2006-05-31 / Political Page

Party Conventions Rolling; Dems' Choices Set, GOP Slate Undecided

The only excitement that might be generated at the Democratic state convention in Buffalo is whether Andrew Cuomo will be nominated by such a large margin that none of his four opponents will get the party's blessings for a spot on the primary ballot and will have to circulate petitions to get on the ballot against Cuomo.

It's a totally different ball game at the Republican nominating convention going on at Hofstra University in Uniondale on Long Island. At this conclave, only Jeanine Pirro will waltz in as the party's designee for state attorney general while John Faso and William Weld fight it out for the designation for governor and John Spencer and Kathleen Troia McFarland battle for the United States Senate spot.

Gazette readers will have to wait until we publish next week to know the outcomes because the conventions will take place over the next few days and this edition of the Gazette came out late last night. But here was the picture of what was happening in Buffalo and on Long Island as each party got ready to pick their candidates:

The Democrats were in a festive mood as they gathered, since practically every poll has shown for several months that Eliot Spitzer and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are expected to be nominated by acclimation and without opposition, and will sweep the party to a great victory in November to regain control over the state house in Albany for the first time in 12 years.

Spitzer may yet face a primary from Nassau County's top official, Thomas Suozzi, who has said he's bypassing the convention, but will hold a rally in Buffalo today. Since he announced his bid for governor, Suozzi has made no inroads against Spitzer during the past few months. It appears he will not make any progress if he still has plans to challenge the frontrunner in the primary.

As for the party nominee for attorney general, Cuomo appears to have a lock on it. The only question is what his margin of victory will be as the party's state committee casts its ballots.

Cuomo, the Clinton presidential administration's top housing official, will almost surely top the 50 percent mark, and could go even higher and guarantee that none of his four rivals gets the 25 percent of the vote and the delegates' approval needed for an automatic place on the September primary ballot.

Of Cuomo's four opponents, most political mavens think only Mark Green has a chance. The others are Charlie King, Denise O'Donnell and Sean Patrick Maloney. The latter three would then have to circulate petitions from every congressional district in the state to get on the September 12 primary ballot, a costly task.

Green might have an easier time with the petition process. It appears he will take that route.

The final spot on the Democratic statewide ticket has been reserved for incumbent Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who faces no opposition at the convention. The former Forest Hills Assemblymember and political leader has done an outstanding job in the past four years and will face little opposition to being re-elected in November.

For the Republicans meeting on Long Island, the picture is pretty grim. They are badly divided, face very poor odds in the November elections, judging by the polls, and come next January, face the prospect of being on the outside looking in up in Albany. To avoid a complete shut-out in the state government, they must continue to control the state senate, and they face a tough task there, too.

In the face-off between Weld and Faso, Weld started out as the frontrunner between them as he had the state GOP behind him. But state chairman Stephen Minarik, even with Governor George Pataki's support, couldn't nail him down as the candidate as Faso fought tooth and nail to make his presence felt.

Slowly, Faso turned it around to the point where he goes into the convention as the lukewarm favorite. Queens Republican Chairman Serphin Maltese led his organization in endorsing Faso, the ex-GOP Assembly Minority Leader, and he also has the support of several other counties, including Suffolk and Erie, which takes in Buffalo.

Faso, who ran a very strong race against Hevesi in the state comptroller election four years ago, acted even more as the frontrunner as he announced a running mate last week- Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef. He did so after the state Conservative Party endorsed the pair.

Meanwhile, Pataki never quite got around to endorsing Weld and Weld said he didn't really need Pataki's backing anyway and from the look of it, it probably wouldn't have done him much good.

In the next day or two, we could be seeing the stage set for a Spitzer-Faso faceoff.

The Republicans' choice of U.S. Senate candidate lies between Spencer and McFarland and appears to be even more difficult than Weld/Faso for the delegates. Of the pair, Spencer is the more conservative and it may cost him the delegates' nod. They may seek to balance the ticket by pairing Faso, a conservative, with McFarland, who is considered more liberal.

In either case, both Spencer and McFarland are expected to get the minimum 25 percent of the delegate vote to place both of them on the primary ballot.

The delegates will get a breather after the top spots on the slate are filled because Jeanine Pirro has no opposition for the attorney general nomination and there's been hardly any mention of a comptroller candidate to challenge Hevesi.

CROWLEY LAUNCHES RE-ELECTION BID: Highlighting his 20 years of public service as the theme of his fourth re-election bid, Congressmember Joseph Crowley will hold a major fundraiser next Monday night at Caffe on the Green, in Bayside from 5 to 8 p.m.

The Queens/Bronx lawmaker has chosen as honorary chairpersons three political heavyweights-Queens Democratic Chairman Thomas Manton, Bronx Democratic Chair Jose Rivera, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

There are four categories of ticket prices: Chair, $5,000 (10 tickets), Co-chair, $2,500 (6 tickets), Host, $1,000 (4 tickets), and Sponsor, $250 per person.

Crowley, now 44, started his public service career in 1987 when he was elected to the Assembly from his home district in Elmhurst. He served 12 years there until 1998, when he won a seat in Congress representing a Queens/Bronx district. He is completing his fourth term in Congress.

The lawmaker has held positions on several important committees, including the Committee on Financial Services, which has jurisdiction over New York's banking, securities and insurance industries. He has also served on the International Relations Committee.

Crowley has also established himself as a key part of the Democratic leadership team in the House where in 2002 he was appointed the Chief Democratic Whip. Locally, Crowley serves as a Democratic district leader in the Elmhurst/Maspeth area, sharing the leadership with Assemblymember Margaret Markey.

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