The primary season came to a merciful end on Tuesday night, and while the winners weren’t known as this was written, it was easy to identify the losers. Those interested in a serious discussion of the state’s dire financial system and its dysfunctional politics emerged none the wiser after weeks of blather and pandering.
Now, however, the general-election campaign begins in earnest. A more serious, substantive discussion of the state’s future is imperative. New York faces horrendous budget choices over the next several years. Voters deserve to know what choices the candidates will make, and how they intend to reform Albany’s broken system of governance.
If New York Republicans plan to bait Andrew Cuomo over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero-and there is reason to believe that they will-they’ll get lots of face time on Fox News, but New York voters will show them only contempt. This election must be about finances, taxes, electoral reform and accountability. The fate of the Islamic center and other peripheral issues have no place in what is shaping up to be the most important gubernatorial election in a generation.
The next governor will face a State Legislature that figures to be relatively unchanged, which, of course, is part of the problem. Technically, the entire Legislature is up for reelection this year, but lawmakers represent districts created to ensure their perpetual reelection. You may have heard something about the wonders of the two-party system, but in most New York Assembly and Senate districts, there is just one party-the Incumbent Party.
Tellingly, the loudest and most persistent advocate of reform is not on the ballot this year. In fact, he hasn’t been on a ballot since 1989, when he lost a bid for a fourth term as mayor. Edward I. Koch, now 86 years young, is conducting a virtual one-person crusade to bring rationality and accountability to Albany. He has a list of common-sense reforms, including a plan to take legislative redistricting out of the hands of legislators, and he is pressuring candidates to take a stand for or against. He’s happy to tell voters who has his support, and who doesn’t.
Mr. Koch’s entry into the campaign has helped generate ideas-and hope for authentic change this year. Hopefully, the former mayor will continue to hold candidates accountable, and will raise his voice if the debate begins to sound like something made for cable television.