Last night’s Democratic comptroller candidates’ debate
had a moment that made at least a few of us cringe — and
searching for the replay button to make sure we heard what
we thought we heard.
The moment came during the perennial “Lightning Round”
– those “Yes” or “No” zingers from NY1 host Dominic Carter
designed to reveal small truths and provide a light moment
But when Carter asked the four candidates if Bill
Thompson has been a better city comptroller than his
predecessor, Alan Hevesi, there was more tragedy than
comedy when the question came around to Melinda Katz.
Without hesitating, the Queens city councilwoman threw her
longtime mentor and ally under the bus as she joined her
three rivals by declaring Thompson the better of the two.
Hevesi was Katz’s political tutor and good friend. The
two own homes near each other in Forest Hills, and Katz
has often spoken of how her neighbor, then a powerful state
assemblyman, encouraged her to become politically active.
Katz worked on Hevesi’s campaigns, was active in his
political club, and inherited his old assembly seat after
Hevesi was elected city comptroller in 1993. Hevesi was
such a fierce backer of his young protege when she ran for
his seat in 1994 that he broke ranks with angry county
Democratic leaders who had already endorsed another
Forget the rumors about an even closer relationship
between the pair. That’s beside the point. What counts is
that — in a nano-second — Katz junked her longtime guru for
Of course she had solid political reasons to do so: To
have answered “No” meant facing tough follow-up questions
about the scandal now associated with Hevesi’s name as a
result of the outrageous pension profiteering conducted on
his watch as state comptroller by his longtime political
consultant, Hank Morris, and other cronies.
But all of the allegations leveled by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo have cited Hevesi’s
performance in his state post; so far, no one has come up
with an example of similar misbehavior by Hevesi or his
aides during his two terms as city comptroller.
Meanwhile, Thompson’s cozy relationship with several
placement agents who have made millions off the city
pension funds has been detailed in the Voice. But with
Thompson certain to be the Democratic Party’s mayoral
candidate, the last thing that any comptroller candidate
wants is to be dumping on the man at the top of the ticket.
But Hevesi? That’s an easy target. Even for someone who
owes him her entire career.