join the rest of New York City as a Democratic stronghold unless the Republicans mount a strong united front after next month’s primary.”

It may be that the prospect of a foothold in the heretofore recalcitrant borough is so tantalizing to top Democrats that they don’t want to chance the nomination of an outspoken liberal.