Mayor Bloomberg — a billionaire former Republican — has inserted himself into the Democratic race for a Brooklyn Heights state Senate seat, endorsing a well off newcomer against longtime incumbent Marty Connor as payback for votes against him in Albany.
On Tuesday, Hizzoner endorsed Daniel Squadron for the district, which covers Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.
In addition to Squadron, Bloomberg endorsed two candidates in other races — and in all three cases, the “Bloomberg Bump” is payback for incumbents who opposed congestion pricing, a Manhattan waste-transfer station, and mayoral control of the schools.
Squadron supports Bloomberg’s policy of mayoral control of city schools, but Connor has said Bloomberg “misled” the state legislature, which approved city control in 2002, because the mayor’s oversight “hasn’t happened” the way he promised it would.
Connor said this week that he wants to find a solution that avoids returning to the “previous, discredited” Board of Education.
“We can’t just have a dictatorship from the Tweed Building,” he said, though he did not put forth a solution to the problem.
Connor did say that he was “personally” in support of congestion pricing, but said his support for the mayor’s plan was not widely known because the proposal never actually came to a vote in the legislature: “I supported it,” he said in a debate in May and again this week.
Connor also took a swipe at Squadron’s new cheerleader — who just wrote a $500,000 check to support efforts by the slim Republican majority in the Senate to retain control of that body.
“Today, Daniel Squadron shows that he stands with the Senate Republicans and their major financiers in their efforts to maintain the status quo in Albany,” Connor said.
Squadron’s camp fired back, saying, “Unlike Martin Connor, … Daniel Squadron is both progressive and independent of the special interests,” the campaign said in a statement that referred to Connor’s work as election lawyer for third-party candidate Tom Golisano who was running against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall and then-Gov. Pataki in 2002.
Connor said that he did not work against McCall — “I endorsed McCall!” he told The Brooklyn Paper — but he did defend Golisano when Pataki tried to kick him off the ballot.
“That was to help McCall by denying Pataki the Independence Party line — and it helped McCall because Golisano ended up beating up Pataki from the right,” said Connor.
It didn’t help that much, of course; Pataki won big.
Behind all this back-and-forth is the larger significance of Bloomberg’s endorsement: payback.
“His attack was on Albany,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who is not involved in the Squadron-Connor race. “It was an opportunity to return the favors, to take a shot, and to prove that the mayor does not turn his cheek easily.”
Squadron may cloak himself as an ideological heir to his former boss, Sen. Chuck Schumer, but his campaign is also taking a page from Bloomberg himself. The 28-year-old Carroll Gardens newcomer is spending like the mayor did in 2001, when he was an unknown rich guy trying to introduce himself to voters.
Between April 1 and July 31, Squadron’s campaign spent $140,400, a big chunk of it on consultants, more than two times more than Connor.
Not that Bloomberg mentioned Squadron’s spending when he praised the candidate for his “independence.”
“We’ll never get reform in Albany if we don’t send reformers there, and Daniel Squadron’s independent voice is exactly what New York City needs in our state Capitol,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
“Daniel Squadron’s record of getting things done for New Yorkers is already more impressive than many lifelong legislators,” he added.
Still, Bloomberg has pledged to continue his support of Senate Republicans.
Connor, who has sat in the 25th District seat for 30 years, downplayed Schumer and Bloomberg’s endorsement of Squadron earlier this summer, calling his challenger a newcomer who “has been in the community for just two years.”
Meanwhile, 10 colleagues in the state Senate, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, five members of Congress, the New York League of Conservation Voters, and several unions.
The primary is on Sept. 9.