Thursday, February 01, 2007

NEWSDAY ENDORSES: The choice in 7th SD

Newsday Editorial

Another reason why Maureen's Campaign is in deep trouble........andy

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has tried to transform the race to fill a vacancy in the 7th Senate District into a referendum on his reform agenda. He says that fellow Democrat Craig Johnson, a Nassau County legislator, will back his efforts to alter Albany's culture of dysfunction, and that Republican Maureen O'Connell, the county clerk, will not.However earnest, Spitzer's assessment is a bit simplistic. It ignores the reality that a senator is likely to vote to protect his or her district, that both candidates back recent reform plans, and that the district's voters, who last year went heavily for Spitzer and for former GOP Sen. Michael Balboni, are independent minded. In the end, the choice should go to the candidate not with the most powerful backers - including admirable ones like Spitzer - but the one with the best skills, experience and policies. That is Johnson.A fiscal conservative but social liberal, Johnson has worked hard on local projects, but he also has a sensitive understanding of the needs of poor students in New York City and Long Island. He showed courage in backing a county property-tax hike several years ago, needed to undo the damage of GOP mismanagement. He also was a bulldog in forcing the Cradle of Aviation Museum to come up with a better business plan. We believe him when he says he generally will support fundamental reform in all areas of state government, including school aid and Medicaid, but that he won't be a "yes man" for Spitzer or other Democrats.O'Connell has an appealing personal and political story, rising from nurse and village official to health-care lawyer and state assemblywoman. As clerk, an office she hasn't held long enough to judge her overall performance, she seems to have begun to reduce a chronic backlog in deed filings. But for someone who has spent time in Albany and worked in health care, she is disappointingly unclear about recent key changes in Medicaid and other major issues. And in 2003, this page called one of her Assembly votes on the budget a profile in cowardice and cynicism. She tried to have her cake, by overturning a veto of school-aid cuts, and eat it too, by not being willing to pay for it with an income-tax surcharge. Newsday endorses Johnson, who was willing to take a tough vote as a Nassau legislator and will do so again in Albany.

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