Since 2013 there’s been an obvious leftward tilt to politics in New York City and, later and less so, in New York State. This has manifested itself in universal pre-kindergarten, reduced marijuana enforcement, paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage, the push to close Rikers, increasingly ambitious environmental goals, right to counsel in housing court and greater transgender rights, to name just a few examples.
Many on the left don’t feel the changes have gone far enough. Mike Long has a different take.
Long is the chairman of the state Conservative Party, which was started in the 1960s to counter what was then seen as an ascendance of liberal Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javitz and John Lindsay. The party scored some key electoral victories in its early years—most notably, it got William F. Buckley’s older brother James elected to the U.S. Senate—but it has mainly operated as most third parties do in New York state, using the fusion system to endorse the nominees of the major parties. In recent election cycles, the Conservatives backed Joe Lhota and Nicole Malliotakis for mayor, Carl Paladino and Rob Astorina for governor, and Mitt Romney and Donald Trump for president.
Its impact on those races has been small, because the party’s membership is fairly tiny: 155,000 registrants among the 12.4 million voters in the state. But that’s still good enough for fourth-largest party in the state, behind Democrat, Republican and Independence—and is more than three times the size of the Working Families Party. Like the WFP, the Conservative Party exerts influence not just in the general election but in the primaries as well: WFP’s backing of Cynthia Nixon likely boosts her prospects in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in September, and Rep. Dan Donovan is hoping the Conservative label will help him defeat Michael Grimm in the Republican Congressional primary in June.
With an interesting gubernatorial race, a mad scramble to replace Eric Schneiderman as attorney general, control of the state senate and midterm Congressional elections on the docket this year, it’s unclear what impact Long and his party will have in 2018. He joined me on BRIC-TV’s 112BK this week to discuss the president, the race for AG and the GOP battle to represent Staten Island and southern Brooklyn in Congress.