A 28-year-old upstart candidate for a Brooklyn Heights state Senate seat beat a man who has been in office longer than the challenger has been alive — the lone upset in the area’s four main primary elections on Sept. 9.
Longtime incumbent Rep. Ed Towns cruised to victory over hip-hop writer and inspirational speaker Kevin Powell in the Democratic primary for the 10th congressional district, while Councilman Mike McMahon (D–Staten Island) demolished Bay Ridge lawyer Steve Harrison for the Democratic nomination for the 13th congressional district seat being vacated by scandal-tarred Rep. Vito Fossella.
In the GOP primary for the same seat, former Assemblyman Robert Straniere crushed Jim Wyne.
Here’s all the news and notes:
State Senate, District 25 (Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens)
One of the city’s most-bitter campaigns, which pitted well-financed and Mayor Bloomberg–endorsed newcomer Squadron against 30-year incumbent Connor, ended with a relatively easy victory for the first-time candidate.
For most of the year, Squadron, who lives off a sizeable trust fund established by his late father, the powerhouse lawyer Howard Squadron, had been hammering away at Connor, depicting him as a key cog in a moribund Albany machine. He also took swipes at Connor’s ethics, citing everything from legal campaign contributions from real-estate developers to Connor’s purchase of a Brooklyn Heights apartment for just $12,000 in 1994.
Connor fought back, claiming that Squadron, at age 28, was too inexperienced to know the ways of the world, let alone Albany.
Knowledge or not, Squadron showed intense energy on the campaign trail, issuing position papers as quickly as they could be printed — and all the while, Connor complained that he was busy in Albany doing the people’s business.
Speaking to 300 supporters at a Chinatown restaurant late Tuesday night, Squadron said “the first thing [that came to mind when he heard that he’d won] was what an amazing job these staffers did.”
Later, he paid tribute to Connor, saying, “It was a good race and we really should honor his 30 years of service.”
Reached by cellphone later, Connor said, “I’ve enjoyed represening the people for nearly 30 years, but I look forward to having a life where I get to take off weekends and take vacations.”
Squadron, who had been endorsed by the New York Times and The Brooklyn Paper, will now face Republican candidate John Chromczak, but as in most districts in New York City, the Democratic primary is considered tantamount to election.
10th Congressional District, DUMBO, Downtown, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and East New York
Voters chose real world experience over “Real World” experience.
Towns, a 13-term incumbent, ran away with the race, in which he faced a challenger whose under-funded campaign was dominated with rookie mistakes.
Congressional hopeful and former MTV “Real World” star Kevin Powell had trouble raising money, didn’t file campaign paperwork on time, called attention to his prior history of violence, was difficult for reporters to get a hold of, scheduled campaign events featuring big-name celebrities who failed to show up, and then issued a 58-page “vision plan” for the district just five days before the primary (even though he’d promised it to reporters months earlier).
Not that Towns brought up any of that at his victory party at Eden Palace, a catering hall in Clinton Hill.
“I’m delighted [by the results] and, in fact, I’m anxious and eager to get started again,” he told The Brooklyn Paper.
Towns, who’s rarely faced challengers, said he did not take Powell lightly.
“I actually focused on the campaign this time,” he said. “The last time I just focused on my legislative work.”
For his part, Powell vowed to take on Towns again in 2010.
“Honestly, we need to raise more money next time, that’s the bottom line,” he told supporters at the Five Spot Restaurant in Fort Greene.
“For now, I’ll go back to being a community organizer [but] I am determined to focus on parts of the district I wasn’t able to cover well this time, like Williamsburg and East New York. This time, we were really just trying to get the name and message out there. In 2010, we will win it.”
The hip hop campaign came to a hip hop conclusion — immediately after Powell thanked staffers and volunteers the DJ played Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
But later, the DJ changed the record and old school rapper Kurtis Blow crooned: “These are the breaks.”
Democratic primary, 13th Congressional District, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst
Republican primary, 13th Congressional District, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst
Voters in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst had barely finished casting their ballots in Tuesday’s congressional primary when the newly minted candidates — Councilman Mike McMahon (D–Staten Island) and former Assemblyman Bob Straniere (R-Staten Island) — started sinking their teeth into each other.
Straniere, a former 12-term Staten Island assemblyman and currently a Manhattan hot dog restaurateur, struck first. Before he’d even officially vanquished Jim Wyne in the GOP contest, Straniere’s camp issued a statement lashing McMahon and his party’s presidential ticket.
“The [Barack] Obama-[Joe] Biden-McMahon ticket promises more taxes, more government and an inexperienced group of liberals to run our nation,” Straniere said.
Before midnight, Team McMahon hit back with a statement that highlighted Straniere’s vulnerabilities.
“Straniere’s campaign heads into the general election low on resources and local support,” the statement said. It also quoted several GOP officials as bashing Straniere, who had became an outsider in his own party and, as an incumbent assemblyman, had lost a primary in 2004.
McMahon handily won his race against Bay Ridge attorney Steve Harrison for the Democratic nomination to succeed scandal-tarred Rep. Vito Fossella. The well-funded McMahon, who enjoyed the endorsement of Sen. Clinton, Gov. Paterson and former Mayor Koch, netted 75 percent of the vote and even won in the Brooklyn third of the district in Harrison’s base.
In his Bensonhurst field office on 15th Avenue on Tuesday night, McMahon pledged his commitment to his constituents.
“The people of Brooklyn and Staten Island believe they should have someone in Congress that represents them — not the special interests, not the big fat cat corporations,” he told a room full of staffers, volunteers and elected officials.
But Harrison attributed the margin of victory to two other factors.
“The difference came down to money and star power,” he said at his Bay Ridge home, where his supporters and family gathered mournfully. In spite of the loss, he said he would support McMahon in the general election.
The loss was especially bitter for Harrison because he had run in 2006 against Fossella and done better than any previous Democratic challenger to the six-term incumbent. But more candidates — including McMahon — came forward when Fossella decided not to seek re-election in the wake of an arrest for drunk driving in May and a subsequent admission that he had sired a lovechild with a woman not his wife.
McMahon quickly corralled the support of local and national Democrats. He was also backed by many editorial boards, including that of the New York Times, the Staten Island Advance and The Brooklyn Paper.
The Republicans were more divided on picking a successor. Eventually, Frank Powers, an MTA board member and retired Wall Street honcho, garnered the backing of the Republican organizations in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
But he suddenly died in June from a heart attack, which sent the GOP scrambling to find its second replacement. Many prominent elected Republicans declined to run, which allowed Straniere to slip into an almost-empty field and run on a shoestring budget against the wealthy first-time candidate Jim Wyne, a cardiologist and finance chairman of Staten Island’s GOP.
Civil Court, District 1 (Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, DUMBO. Fort Greene and a sliver of Park Slope)
Cohen, a Democratic club leader, attorney and activist, did not earn an “approved” nod from the New York and Brooklyn bar associations, but he was endorsed by more Democratic voter than Adler, an attorney who represented disgraced Assemblyman Clarence Norman and who helped the Conservative Party fight same-sex marriage.
On Election Night in this tight race, Cohen said he gained confidence when early results showed that he had won precincts in Brooklyn Heights and Concord Village, where Adler and politically connected family members live.
To win, Cohen had to confront Adler’s negative ads that he was a political insider and his “not approved” rating from the city bar association, which gave Adler a stamp of approval.
On Wednesday, Lambda members breathed relief and took some credit for tipping the vote in Cohen’s favor.
“Once the word got out that the opponent Roger Adler did not represent progressive values, I think that changed the outcome,” said Dan Wilson, a member of Lambda Independent Democrats, a gay clubhouse.