He’s a Catholic district attorney from Brooklyn who came in third in his last run for statewide office. She’s a Jewish former speech therapist from Monroe County who became the first woman supervisor of her Rochester suburb in 1991.
They may have little in common, but thanks to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Charles J. Hynes and Sandra Frankel are running mates in September’s Democratic primary.
The match was one of few surprises at last week’s Democratic state convention in Rye Brook, Westchester, where delegates rewarded nearly every candidate who showed up with a place on September’s ballot. Among them were gubernatorial candidate Hynes, and Frankel, who is running for lieutenant governor.
Candidates who win more than 25 percent of delegates’ votes are assured a place on the primary ballot, while those who do not may petition for the 15,000 signatures to secure a place.
Hynes was seen as unlikely to get on the ballot, but did so with 28 percent after delegates supporting Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross, a former Republican, switched to Hynes. Ross was seeking to avoid a one-on-one race against City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, the frontrunner.
Ross will run on the Liberal party line and plans to petition for the Democratic ballot as well.Ostensibly neutral in the primary, Silver is known to be cool to Vallone, with whom he has a longstanding feud of unexplained origin. Sources say he is active behind the scenes in the Hynes campaign.
Asked on the convention floor if he matched up Frankel and Hynes, Silver said: “I mentioned her name to him and suggested she would be a good lieutenant governor.”
But a source close to the Hynes campaign said Silver was an active matchmaker.
Frankel, 56, who presides over the heavily Jewish suburb of Brighton (pop. 35,000) was widely seen as an also-ran among the seven candidates for lieutenant governor prior to Silver’s backing.
Vallone came to the convention expecting to win the party designation by capturing 51 percent of the vote but fell short with only 44 percent. Asked if he blamed Silver, Vallone said “The speaker says he is neutral and I’ll have to take him at his word.”
Vallone, meanwhile, named Plattsburgh Mayor Clyde Rabideau, the top vote-getter for lieutenant governor, as his running mate. The designation is in name only, since either candidate can win or lose independent of the other.
Both Vallone and Hynes picked upstate candidates to increase their appeal outside New York City.
But Frankel, who came in second in the polling, may give Hynes an edge with both Jewish and women voters. Analysts say Jewish women will play a large role in deciding this election.
In other outcomes, Rep. Charles Schumer of Brooklyn, won the largest share of delegates votes, 44 percent, in the race for Senate, while Geraldine Ferraro won 30.8 percent and Public Advocate Mark Green barely made it on the ballot with 25.3 percent.
Former prosecutor Eliot Spitzer emerged as the frontrunner in the attorney general race with 36 percent of the delegate votes, while former Attorney General G. Oliver Koppel won 33 percent and Manhattan state Sen. Catherine Abate won 30 percent.
The convention poll results do not necessarily indicate popular support. Delegates are chosen based on the number of Democratic votes cast in each assembly district in the last gubernatorial election. Strong showings best reflect a candidate’s connections with county leaders and success in wooing delegates from the most heavily Democratic and/or populous districts.
Pointing to the extensive participation of Jewish delegates at the convention, Judith Hope, the state party chair, predicted a turnaround of the recent trend of large numbers of Jews voting Republican.
“It’s clear that the Democratic party’s close, intimate relationship with the Jewish community and commitment to Israel and issues of concern to American Jews is very much in place and as passionate as ever,” she said.
But it was hard to find any significant grassroots Jewish presence at the convention and Jewish organizational representation was minimal — facts that disturbed Rockland County Legislator Ryan Karben, an Orthodox Jew from Monsey and, at 23, possibly the youngest elected lawmaker in the state.
“These conventions are an unparalleled opportunity to meet a wide variety of people in the decision-making process,” said Karben. “It’s a self-defeating attitude to say you only need to stand in the circle with the winner.”
One politically active Jewish official who did not attend noted that, unlike the national party conventions, state versions do not involve policy platforms, which Jewish agencies are compelled to monitor and influence.Leave it to the erudite Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to take a crowd whipped into a frenzy of feel-good Democratic fervor and turn it silent with gloom-and-doom predictions of a nuclear Holocaust.
The previous day’s speaker, Vice President Al Gore, had brought the audience to its feet with a video filled with film clips. The tape showed President Bill Clinton and 2000 contender Gore hard at work while the Republicans were alternately cast as fearful or incompetent.
(Ironically, as Johnnie Nash sang “I Can See Clearly Now,” a technical glitch caused a distorted picture for the first five minutes of the video.)
Moynihan’s keynote speech was the anti-Gore. Missing a chance to stump for the candidates, the senior senator rapped the Senate and the administration’s policy on nuclear proliferation, saying it needed to be “wakened up a bit.”
Pataki may not be bound by his religion to observe Shavuot, but that isn’t stopping the Democrats from blasting his re-election announcement on the festival’s first day Sunday.
The buzz at the convention was that Pataki set the date in order to keep Orthodox Jews off the podium. (More likely, it was timed to coincide with the release of his free-publicity memoir, creatively-dubbed “Pataki.”)
Noting that Attorney General Dennis Vacco also announced on Shavuot, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for the Democratic State Committee said “these announcements suggest that either they take the Jewish vote for granted or are not concerned with it at all.”
Pataki’s campaign spokesman, Michael Marr, called the allegation “ridiculous. The fact that they are criticizing the governor for having a picnic in his hometown to announce his re-election shows how desperate they are.”