Silver weathers challenge in primaries

September 9, 2008 8:09:02 PM PDT
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver weathered a challenge to his Democratic seat in lower Manhattan in Tuesday's legislative primaries that threw scares into some incumbents who have been in the Legislature for decades. With all precincts reporting, the state's most powerful Democrat in the Legislature had 68 percent of the vote in the 64th Assembly District to 23 percent for community activist Paul Newell. Luke Henry had about 9 percent.

Silver called it a resounding victory.

One of the Legislature's most senior members, Democratic Sen. Martin Connor, lost the nomination for the Brooklyn seat he's held since 1978, according to unofficial results. Daniel Squadron, with help from his former boss, Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, won the race with 54 percent of the vote.

"Daniel will make a great state senator and represents a new generation of leadership for New York state," Schumer said.

The Working Families Party, a left-leaning faction allied with the Democratic Party, gave Squadron a boost, calling him "a true progressive who has got the energy and the leadership we need to shake up Albany."

In western New York, Republican Sen. Dale Volker of Erie County, in office since 1974, was nominated over David J. DiPietro, an East Aurora businessman. DiPietro ran a campaign that argued Volker's four decades representing the 59th Senate District was too long.

DiPietro was 12 years old when Volker entered the Legislature.

Volker had 58 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 62nd Senate District, Sen. George Maziarz withstood a Republican challenge from Brian D. Grear for the Maziarz has held since 1995. Maziarz had 81 percent of the vote with all votes reported.

Republicans were counting on returning the two veterans and their powerful name recognition and resources as the majority seeks to keep its Senate majority in November. The GOP Senate majority is now down to a 31-29 margin.

Statewide, the primaries were closely watched as a bellwether for any change in majority power in the Legislature.

In the Assembly, although several incumbents faced challengers, the Democrats' majority, currently 105-42 with three vacancies, isn't in doubt.

In Manhattan, Silver faced the clout of The New York Times, the New York Post and the Daily News, which endorsed Paul Newell. On Manhattan newsstands Tuesday was a New York Post front-page photo illustration of Silver in Dracula garb along with fangs and blood trickling from the side of his mouth. The photo accompanied a story about Democratic Gov. David Paterson, who said Monday that some legislators were like vampires because after showing a friendly face to constituents, they reverted to their true selves - blood suckers. Paterson didn't mention Silver by name.

"As Assembly speaker, I have tried to be your voice in Albany," Silver said Tuesday night. "I've stood up to the misguided Republican policies of the two Georges - Pataki and Bush - and defended our Democratic priorities and the progressive values that we share. ... This campaign was about real people with real needs. Not about tabloid headlines."

"The billionaires who own the New York City newspapers don't like Shelly Silver, but we're pretty sure the citizens of lower Manhattan really do," Dan Cantor, head of the state's Working Families Party, said before results were in. "Despite the beating he takes in the press, the people really like him."

Cantor called the Post's depiction of Silver as Dracula on primary day "just gross."

Two candidates accused in sex scandals were also re-nominated by their parties.

Democratic Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo had 56 percent of the vote over Barbara Kavanaugh with 94 percent of the vote reported in the 144th Assembly District.

Hoyt is fending off accusations posted on a local political blog that he had affairs with two legislative workers who once were interns nearly five years ago. The Assembly ethics committee is investigating.

Across the state, in the 99th district, first-term Assemblyman Greg Ball of Putnam County had 73 percent of the vote with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Ball has denied a claim that he sexually harassed a woman and blames the accusation on supporters of his Republican primary opponent, former Brewster Mayor John Degnan. The Assembly is investigating.