Volume 78 / Number 15, September 10 - 16, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Daniel Squadron got a hug from supporter Julie Nadel at his victory party.

Squadron beats Connor while Silver holds seat

By Josh Rogers, Julie Shapiro and Sisi Wei

If Martin Connor ever kissed a baby named Daniel Squadron on the campaign trail it would have been when he had already been in the state Senate for two years. On Tuesday night, 28-year-old Squadron ended Connor’s 30-year run in the Senate with a 54-to-46-percent victory in the Democratic primary.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, facing his first primary in 22 years, cruised to victory with 68 percent of the vote against two poorly funded opponents in the Democratic primary. The quiet, confident crowd at the Silver victory party in United Federation of Teachers headquarters feasted on sushi and hot pastrami and did little more than smile and shake hands.

In stark contrast, a beaming Squadron hugged enthusiastic supporters as he made the rounds at his victory party at Grand Harmony restaurant in Chinatown. He achieved a rarity in Albany politics — defeating an incumbent.

“We have really done what we set out to do, and that is to show the city and the state that state government can matter and that you can get regular people excited about the possibility and potential for state government,” he told the crowd.

Squadron campaigned on a platform of changing Albany with campaign finance reform and nonpartisan commissions to redraw legislative district lines to end the practice of gerrymandering. He supports congestion pricing, renewing mayoral control of schools with more parental involvement, and giving community boards the power to deny liquor licenses in neighborhoods with a high density of residents and bars. Like Connor, Squadron supports same-sex marriage.

Early on in an unusually long victory speech, Squadron asked his supporters “to take a moment to honor Marty Connor’s 30 years of service to New York State,” and received a hearty round of applause.

But Connor, 63, was not ready to bury the hatchet after a bare-knuckled campaign on both sides. He did not congratulate Squadron in his concession speech or try to telephone his opponent.

“If I were going to call anybody, I’d call Chuck Schumer,” Connor told The Villager. In April, U.S. Senator Schumer endorsed Squadron, a former Schumer aide who co-wrote a book with the senator.

Connor, a lifelong Democrat, said he’s not planning to support Squadron in his general election campaign against Republican John Chromczak, a Financial District resident.

“It’s not likely,” Connor said. “I don’t think he needs my support.”

The 25th Senate District is overwhelmingly Democratic and covers all of Manhattan south of Canal St., plus Soho, Chinatown, part of the Village and much of Brownstone Brooklyn.

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced his victory with a phalanx of high-powered supporters, including Governor David Paterson, second from right, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, third from left.

Squadron poll watchers reported substantial margins of victory in Battery Park City, Tribeca, Soho, the Village and a slight edge in Brooklyn Heights. Connor reportedly scored big in Williamsburg — winning about 65 percent of the vote there — but despite the heavy turnout in the neighborhood, it was not enough to overcome the losses in other parts of the district. Squadron said he won 65 percent of the vote in Brooklyn, which is about one-third of the district.

When Connor was first elected in 1978, most of his district was in Brooklyn, but in 2002, he lost much of Brooklyn and picked up neighborhoods on Downtown’s West Side. Interviews with a small, unscientific sample of voters from the Lower East Side, Tribeca and Battery Park City indicated overwhelming support for both Squadron and Silver. Few voters had much positive or negative to say about Connor, who was first elected to the state Senate in a special election.

“He hasn’t done much,” said Elise Brown, 47, who voted at P.S. 20 on the Lower East Side. “He’s sort of a do-nothing. Squadron seems to be a real comer.”

Several Squadron voters said they had met him personally and were impressed with his energy.

As for the Assembly race, Brown picked Silver.

“But I held my nose doing it,” she said. Brown liked Paul Newell and said he was “promising and up-and-coming,” but she thought Silver deserved another chance now that former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was gone.

Similarly, a 70-year-old Battery Park City resident who declined to give his name, said he was “tempted” to vote for Newell, but went with Silver because he was afraid to lose the clout Silver has in Albany.

But others were more enthusiastic in their support for Silver. Brandy Harris, 33, a Battery Park City resident, said, “I liked that he worked hard for the community.” She voted, bringing her 13-year-old daughter, and said Silver’s push to get new schools built was the “main factor” that prompted her to vote for him.

Harris also voted for Connor. She said she did not know much about either Senate candidate, but went with Connor for his experience.

In his victory speech, Silver said, “This campaign was about real people with real needs not about tabloid headlines not about mayors and governors — ” he said before smiling at Governor David Paterson standing behind him. “It was about results.”

Silver mentioned community leaders throughout the district he worked with, like Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234 parent working on relieving school overcrowding problems.

Both of Silver’s opponents, Luke Henry and Newell, told The Villager they would support the speaker in the general election against Republican Daniel Maio. Newell said he thought Silver would be better for having faced a Democratic challenge.

“There’s no question the district will have a more responsive assemblyman and the state will see a more responsive speaker,” Newell said.

The Assembly district includes Battery Park City, Chinatown, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport and much of the Lower East Side.

Silver collected 6,743 votes to Newell’s 2,301 (23 percent) and Henry’s 879 (9 percent). Squadron got 12,912 votes to Connor’s 10,980. The tallies are still unofficial and will likely take a week to be certified.

For his part, Connor seemed calm as he neared the end of his three-decade career in the state Senate. He noted he had won 19 of 20 elections.

“If I were a baseball player, I’d be signing for a big bonus,” he said.

He said he maintained strong support from longtime residents but that newer, wealthier constituents went with Squadron.

“I didn’t get the same reception among the gentry who moved in three or four years ago,” Connor said in his concession speech.

“I’m going to go get a life,” he added. “Thank you all. Put all of the cameras away. I’m going to have a drink.”

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