Who Should the UFT Endorse for Mayor?

There are seven candidates running or considering a run for the Mayor of New York City. In the week of the new Common Core state standardized tests let me pose a new state exam-type question:

(1) Write an evidence-based essay explaining the education policies of the candidates, and
(2) Write a persuasive essay supporting one of the candidates that includes specific information from candidate’s written or spoken positions.

You may not end up with a Level 4 score!!

The two Republican candidates, Lhota (“Lhota backs Merit Pay“) and Casamitides have mumbled a few words about supporting current policies and the four Democrats (Quinn, Thompson, Liu and De Blasio), and maybe five (Weiner) are pretty indistinguishable.

Quinn actually laid out her plans in a speech at the New School University (see speech here). Liu issued a Report on Digital Literacy and favors a screening panel to vet candidates for the PEP, the Panel for Education Policy. William Thompson, who served two terms as Comptroller and as President of the Board of Education in the 90s, issued a policy paper during his 2009 run. Bill De Blasio favors a millionaires tax to funds universal Pre-K and opposes co-locations.

I would posit that the Democratic candidates all support each other’s statements on education.

One wag commented that if you ask a Democratic candidate a specific education question their response would be: “What does Mulgrew think about it?”

The Republican candidate’s education policy is, “If it’s OK with Mike it’s OK with us,” and the four Democrats are stumbling to get the UFT endorsement.

At the April 17th Delegate Assembly meeting a block of time will be set apart for a “speak out,” an opportunity for delegates to vent, persuade, attack, advocate for whomever or whatever.

The UFT has a number of choices:

* Should the UFT endorse any candidate prior to the September 10th primary, and, if so, which candidate?
* Should the UFT wait until after September 10th and endorse in a runoff, if there is a runoff?
* Should the UFT wait until there is a Democratic candidate and then endorse?

If the 150,000 members of the UFT enthusiastically endorse and the union gets the troops into the streets they are a potent force, UFT members live in every borough and in every neighborhood, teachers and paraprofessionals and over 20,000 childcare workers.

UFTers manning phone banks, handing out flyers, knocking on doors, encouraging relatives and friends, clearly the candidates are wooing the most powerful force in the election.

The UFT faces a difficult conundrum: Can the union agree on a candidate and fight to elect their endorsee or, will members each go their own way and campaign for whomever regardless of the choice of their union?

In straw votes at union meetings most of the attendees don’t support any candidate – no one has emerged. At this point Chris Quinn is a heavy lift – many teachers hold her responsible for abrogating the two-term limit and allowing Bloomberg to serve a third term, on the other hand, she prevented 7,000 teacher layoffs in her role as leader of the City Council.

The September 10th primary is five months away with the general seven months away – an eternity in politics. Who knows the number of electeds who will be indicted in the meantime? What scandals will emerge? Will negative ads sink the frontrunners?

In the last few days Quinn has slipped in the polls,

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s poll numbers are down following a barrage of criticism in recent weeks — and coinciding with the apparent re-emergence of former mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.

Quinn’s share of the Democratic vote now stands at 32 percent, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll — a five-month low and a significant dip from late February when 37 percent of voters polled said Quinn was their top pick.

Nonetheless, Quinn remains far ahead of her Democratic rivals, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, with 14 percent, Bill Thompson with 13 percent, and City Comptroller John Liu with 7 percent of the vote.

And, as the candidates wrestle for relevancy, try to present themselves to the voting public, carve out a space apart from their opponents, other candidates might jump in. The Democrats are jabbing at other each and every day with the distinct possibility that the final two will need a runoff a few weeks after the primary. An exhausted Democratic winner, hammered for months by his/her opponents, short on cash may face a yet to emerge Republican with deep pockets unscathed by months of attacks – remember 2001.

I was speaking with a Democratic strategist: “Getting in early allows you to set the policies of the winner, and risks picking a loser and alienating the eventual winner, on the other hand remaining on the sidelines is akin to ‘kissing your sister,’ satisfying no one.”

The UFT has a hard decision, and, there is nothing to be gained by rushing into the fray. More important is assuring that the membership is totally on board with the eventual decision.

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3 responses to “Who Should the UFT Endorse for Mayor?

  1. We should all remember that Bloomberg was initially elected after a bruising Democratic primary process where the UFT endorsed first one candidate (Hevesi) then another (Ferrer) before endorsing the ultimate winner of the Democratic nomination, Mark Green. These multiple endorsements made the ultimate endorsement of Green seem meaningless. He was less a candidate who the UFT supported for substantive reasons, just the alternative to Bloomberg..

    We should also not forget that QUinn was poised to run for Mayor at the end of Bloomberg’s second term. Some of her political allies had already begun to campaign to fill her seat on the City Council. She withdrew from running then and endorsed the third term for Bloomberg (and herself) because of the City council Slush Fund scandal and her role in it.

    Talk about history repeating itself. Here is another funds scandals, this time member items (or earmarks as the Federal legislators call them) , and again the questions are whether Quinn is giving our money to her political friends on the Council without looking to see what they spend it on closely enough..

    Liu, whom I personally think is the only true Progressive candidate and the first one to propose real alternatives to the current system of Mayoral control of schools, is also hampered by a campaign finance scandal due to the actions of some of his aids who are now in court on charges of violating election laws.

    While De Blasio and Thompson are scandal free, they are both lackluster candidates who don’t seem to be able to get voters (other than those looking for jobs in their administrations) excited for them.

    In this climate, maybe the UFT should push the candidates to make clear statements about education. Which ones are willing to go to Albany to support the UFT’s position on changing the Mayoral control law? Which ones will say what they intend to do about our (and other public sector) expired contract? We will see if any of them are willing to speak candidly at the UFT Spring Conference on May 11. We might then endorse on the content of their positions.

    Or maybe we should wait to see the who wins the Democratic nomination and endorse the winner over the Republican candidate.

    This is the choice that the Delegates face this Wednesday.

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  2. I find Quinn to be unacceptable.She is potentially more of a disaster in so many ways that I just cant imagine NYers electing her.She comes off as arrogant, and unnecessarily combative in almost everything she says.I think such an image would be bad for NY and bad for New Yorkers. Just as her notion of another overser on the NYPD is foolhardy and in some ways pandering, would suggest to me that she lacks objectibity and the courage to say no to things that are just not correct, tels me that she is untrustworthy. Finally, lets not forget the fact that had she not PUSHED the 3 term law thru the City Council, we would not have had Bloomberg the past 4 years! I like LHota for the job!

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    • Lhota was a Deputy mayor under Giulianni and his primary hatchet man. He will continue most of Bloomberg’s education policies under the same misguided belief that what you can count is what counts. He may be marginally better in the field of labor relations (he gave the MTA workers credit for the quick recovery after Sandy in one interview.) but he will still see public sector employees as part of the problem and will seek to strip teachers of tenure and pensions.

      This is not to say that Quinn would be better. In fact, I agree, she will probably be worse because she doesn’t really seem to believe in anything except political advantage. Her opposition to and sudden willingness to consider mandating paid sick days is the best example of this. It was only when her endorsements and donations were threatened that she was willing to allow a vote on this basic worker’s right. Her values seem to start and end in what’s good for QUinn.

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