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13th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 13, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

The election news may not be all so dark for those on the right in the Empire State. Buried in the ruins of the statewide Democratic juggernaut — including the loss of three Republican congressional seats, slippage in the state Senate, and the general collapse of the Republicans’ party structure — is a possible nugget of good news.

It appears that the Conservative Party has narrowly beaten out the Working Families Party to keep Line D on the state ballot for the next four years.

Despite a huge effort by the left-leaning WFP, incomplete election returns suggest the Conservatives have won the day. In New York State, ballot lines are assigned based on the number of votes the party’s candidate for governor garners. Just as the Democrats seized control of the U.S. Senate thanks to a handful of votes in Montana and Virginia, the Conservatives are leading the effort to keep Line D by a mere 1,210 votes out of 4 million cast statewide.

As things now stand, the Conservative Party won 128,007 votes for their candidate, Republican John Faso. The Working Families Party, which cross-endorsed Governor-elect Spitzer, trailed with 126,797 votes, and will remain on Line E. Both failed to surpass the vote total of the Independence Party, which also backed Mr. Spitzer, generating 146,456 votes to retain Line C. Without the deep pockets of upstate businessman Thomas Golisano, the party’s candidate for governor four years ago, the Independence Party dropped to just 4% of the vote from 14% in 2002.

It is possible, but not likely, that the line-up could change, as these are the preliminary vote totals that omit absentee ballots. So as things stand now, the Working Families Party’s executive director, Dan Cantor, has lost the bet he made with the Conservative Party chairman, Michael Long.

While the Conservatives appear to have retained their ballot position, the Republicans have not. They will drop to Line B from Line A, as the party drew far fewer votes to its line than did the Democrats.

To qualify as a recognized political party in the Empire State, a party must win 50,000 votes for its candidate for governor. There is some more good news for those on the right here, as the state’s tiny Green Party again failed to regain the ballot line it lost four years ago. Surprisingly, while their candidates for senator and comptroller did exceed the threshold, the party’s much-better-known gubernatorial candidate, author and radio personality Malachy McCourt, did not. As of now, Mr. McCourt has only 40,346 votes.

The Greens are nothing if not persistent. They have already gone to court trying to win party recognition based on the votes of the other candidates. On the surface, this is a hopeless cause without basis in law. But when it comes to elections in liberal New York, the actual law, no matter how explicit, is often the last thing upon which the courts base their rulings. Four years ago, the courts ruled that the Greens (and other parties) have the right to continue enrolling voters in their party despite being decertified by failing to win the requisite 50,000 votes. With this kind of thinking, the fellow-traveling hard-left American Labor Party, which became defunct a half century ago, would still be enrolling members today. Or perhaps it is.

At least one familiar face to the few survivors of the old ALP played a role in this year’s election. Folk-singer Pete Seeger — an octogenarian who has weathered the political storms caused by the Hitler-Stalin pact, Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin, and the fall of the Berlin Wall — has found a new political home, becoming a leading spokesman for the Working Families Party. If the goal this fall was to draw enough Spitzer voters to its line “to send a message,” then Mr. Seeger’s long circle of failure in partisan political efforts remains unbroken.

He was joined in this effort by filmmaker Michael Moore and activist Cindy Sheehan. As my colleague Russell Berman reported on Election Day, Ms. Sheehan also endorsed the efforts of the Green Party, specifically backing their candidates for governor and senator. She had particularly harsh words for the WFP Senate candidate, Senator Clinton. Ms. Sheehan has a point. It is hard to see how supporting Ms. Clinton sends the kind of message that supporters of the Seeger-Sheehan-Moore party line can feel comfortable with.

While it is true that the WFP increased its vote from four years ago, the only of the minor parties to do so, it can’t mask the fact that despite its unprecedented massive effort to “send a message,” the party failed. It will remain behind the hated Conservative Party on the ballot, and behind the Independence Party, which presents no cogent ideology at all.

Moreover, it has stumbled into a bitter war with the Green Party over ideological purity. And even though the Greens failed to win a ballot spot (the only really good news Tuesday for the WFP), at the end of the day it, not the WFP, appeared to be the party that stood for something.

© 2006 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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