The New York Observer’s Primary Choices

This has been a summer of discontent, locally and nationally. The economy remains lackluster at best, demagogues are exploiting the nation’s anxieties and politicians seem either overwhelmed or clueless.

Locally, confidence in state government is (or should be) at rock bottom. The Legislature remains a laughing stock, and Governor Paterson simply is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. Congressman Charles Rangel won’t go away. Neither will  State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., who is running for reelection despite an impressive list of criminal charges filed against him by a fellow Democrat, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Still, hope spring eternal, and with that in mind, The Observer endorses the following candidates running in contested primary elections on Sept. 14.

Rick Lazio

After a decade-long absence from New York politics, Rick Lazio is seeking the Republican nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race. He is opposed by a Buffalo-based businessman named Carl Paladino, who apparently found it funny when a friend compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to, oh, Adolf Hitler. We urge Republicans to support Mr. Lazio, a onetime congressman who ran against Hillary Clinton in the 2000 Senate race.

Mr. Lazio’s biggest media moment over the summer came when he attacked the proposed Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan. It was an ugly, shameful tactic, one that exploited the memory of 9/11 in the interests of short-term political gain. The Lazio campaign withdrew the ad, although he continues to oppose the project.

Whatever the merits of Mr. Lazio’s case against the Islamic center, he is a far better choice than the appalling Mr. Paladino, whose idea of humor includes racist and pornographic emails. Mr. Lazio is a serious political figure, one who is capable of mounting a credible campaign in the fall against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Most political observers believe Mr. Cuomo’s election is inevitable, given his name recognition, star power and fund-raising abilities. But the general election should not be a coronation—even if it has been just that in recent gubernatorial elections. Mr. Lazio may be underfunded, but he is not without ideas and alternatives. He will make a case for himself and his party. Mr. Paladino would turn the general election into a joke.

Reshma Saujani

Carolyn Maloney has represented Manhattan’s old silk-stocking Congressional district—once the home of John Lindsay and Ed Koch since 1992. It seems fair to say that she hasn’t had to break a sweat ever since. Token opponents have been swatted away without much discussion or debate. Every two years, voters in the 14th Congressional District on the Upper East Side and in Queens have marched to the polls and given Ms. Maloney virtually uncontested victories. Not this year.

A 34-year-old hedge-fund lawyer named Reshma Saujani has emerged as a refreshing, energetic alterative to Ms. Maloney. We support her bid to unseat the incumbent as the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 14th District. Ms. Saujani is the sort of Democrat who understands that faux populism won’t bring back jobs to New York. Ms. Maloney jumped on the bandwagon to “punish” Wall Street after the catastrophes of the last two years, supporting job-killing regulation and interference. Ms. Saujani, who has
worked for three hedge funds, has a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between Wall Street and government. She believes New York and the nation will prosper when politicians stop blaming bankers and financial institutions for the country’s economic malaise.

Carolyn Maloney has been a capable if unspectacular member of Congress for nearly 20 years. It’s time to bring new energy and fresh ideas to the House. Democrats should choose Reshma Saujan.

Eric Schneiderman

Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial ambitions will create a vacancy in the attorney general’s office next year. A handful of capable Democrats are running for the party’s nomination as the state’s top law-enforcement official. The Observer endorses the candidacy of State Senator Eric Schneiderman.

Mr. Schneiderman is an energetic, independent lawmaker who will challenge his own party and conventional wisdom in the public’s interest. His disdain for Albany’s political shenanigans marks him as a serious reformer. He is the best choice in a well-contested race.