The Dahroug Test: Are N.Y. Democrats Progressive or Just Partisan?

With Democrats closer than ever to the possibility of taking over the State Senate—and having total control of state government—there are signs that a fault line is emerging between two groups that have, so far, been working well together: the Democratic Party establishment and progressive activists.

One recent example that has received some attention is the Working Families Party calling for raising personal income tax on upper-income New Yorkers, putting them at odds with Eliot Spitzer’s pledge not to raise taxes.

Another is playing out in a Suffolk County State Senate Democratic primary, where Democrat Jimmy Dahroug is making his third attempt at unseating the aging Republican incumbent Cesar Trunzo. This year, Democrats feel the wind is at their backs, and progressive activists are excited about Dahroug’s race.

But some Democrats in the district have another idea. They are reportedly grooming Chris Bodkin, a lifelong Republican, to challenge Dahroug for the Democratic nomination.

It may be because the party is afraid Dahroug can’t win. In 2004, Trunzo easily defeated him. But in 2006, Dahroug won more Democratic votes than Truzno won Republican votes, and the seat stayed in G.O.P. hands because of votes on the Independence and Conservative Party lines. By putting up Bodkin, the party hopes to change that calculus by attracting more non-Democrats.

Dahroug warns that the party’s attitude about his candidacy indicates a potential weakening of the party’s principles.

“This is a matter of conviction,” he told me during a recent interview. “We’re going to have a Democratic majority no matter what, the way it’s going. I’m utterly convinced. But what kind of Democratic majority are we going to have?”

Still, some figures in the progressive movement don’t necessarily think that a lifelong Republican challenging a Democrat in a Democratic primary is going to be a bad thing for Dahroug.

Phil Anderson, a Dahroug supporter and blogger at The Albany Project, wrote recently, “There are those that feel that Jimmy Dahroug can not run and win against a Republican in SD-3. This is a chance to prove them wrong. If Jimmy can not make a compelling case to Democratic voters in a Democratic primary against a guy who has been a Democrat for mere months, it’s quite doubtful that he can beat Trunzo in November. It’s really that simple.”

The Dahroug Test: Are N.Y. Democrats Progressive or Just Partisan?