Offensive, off-putting, confusing.
Those are some of the words New York State Democratic conventions-goers used upon seeing the signs plastered around the Hilton hotel in Rye Brook that read, “New Democratic Party” and “New Democrat.”
One woman was overhead asking her colleagues if the “rest of us are old Democrats?” Another pointed out that many of the members of the executive committee have decades of experiences, therefore being not particularly new.
With voter discontent displacing longtime Democratic stalwarts like Tom Suozzi from Nassau and Andy Spano in Westchester, at this year’s convention there is clearly an effort by Democrats to harness the wave of discontent, if only because they are unlikely to be able to stop it.
Even officially, lawmakers appear to be split on how much they want to embrace the theme: the New York State Senate Democratic Campaign Committee has plastered the hotel with signs saying, “Albany Needs Change Now.” Their counterparts in the New York State Assembly, so far, do not have any posters.
The executive director of the party, Charlie King, says the references to “new” aren’t meant to be offensive, but to refer to “new energy” and “new policies.”
I spoke to King, who was wearing a yellow jacket and open-collared shirt, in the hotel lobby. As state committee members and statewide candidates milled around nearby, King said, “This is not going to be a party for everyone that calls themselves a Democrat.”
There have been “certain ways of conducting yourself in office” that need to change, he said.
When asked to respond to criticism that the emphasis on “new” at this convention seemed to some to be casting aside the party’s traditions and loyal longtime members–many of whom are still active today–King said, “I had to say this, but I’ve been in the party a long time.”
As for the three-day event, which begins today, King said, “This convention is not a continuation of the same.”