What is a Wilson Pakula Really Worth, Anyway?
If you don’t already know, a Wilson Pakula refers to the special authorization a party can give to someone from another party to allow them to run on that party’s ticket. For local races, the Brooklyn Republican Party’s Executive Committee is usually responsible for deciding who can get a Wilson Pakula (see Art. VI of bylaws).
It seems lately that the Republican Party relies on outsourcing electoral success to non-Republicans rather than trying to produce it on its own–that is, when the party actually finds a candidate to even run a competitive campaign. The question is, what is it that we accomplish for our party’s platform, good government, or our communities by permitting this non-competitiveness to ensue?
We know that Michael Bloomberg donated $50,000 to the Brooklyn Republican Party as part of the arrangement to become the Republican candidate for Mayor, all the while fiercely defending his supposed political independence. I’m certain we all have strong and diverse feelings about Bloomberg running for a third term generally, and certainly as a Republican. (Truthfully, even though most of the party leaders made a terrible decision to sell out so disgracefully based on the alleged reasons reported from that decision, was $50,000 really all they could get from the billionaire mayor to make it worth their while?)
Yet, what many of you may not know is how a few lifelong Democrats get these special electoral gems from Brooklyn Republicans on a regular basis. To add insult to injury, these are seats that Republicans can actually win!
Council Member Simcha Felder
For example, Council Member Simcha Felder (Democrat-CD44) has never had an opponent on the Republican line. Moreover, in 2005, when he was given the Republican Party line to run unopposed, he actually received about 2,000 more votes on the Republican line than on the Democratic line!
If Republicans found a young Republican candidate who is active in the Borough Park or Midwood community, there is no reason that Republicans cannot effectively compete for that seat on their own.
Furthermore, several of Felder’s votes have let Republicans down profoundly. He shepherded the passage of the extension of term limits for Mayor Bloomberg. He voted for congestion pricing. He supported increasing Council Member salaries from $90,000 to $112,500 in 2006. Worst of all, he is the top recipient of Mayoral discretionary funds compared to any other Council Member, and is now embroiled in a dispute over what may be the illegal disbursement of discretionary funds from the Mayor’s Office in Felder’s name.
In all fairness, he did push for reform of the Department of Sanitation’s residential enforcement routing hours, so people won’t get tickets for litter that happens to be in front of their homes while they are at work. He has also fought property tax hikes in 2008, but only after he supported them in 2002.
The question then still remains: if the party is not furthering Republican policies by giving Felder a Wilson Pakula, what else is he doing for our party’s principles instead to warrant the line? He already introduced a bill to abolish the Public Advocate’s office, but, for once in a long time, the Republican Party has actually fielded a young, promising and energetic candidate for the position, Alex Zablocki. (Whether keeping the Public Advocate’s office can be justified or not is a different issue; however, you would think that someone sharing the same line as a candidate for that office would at least try to come to some other solution before jumping on the pitchfork-and-torch-toting “Abolish the Public Advocate” bandwagon.)
Or maybe he’s just benefitting from his chummy relationship with the Mayor so he can get a pass on running an honest, competitive campaign in his district. Let us know what you think with your comments!
District Attorney Charles Hynes
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes has received a Wilson Pakula from Brooklyn Republicans in 2005 and again this year. It’s not to say that Hynes has done a poor job in Brooklyn (we would love to hear your comments on his tenure as DA from a Republican perspective), but there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding Hynes’ dealings with the Brooklyn Democratic machine and a flurry of allegations about corruption that should make Republicans think twice before hitching their bandwagon to the incumbent. Furthermore, what sealed the deal for Republicans to give this Democrat a pass at an honest, competitive campaign yet again?
Assembly Member Dov Hikind
The last Republican to run against Dov Hikind (Democrat-AD48) was Glenn Nocera in 1998, who received almost 30% of the vote on his first run. Ever since, the Brooklyn Republican Party has given Dov Hikind a pass on an honest, competitive race by allowing him to run on the Republican line.
No wonder Hikind keeps taking it, because it must be very scary for an incumbent Democrat to see that he gets more votes on the Republican line than his own party line in three election cycles: 2002, 2004, and 2008. Yet again, a young Republican candidate who is active in the Borough Park community could do very well in this district, and that person would certainly have the support to represent Republican principles in the State Assembly.
Now it’s not clear whether he’s been bad for his district (comments from constituents of the 48th Assembly District would be a big help), and we know he’s been very Republican-friendly in the past (does he have a choice?). However, he has been there since 1983 and therefore serves as a poster child for state legislative term limits at the very least. Regardless, should the Republican Party trade up a golden opportunity to win a seat like this by agreeing not to run a candidate?
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS ALERT: We noticed something peculiar in the course of our research. 48th Assembly District Republicans are currently led by District Leaders Elaine Guido and Vincent Bocchino. We know at least Guido has served as the District Leader there for quite a number of years. According to Board of Elections data, they both hail from the mostly Italian-American Dyker Heights portion of the district, which is very different from the mostly Jewish constituency of that district. A significant portion of the 44th Council District also runs through the 48th Assembly District. Not to mention, Simcha Felder used to be an aide to Hikind. That begs the question: is there an arrangement between Guido and Bocchino and Hikind and Felder so no Republican runs in the district, and who might be a beneficiary in such an arrangement? If not, what is the real reason this goes on? When we find out, we will let you know, and certainly post or e-mail any tips you might have.
Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz
Cymbrowitz (Democrat-AD45) is new to the Wilson Pakula gravy train. He has received one in 2006 and 2008, although he still receives the majority of his votes on the Democratic line. It remains to be seen, then, why 45th Assembly District Republican District Leaders Boris Pincus and Joan Braunstein choose to support Cymbrowitz rather than field a candidate as was done in the past. He seems occasionally conservative, but again, is that sufficient reason to give the Democrat a pass without trying to see if the voters of the 45th Assembly District resonate better with a Republican candidate? What is the story in this district?
The judiciary should always remain as apolitical as possible to ensure fairness and uphold the rule of law. Yet frequently, Democrats are consistently cross-endorsed by Republicans, so there is no contested race at the General Election; the election was decided for you by party leaders a little over a month prior to the election, and hardly in favor of the Republican. (Doesn’t the thought of Clarence Norman-ism send shivers down your spine?) NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice produced an extremely valuable report on the arguments of the Lopez Torres case, which argued that the election rules for Supreme Court judges encouraged vast political corruption in the selection of members of the judiciary. In it, it has found:
Voter choice is extremely limited in general elections for trial judges in New York State. In the majority of districts, Supreme Court elections are contested less than half the time. Specifically, from 1990 through 2002, eight of the 12 judicial districts in New York State had uncontested races with respect to the two major parties (i.e., there was only one candidate from the Democratic or Republican Party for a seat) at least 50% of the time, thus leaving 62% of the State’s voters without any choice between major party candidates to make in November. Moreover, the Republican and Democratic parties often cross-endorse candidates, leaving voters no choice on Election Day. Between 1990 and 2002, 190 candidates (41.3%) were cross-endorsed of the 460 total seats filled by general elections statewide. (p. 2).
In Brooklyn, this is all too frequently the case.
Our party really needs to re-assess the role of the Wilson Pakula in the Brooklyn Republican Party. The history of the cross-endorsement was largely to allow candidates of major parties to pick up extra votes by receiving the endorsement of third-parties that appealed to a more specific political cause. For example, the old Citizens Union and City Fusion tickets endorsed major party candidates who supported municipal reform, which helped a number of Republican candidates like Seth Low and Fiorello LaGuardia get elected Mayor. But in these cases, there must be some sort of arrangement made between Republicans and Democrats, whereby Republicans avoid a competitive election in exchange for something else. What the other end of the bargain is remains to be known; we doubt it leads to anything good for the borough of Brooklyn at large. But that’s what we’re here to find out.