Sunday, February 04, 2007

Great Neck News Endorses Craig Johnson for State Senate

The Great Neck News, a local weekly paper, has issued a powerful endorsement of Craig Johnson (D-WFP), calling him "Impressive - in his command of the facts, his stand on issues, and his character." The endorsement also sums up Maureen O'Connell's view of the public she is campaigning to represent, saying "she has barely set foot in Great Neck during the entire campaign."

Craig Johnson has now gotten nearly every editorial endorsement in the race, including Newsday, the Great Neck News (below), the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, the New York Daily News and the New York Times.

Here's the full endorsement of Craig Johnson by the Great Neck News:

Vote Feb. 6 in Special Election

Readers of this page are aware that we do not take kindly when candidates refuse to come before "the public" to answer questions at a debate. It is a great test of character, how the candidates do handling tough, even partisan questions.

Republican candidate Maureen O'Connell didn't just duck out of the debate, she dissed the Leagues of Women Voters (Great Neck, Manhasset and Port Washington), by suggesting that she better needed to spend her time meeting the "public" instead of participating in the debate.

That got in my craw because I am a huge fan of the League of Women Voters. What an incredible slap at the women and men who work so hard day in and day out to preserve active participation in voting, and who happen also to be scrupulous about being nonpartisan.

In fact, partisanship is a big issue in this campaign.

Republican Michael Balboni, who had so effectively served as State Senator, was famously bipartisan, working in close partnership with Democratic Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, to get things done for the community, and the community loved him for it. Senator Balboni spent a lot of time in Great Neck and working on behalf of Great Neck schools, parks, libraries, the Great Neck Art Center.

But if Maureen O'Connell was anointed by the Republicans to fill his shoes, she is no Balboni. Indeed, she has barely set foot in Great Neck during the entire campaign, with the exception of a brief stop at the Great Neck Senior Center at the Great Neck Arts Center, carefully avoiding any kind of interaction with the press (if you can believe that: a politician avoiding the press).

During her political career in the New York State Assembly and now, during this campaign, she has never deviated from the Republican line, and there is no reason to expect she will going forward.

What she told us when we finally caught up with her where she was clearly most comfortable, at the American Foreign Legion in East Williston, surrounded by about 100 men representing various police and fire unions provided curious insight into who she was. Each speaker seemed to make some connection between September 11, and how Ms. O'Connell would somehow protect their interests. When I asked her whether, in the interests of New York State's security, she would support a State Senate resolution to ask Governor Spitzer to keep our National Guard here in New York rather than in Iraq, she said, "I would ask [Balboni] for his recommendation."

In contrast, Democratic candidate Craig Johnson can claim to be independent, based on his record as Nassau County Legislator.

In numerous appearances in Great Neck, Mr. Johnson (who claims he is a "Great Necker by marriage" since his wife, Elizabeth Kase Johnson, was raised here) has stood unequivocally in support of funding stem cell research and development, women's reproductive rights, access to health care and protection of the environment.

He can also justifiably claim to being a "fiscal conservative," steadfastly standing behind the votes he made in the County Legislature to bring back Nassau County to fiscal health from near-junk rating. More impressive, he stops himself at each instance where he might be making fiscal promises that he is not sure he can keep, when it is so much easier for a candidate to promise the world.

Like Ms. O'Connell is doing, in pledging to bring back a few hundred dollars more in STAR rebates. What she doesn't mention is that for this to actually happen, she would have to get the rest of New York State outside of Long Island to go along with her idea of "redistribution" of state revenue. Fat chance.

Ms. O'Connell's disingenuousness is alarming, and not just her campaign's flat statement that they can't reveal where the candidate will be at any given time. Much has been made about an audit of her County Clerk's office by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman that is being kept secret because it may be critical of her management abilities.

Ms. O'Connell has lashed back that Mr. Weitzman, a former mayor of Great Neck Estates, is being political. And yet, Mr. Weitzman, a Democrat who is in contention to become New York State Comptroller, has refused to comment on the report or release it.

When we asked her campaign why she does not simply release the report, we were told that the deputy clerk who Ms. O'Connell assigned to work with the Comptroller's office "is out on maternity leave. She is scheduled to be back on Feb. 5. At that time, Maureen and her will sit down and review the proposal and then request a meeting with Mr. Weitzman." That sounds like stone-walling, which I don't think is an admirable trait in an elected representative.

On the other hand, Craig Johnson has been impressive – in his command of the facts, his stand on issues, and his character. He is independent when he needs to be. He will be our champion, even if it means bucking up against Governor Spitzer and Democrats, should that be necessary. He has proven as much in the Nassau County Legislature. And he is clearly in tune and in step with the values that Great Neckers have demonstrated are important, time and again.

As a Nassau County legislator, moreover, he brings the experience and knowledge-base about our local problems that he could work to rectify at the state level. He understands the problems of cost-of-living, of school funding formulas, of transportation, of the impact of Medicaid, health care and prescription drug costs that we face.

We can look to him to be an advocate for government reform, hopefully breaking the Republican stranglehold that has prevented New York State from moving forward, to back development of alternative energy technology and biotech that will promote jobs and the state's economy; promote universal health care and reductions in prescription drug costs. He has clear proposals that could help alleviate some of the property tax burden on Nassau County, including working to get more state aid for school districts and attacking Medicaid fraud and waste.

O'Connell has tried to play catch up with some of these issues, but generally, her proposals are empty rhetoric, unsupported by her record in the State Assembly.

Mr. Johnson's platform is about moving forward, and positioning New York State to compete in the future in alternative energy, stem cell research, jobs and economic development. We like his proposals for biotech development, which could bring thousands of jobs to our area, for using the State's buying power to encourage manufacture of hybrid vehicles, as well as lower prescription drug costs.

At one rally he shouted out, "Do you want to move forward?" I don't know about you, but I like someone who is about moving forward, rather than stonewalling.

Craig Johnson has received endorsements from the New York Times, Newsday and now this newspaper. We see him as being in line with the values of Great Neck, and likely to be responsive to this community. Many other individuals and organizations we admire share this view.

But though Mr. Johnson's list of groups and supporters who back him may well outnumber his opponent's, and it may well be that a majority of voters in the district back his election, still, none of that will matter because it will all come down to who comes out to vote in the Special Election, on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

In this election, every vote does count. Will it be yours?

-- Karen Rubin, Editor
2 days until Election Day!

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