downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 18 | September 15 - 21, 2006

Downtown Express photo by Paul Schindler

State Sen. Martin Connor celebrating his victory Tuesday night.

Connor wins primary beating back challenge

By Paul Schindler

On a primary election day in which most of the marquee races were run-aways, Ken Diamondstone of Brooklyn was turned back in his bid to unseat state Senator Martin Connor and become the senate’s second out gay member.

In other key races, Sen. Hillary Clinton won a landslide victory in her primary toward reelection as did Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is running for governor.

Andrew Cuomo, the former governor’s son who also served President Clinton as housing secretary, also won easily with nearly 53 percent of the vote defeating Mark Green and Sean Patrick Maloney.

Diamondstone’s challenge to Connor, a 28-year Albany veteran, came in the 25th Senate District that encompasses the East Village, most of Lower Manhattan below Houston St., and Brooklyn neighborhoods along the East River from Williamsburg south to Carroll Gardens. The challenger made political reform a key theme, charging Connor with ethical lapses including the use of a car paid for with campaign funds.

Diamondstone, however, was forced to back down after mistakenly charging that the incumbent had voted against a health care measure aimed at helping middle class New Yorkers; Connor’s Senate colleagues joined him at a City Hall denouncing the false allegation.

In his victory speech at Opaline in the East Village Tuesday evening, Connor remained angry at what he described as his opponent’s negative campaign.

“We were easily outspent four or five to one,” the senator said. “It’s hard to respond to charges that are false but are repeated over and over again in 14 or 15 mailers.”

Diamondstone, reached by phone Wednesday morning, said, “I am proud of the campaign we ran… I did my best to tell the truth. If the truth is negative, so be it.”

Diamondstone won the endorsement of his home club, Brooklyn’s Lambda Independent Democrats, but failed to win the support of other gay clubs including Stonewall or Jim Owles. Connor was clearly the establishment candidate with the support of all the City Council and Assemblymembers from his district, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as well as Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblymember Glick, and Councilmember Rosie Mendez, as well as state Senator Tom Duane—all of them gay or lesbian.

The contest proved expensive for Diamondstone, who estimated his campaign spent about $500,000, $150,000 of it raised from contributors, but the remainder donated or loaned from himself and his partner. Connor, an election lawyer, started his fundraising late, believing he would be able to knock the challenger off the ballot for having missed last year’s deadline for moving several blocks into the district. Marty Algaze, a gay man who headed up Connor’s campaign, estimated that the incumbent spent about $200,000.

Diamondstone, who lost by more than 10 points, has the Working Families Party endorsement and in August said he would contest the seat in November on that line if necessary. The morning after the election he sounded more uncertain, saying he would have to talk to officials at Working Families to see if there is a budget to continue his challenge.

Dan Cantor, the party’s executive director, said flatly that Working Families would not support Diamondstone financially in November.

“It’s too expensive,” he said.

In Lower Manhattan’s 74th Assembly District, Brian Kavanagh upset incumbent Sylvia Friedman, who had only taken office in March after the retirement of Democrat Steven Sanders.



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