As you rushed to work this morning you may have noticed some folk at bus stops and/or subway stops with clipboards asking for signatures on a petition. Today is Day One for prospective candidates to collect signatures in order to appear on the September 14th democratic primary ballot. While collecting 500 signatures may sound easy, the signatures must be registered voters in the party who reside in the district. Big bucks or feet on the ground, preferably both, are required.
Some candidates come out of political clubs, clubs have captains who can knock on neighbors doors. After petitions are filed the opposition closely scrutinizes petitions and can file challenges with the Board of Elections.
Unions generally endorse incumbents and contribute up to the maximum ($3750), their power is the ability to man phone banks and “pull” their members to the polls on election day.
On Friday, April 30th the Democratic State Senate passed a bill introduced by the hedge fund moguls, 30 Republican and 15 of the 32 Democrats voted for the bill. “Friends” of the union not only voted for the bill but denied knowledge of the bill right up until the vote.
The teacher union hit the streets, they picketed the offices of Jeff Klein, a Bronx Senate Democrat, and a strong supporter of charter schools .
On the Assembly side Gregg Lundhal, a high school teacher is challenging Assemblyman Bing, the prime sponsor of the principal choice instead of seniority layoff bill.
The union always recommends endorsements at its June delegate meeting, this year the union is awaiting the end of the legislative session before any endorsements are made.
The days of the reflex endorsements are gone, candidates must ask themselves, does it pay to piss off the teachers union? Will the hedge funders open their coffers? Or, will the thousands of union members in my district support “the other guy?”
Politics is hard ball, a blood sport, the days of running a law practice and spending a few days in Albany is over, although some legislators tiptoe over the ethics limit, using their role as legislator to enhance their law practice. For others Albany is a place to plot their run for the next office, the next step up the ladder.
Do you know who your state legislators are? Probably not. Election turnouts in primary elections are meager.
James Madison in Federalist # 10 defines faction,
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
In Federalist # 51 Madison muses over the issue of ambition,
But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others …. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
Teacher unions are a vital faction, a counterpoint to the ambition of elected officials or hedge fund billionaires.
Teachers, through their unions have a right, perhaps an obligation, to make themselves heard, on the steps of City Hall, the State Capitol, and at the polls.
If Jeff Klein or Jonathan Bing are angered because teachers picket their office, or support an opposing candidate, so be it, working in the political arena is the very essence of democracy.