Local Politics: The Mud Slinging Begins Early

It’s still the middle of the summer and already local political mud is being thrown about as if it were the last week before the election. What comes to mind first is the race for the next County Executive of Suffolk County.

With incumbent Steve Levy taking a forced retirement due to some reportedly irregular fundraising practices, the race is wide open.

Aiming to capture the Suffolk County Executive seat are Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter (R) and Town of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone (D). The gloves are off already as the Suffolk County Republican Committee has put up a website—www.bigtaxballone.com—and the Democrats are calling for it to be taken down. The website is very creative and entertaining and can be very persuasive—using sound effects, music, graphs and an animated Ballone as the great taxman on a rollercoaster—going up and down tax graphs and looking really bad. This YouTube video is just part of the new wave of technology that is being used after the success of 2008’s “Obama Girl” on YouTube. It seems YouTube ads will now become part of even our local political landscape. Of course the Bellone people are going ballistic, with Dave Hoffman, Ballone’s campaign manager and confidante and brain trust, issuing statements to do damage control. [expand]

An example of this would be the Hoffman press release statement, “Steve’s economic plan will incorporate his record in Babylon of reducing taxes, creating jobs and making government more efficient. He will discuss his platform following a tour with Advanced Energy Systems CEO Anthony Favale and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko.  Steve and Supervisor Lesko have been collaborating to expand on the Accelerate Long Island initiative.”

With over $1 million in the bank and a reported 10-fold lead in raising money for the campaign, the personable Ballone has taken a hit as a result of this YouTube ad, which is defining him as a supervisor who raised taxes to record levels. Ballone told me he is ready to take on this challenge.

Carpenter will have an advantage with Suffolk County voters, who are largely Republican, but the battleground will be the Independents.

If you were watching TV and an ad blasting Congressman Tim Bishop of the 1st Congressional District of New York came on FIVE TIMES in a row you might think he was up for re-election, yet he’s not (not until 2012). So then what’s this Bishop-bashing all about? It smells of the politics of the well-financed challenger of the 2010 election and the already announced candidate of the 2012 election, Randy Altschuler. But it is paid for and produced by the advocacy organization Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. The TV ad is quite amazing, practically laying the unemployment problem, the deficit, the housing debacle and everything else on Bishop’s ineffectiveness in Congress and his alliance with the now only 40% popular President Obama.

The slick attack ad seems to conveniently omit that the Republican Congress is now in control of all purse string matters and might share some of the blame. No, it’s all on Bishop with a clip of him saying over and over, “We all recognize we need to cut spending.” Seeing this ad only makes me wonder how bitter Altschuler is about losing in 2010 when a huge Republican wave took over the Congress, but less than a thousand or so contested votes left Altschuler out of Congress. This after spending so much of his own money to muscle out the Republican Party legacy candidate Chris Cox, who’s granddad was a fellow named Richard Nixon. Altschuler’s ability to spend his own money faster than Cox could raise it ended up with the nomination. The self-professed “job creator” was left without one. He was a relative newcomer at the time, having lived less than eight years in the district.

So it looks like the forces against Bishop and for Altschuler somehow have the funds to start these attacks 16 months before the next election for the seat. Bishop’s spokesman Jon Schneider said especially for this article, “The right-wing attack machine is going after Tim Bishop because he would rather vote to protect Medicare than give outsourcing millionaires like Randy Altschuler a tax cut. The one thing the ad gets right is that Tim Bishop is working to cut spending, but he will not support the Tea Party vision of balancing the budget solely on the backs of seniors and the middle class. What is amazing is that despite controlling the House of Representatives, all the right wing can do is run attack ads because they have no positive accomplishments or agenda to create jobs or help middle-class families.”

Yes, politics…wars fought with words.

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