Conventional wisdom may say that Democrat Daniel Squadron won the NY25 State Senate District when he beat longtime incumbent Martin Connor in the primary, but he and his opponent, Republican John Chromczak, gave at least a veneer of competition to the race with a debate last night at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
28-year-old Yale graduate Squadron is the quintessential young progressive wonk; 38-year-old Chromczak is the New York GOP’s first openly gay State Senate candidate.
Neither candidate has ever been elected to public office before, and both campaign under the mantra of reforming dysfunctional Albany culture. Their similarities made for a low-wattage clash, although some differences did emerge.
Both expressed dismay with last week’s vote by the City Council to extend term limits.
“I think it was a real mistake,” said Squadron. “I would have urged a referendum and certainly would have supported one.” Chromczak told Runnin’ Scared after the debate that he wouldn’t have even supported the referendum, because eight years of Bloomberg is enough. ”I don’t think he’s going to be the savior of New York City,” he said. “I think we’re more resilient than that.”
On the state level, Chromczak favored three four-year terms for senators and two five-year terms for assembly members. Squadron was more tentative. “I don’t love term limits in general on the state level,” he said. “I think for legislators right now we need them, when you’re sending back over 95 percent every couple of years.”
Asked to elaborate afterward by Runnin’ Scared, Squadron said term limits of 12 or 16 years would be appropriate, but should be staggered throughout election cycles to prevent a mass exodus of legislators.
The candidates were further apart on raising taxes (or reviving the commuter tax) to ease budget shortfalls. “We cannot tax ourselves out of this crisis,” Chromczak said. “We have to put pressure on the people that we elect in Albany to finally take responsibility and use the money you have now and use it efficiently.”
Squadron was more open to taxes. “We have to look everywhere,” he said. “I don’t think it’s reasonable or smart or fair to the people of New York during an election to stand here and say something is off the table.”
Chromczak further distinguished himself by supporting more condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the grounds that they would “help support the maintenance and the operational costs” of the Park. (Squadron would prefer a hotel.)
Chromczak took pains to cast himself as an independent voice in contrast to Squadron. “My friend here is part of the Democratic machine,” said Chromczak, a medical technologist and cellist who lives in lower Manhattan. “I’m running my own campaign, and the only reason why we’re here tonight is because I am trying, as an independent Republican, to make this race competitive.”
He pledged to lead his party on issues like the gay marriage bill (which Squadron also supports), and said that he has told Majority Leader Dean Skelos, “Do not take my vote for leadership for granted.”
Of course, in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 10 to 1, the one thing that probably can be taken for granted is Squadron’s election on Tuesday.