There's been much talk about filing nominating petitions lately, and I think a wrap up is needed. Per the Times Union report, candidates Tracey Brooks, Darius Shahinfar, Phil Steck, and Paul Tonko all handed in enough Democratic signatures to make the cut.
Four Democratic candidates emerged from the petition-filing deadline Thursday, chopping in half the crowded field that once numbered up to 10 Democratic hopefuls in the most competitive 21st race in more than 50 years.
Full coverage below the flip...
I applaud the Times Union for finally getting the number of Democrats who sought the seat right. Ode to the Dems who dropped out: John Aretakis, Craig Burridge, Lester Freeman, Gary Mittleman, and Arthur Welser, and John P. Sullivan.
Of course, in their coverage of the exit of Aretakis, Burridge, and Welser yesterday, the print version of the Times Union put a picture of Cohoes Mayor John McDonald as Craig Burridge.
Thank God for the blogs. There was much talk here about how many signatures were filed. Here's the tally according to the papers:
Former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko boasted the most signatures gained among Democrats, about 7,100 in the seven-county district.
Democrats Tracey Brooks, who worked as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's regional director, and Phil Steck, who serves on the Albany County Legislature, each said they got about 5,000 signatures.
Darius Shahnifar, a former aide to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, said he turned in about 2,300 signatures on Tuesday.
New York State's Election Law requires 1,250 signatures to get on the ballot on a major party line. We've also go some third-party balloting going on: Phil Steck collected enough signature to appear on the Independence Party line, and Paul Tonko enough for the Working Families Party. As such, both will be on the ballot in the November General Election.
The "primary" question, though, is who gets the line of the biggest, bestest party in the district. That one is answered on September 9th, and judging by this token of goodwill, all four Dems will be there for you to pull for:
Brooks and Steck said they won't challenge other petitions. Tonko wouldn't commit to whether he would challenge.
That's a welcome charge. I'd be very disapointed if the three ganged up on Shahinfar, whose filing number is the only one even remotely threatened by the practice of invalidating signatures (a practice which is a double-edged sword in my view: the law is there to prevent fraud, but the tactic is all too-often used to get rid of what established figures view as pesky challenges). It's good to hear that the candidates will attempt to define themselves fairly instead of throw out hard-fought signatures. Even a four-way race can get overly heated. Here's how the Times Union framed the race:
With most of the Democrats calling for an end to the Iraq war, fixing the energy crisis and bringing more health care to Americans, the candidates are largely separating themselves on their backgrounds.
Steck said he's the only government outsider, pointing to Tonko's state role and Brooks' work with Clinton. Brooks said she's the only one, through her previous jobs, to have connected with people in all seven district counties. And Tonko, while saying he isn't resting on his exposure gained during 24 years in the Assembly, said he's the only one who has experience working in a higher elected office.
For the record, Darius Shahinfar, as a former aide to Rep. Gillibrand, is the only candidate to have actually worked within the halls of Congress before. I have no doubt he told this to press, and I question their decision not to print it. He told me in my interview with him a few weeks ago, and I'll be publishing that later tonight.
Still, my own view is that Steck is the one who's telling it like it is. He is known for this, and a good example is his current letter to the editor of Metroland regarding his tough stance on FISA.
The choice for Democratic nominee for our next Congressman will be between Tracey Brooks, Darius Shahinfar, Phil Steck, and Paul Tonko. Make up your own mind for yourself between 12 and 9 p.m. on September 9th.