Rangel, Maloney, Lazio facing 'throw the bums out' environment
By Paul Kane
NEW YORK -- If Reps. Charles B. Rangel and Carolyn Maloney get swept out in Tuesday's primary despite 58 years of combined incumbency, it will be the latest sign of an angry anti-incumbency movement wanting to throw out the bums. And here in Gotham, voters were urged to do literally just that by the nation's leading tabloid newspapers.
Trying to tap that political zeitgiest, The New York Daily News led Tuesday's paper with "THROW THE BUMS OUT! Today's primary is your chance to change things -- don't blow it."
And its competitor, the New York Post, went with a simpler: "BUMS AWAY Vote today to boot the scoundrels."
The message was mostly directed at the state legislature in Albany, where the scandal-plagued Paterson administration has also been mired in legislative corruption allegations while the state capital has been paralyzed by largely leaderless gridlock. The message, however, has the sort of potency that could spill over into the congressional races and other statewide races, such as the Republican gubernatorial race in which conservative firebrand Carl Paladino is threatening to upset former U.S. representative Rick Lazio.
Here's how The News framed its thoughts on the state's political environment: "Today is the day when New Yorkers can start to force major change on Albany at the ballot box. Let's take the opportunity and run with it whole hog."
The paper then went on to endorse a slate of challengers to incumbent state senators and assembly members, and it also threw its weight behind the candidacy of a political novice with strong backing from the financial sector who is running her first campaign, against nine-term Rep. Maloney: "Reshma Saujani, 34, is seeking to represent Manhattan's East Side and part of western Queens in Washington. She would bring a jolt of energy to a lockstep congressional delegation."
While the paper did not endorse any of Rangel's challengers in his primary, the message in the Saujani-Maloney primary is about "energy." That has been an underlying theme of Rangel's challengers, along with questions about his ethics amid allegations he broke 13 congressional rules related to his personal finances and fundraising for a college wing named in his honor.
In his final day of campaigning, state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, 48, suggested that Rangel's time had passed and a new generation needed to take charge: "He's 80 years old and everyone, from Barack Obama on down, has asked him to step down with some kind of dignity."
The New York Times, the city's largest paper, backed Judy Johnson, a community activist, in Rangel's 15th Congressional District primary but did stick with Maloney in her primary.
Three sitting senators have been knocked out during this year's primary season, the most since the volatile 1980 election season, and four House incumbents were also ousted in primaries. There's been a bit more anti-establishment anger in Republican primaries, where in addition to tossing out two senators and two representatives, GOP voters have handed defeat to a handful of establishment-backed candidates for Senate races.
Democrats have had their share of anti-incumbent anger. In his stunning upset win in a January special election, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) also tapped an angry electorate environment that was just as much directed at the state legislature -- where a slew of indictments of lawmakers had dominated the news -- as it was with Washington.
If Rangel or Maloney loses, each incumbent will have a long list of reasons for the end to their careers on Capitol. But both lawmakers are now swept up in an environment that is, generally speaking, hostile to those who've been in charge and can rightly or wrongly be portrayed as "bums" in need of being "thrown out."
| September 14, 2010; 5:02 PM ET
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