Volume 75, Number 52 | May 17 - 23 2006

Hillary bombs at V.I.D.; club backs Tasini for Senator

By Lincoln Anderson

Turned off by Hillary Clinton’s position on the Iraq war, plus the recent news that archconservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch will be hosting a fundraiser for her, the Village Independent Democrats last week threw their support behind one of Clinton’s rivals, Jonathan Tasini, in the September Democratic primary.

In the biggest upset of the night at last Thursday’s V.I.D. endorsements, Tasini got 35 votes to Clinton’s 13.

Tasini — a former president of the National Writers Union who led a successful lawsuit by freelancers against The New York Times — supports an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Clinton, who voted to authorize the war — and doesn’t regret her vote — opposes an immediate pullout. Antiwar activists are blasting her for what they call her “nonposition” on the war.

“It’s just really that the war issue is very big,” said District Leader Keen Berger after the meeting, explaining her vote for Tasini. “Hillary has not come out against the war — and I think she should. Tasini is antiwar.”

“I think she needs to be sent a message,” said William Stricklin, V.I.D.’s president. “Clinton’s going to win. But in order to be viable [as a Democratic presidential contender] in ’08 she needs to win really big, and if we can knock her numbers [in the primary] down a bit, it can knock her out of contention in ’08. She has to get at least 72 percent to 74 percent of the vote. Hopefully, she’ll get the message and change her position on the war. Hopefully, her constituents will lead her away from her position.

“I’ve always admired her,” said Stricklin, an Arkansas native, who said Hillary Clinton inspired him to go to college and better himself. “But her position on the war is a real problem.”

A past V.I.D. president, Chad Marlow, said the Murdoch benefit was the last straw.

“I think the Murdoch thing really showed that she’s not progressive,” Marlow said. “Any self-respecting progressive would decline an invitation for Rupert Murdoch to have a fundraiser for her. On the other hand, anyone who’s focused on running for president would accept it.”

Said Hal Friedman, another past V.I.D. president, “I think we need to send a message to Hillary that she can’t forget about her base. She’s going to run for president. The fact that her husband was a former president is insufficient for us to politically support her.”

V.I.D. member Jim Fouratt added he was disappointed that Clinton also is supporting legislation against flag burning.

V.I.D., one of the city’s most storied reform Democratic political clubs, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Yet, despite V.I.D.’s invitations, Clinton hasn’t visited them in the six years since she was elected.

Added Frank Nervo, another former V.I.D. president, “We were the first club to endorse her [in 2000], seeing her as a progressive candidate. People are disappointed with her support of the war and other middle-of-the-road positions. Tasini comes across much more as a left-leaning Democrat. Plus, he courted the club. He showed up at our candidates’ forum. Hillary didn’t even send a representative.”

District Leader Brad Hoylman, however, did vote for Clinton. He said a “mix-up” at Clinton’s office caused her not to send a stand-in to the May 1 candidates’ forum.

“I think she’s been a staunch advocate for New York State,” he said. “I think her position on the war might have been misrepresented in the club because there was not a surrogate there on her behalf” at the candidates’ night.

Clinton’s office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Downtown Independent Democrats hasn’t endorsed yet, but Sean Sweeney, D.I.D. president, said he thinks he’ll endorse Tasini over Clinton and that the club very well may also.

“I think we may do it too. We need to wake her up,” he said. “At least [Congressmember] Carolyn Maloney admitted she made a mistake” in voting for the war, Sweeney said. The Murdoch fundraiser also bothered him, plus the fact that Clinton has never visited the club and didn’t send anyone to the May 1 joint V.I.D./D.I.D. candidates’ forum, he added.

Bikes not bombs

Earlier on the same day that Tasini won V.I.D.’s endorsement, he set out on his bicycle on a 600-mile Ride for Peace around New York State. He started at the Vietnam Veterans’ War Memorial in Lower Manhattan, then rode up the Hudson River Park bike path and on into Upstate. While logging 30 to 40 miles per day, he’s stopping to collect signatures on a petition against the war, which he’ll present at the Democratic State Convention in Buffalo on May 30.

“I’m extremely proud to have won V.I.D.’s endorsement,” said Tasini, speaking by cell phone last Friday afternoon after arriving at Nyack. “They’re very active and have a great history. It’s an honor. The V.I.D. endorsement, it’s a microcosm of the way people feel across the state.”

Tasini, who is 50 and lives in Washington Heights, is a writer on labor and economics. The lawsuit Tasini vs. The New York Times, on which he was the lead plaintiff, resulted in a June 2001 decision in favor of thousands of freelancers whose work had been posted by the Times on the Web and the creation of an $18 million compensation fund.

Both Tasini’s parents were immigrants. His mother was born in Poland and fled the Nazis during World War II. His father was born in Palestine, where he fought in the underground. Tasini lived seven years in Israel.

“I got into this race because of the war,” Tasini told The Villager. “I think [New York Times columnist] Bob Herbert put it very well: Clinton’s position is not very different from Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice.”

Tasini knows it will be tough to overcome Clinton’s “celebrity, name recognition and money,” but feels if he can shift the focus to the issues, he stands a chance. He’s eager to debate Clinton.

“The field was cleared for her,” he recalled of the 2000 Senate primary election. “I’m the first person to run against her — this will be the first time she’ll be tested on the issues.

“She doesn’t want to debate on the Iraq war, because if she does voters will focus on her position and see how muddled it is. This war has destroyed a country that was no threat to us, and has cost the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis — and Senator Clinton has aided and abetted that policy, and shame on her.”

As for the Murdoch fundraiser for Clinton, Tasini said, “A lot of people are upset about it. Embracing Rupert Murdoch — I’m not sure what comes next. If you think about progressive and liberal ideals, who is most at war with those ideals? The guy is pro-war, he’s an immigrant basher, and for the senator to embrace someone like that is just appalling — not just as a candidate, but as a human being.”

Tasini has also been endorsed by Brooklyn Independent Democrats and four Progressive Democrats of America clubs across the state (offshoots of Howard Dean’s political movement.)

Clinton and Tasini are also both vying for the Working Families Party line.

Attorney general, Governor

In other endorsements, V.I.D. voted to back Andrew Cuomo for state attorney general. On the first ballot, Cuomo got 18 votes, Mark Green 11, Sean Patrick Maloney 10, Denise O’Donnell 8 and Charlie King 1. With no one winning a simple majority, there was a second ballot and Cuomo got 16 votes and Green 10.

Judging by the statements of several speakers at the club, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Committeemember Rachel Lavine, it seemed Assemblymember Richard Brodsky had considerable support and was considered the most progressive candidate. Indeed, club president Stricklin later said Brodsky would have likely won V.I.D.’s endorsement for attorney general. But earlier that day Brodsky pulled out of the race to donate a kidney to his daughter.

For governor, the club backed Eliot Spitzer over Thomas Suozzi by a vote of 44 to four.

State committee
In an interesting local race, V.I.D. voted to endorse openly gay State Committee members Larry Moss and Lavine over former District Leader Arthur Schwartz and Lisa Canistracci, owner of West Village lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson. Moss got 36 votes and Schwartz 10, while Lavine got 39 votes to seven for Canistracci.

Glick, who has really been sticking it to Schwartz lately, had some more choice words for him.

“I want to have a State Committee team I can work with, that is focused on issues and not some sort of personal aggrandizement — and I’m not talking about Lisa Canistracci,” Glick told the club before the vote.

Responding to a recent dig by Glick in The Villager’s Scoopy’s Notebook, Schwartz, in his remarks before V.I.D., said, “I came in part because there was a public statement that I was running to be relevant. I thought I was being relevant. I’m not running to be relevant, but because I have a different model of being an elected official.”

Schwartz denied rumors he was dropping out of the race.

“I’m not sure where that one comes from,” he said. “I’m not going to drop out because Deborah Glick is attacking me. She’s been attacking me since 1996.”

Civil Court
In another endorsement in a contested race, V.I.D. voted to back Margaret Chan for judge in Civil Court District 2 over David Cohen and Andrea Masley.

Chan told the club of her experience as an immigrant from Hong Kong in Canada.

“I learned French, English — and discrimination,” Chan said. “The Civil Court is really for the little people, people who don’t know their rights,” she said.

Cohen spoke about how a formative experience as a young boy — when he had to speak for his father, who was hearing impaired, before a discourteous and unsympathetic judge — inspired him to become a judge himself and to treat defendants fairly.

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