What started out as a seemingly non-controversial measure to name the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center after former Senator James Buckley has turned into a political football.
For weeks now US Senate candidate Bob Turner has been pushing the measure in his current capacity as congressman from Queens, urging the senator he hopes to replace, Kirsten Gillibrand, to push the measure in the upper chamber. This morning, Ed Cox, the state GOP chairman, signed onto the effort.
From the release:
“Senator Buckley served his state and nation admirably as a senator, Federal justice, Undersecretary of State in the Reagan Administration, and President of Radio Free Europe during the final years of the Soviet Union,” Chairman Cox said. “Yet nothing in New York has been named for him, which some might see as a double standard for conservative Republicans. Naming the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center for him would be a small and appropriate gesture for his service to New York.”
The measure to rename the center is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Bob Turner (R-NY-9), whose district is adjacent to the preserve. A senate sponsor is needed.
Now however the matter has become an issue in the GOP primary, with Wendy Long, one of Mr. Turner’s opponents, accusing Mr. Cox of putting the state party’s weight behind Mr. Turner.
“As a true conservative and standard bearer for the Conservative Party, Wendy will be the first to sign on to any effort to honor Senator Buckley. But unfortunately this morning’s release is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to use Republican State Committee as a proxy for Congressman Turner’s struggling campaign to reach conservative voters. We sincerely hope that ‘soft primary’ wasn’t just another way of saying ‘go-Turner’.”
At the GOP convention this spring, Mr. Cox quietly pushed to allow all three candidates (Nassau Comptroller George Maragos is also running) onto the ballot, and urged the campaigns to have a “soft primary” free of intra-party bickering, which hasn’t really happened. And the word in GOP circles is that Mr. Cox would prefer to have Mr. Turner be the party’s standard-bearer.
Meanwhile, what of the effort to name the park after Mr. Buckley. We reached out to Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin, who told us, “I will decline to comment on this latest stunt.”