Like every other household in America, our phone rang off the hook Monday and Tuesday evenings with final pushes for candidates up for election. Because none of the three of us are registered in any specific party, we got calls from all sides. We didn't bother to answer the phone, letting the messages go to the answering machine. In our local paper, we found this article:
Bad word of mouth?
Perhaps not surprisingly, this campaign season produced some charges of robocall abuse. Democrats in several northeastern states, including New York, said that national Republicans funded deceptive robocalls. The calls opened with a phrase that suggested the call was from a Democratic candidate. If the person called didn't hang up, the message went on to point out the candidate's alleged faults. The message did end by saying it was from the Republican Party. If the voter hung up upon hearing the candidate's name, the robocall automatically redialed, further annoying the voter.
I'm glad the elections are over. I get really, really, REALLY tired of seeing commercials telling me why not to vote for someone, but without telling me why I should vote for the person whose campaign sponsored the negative ad.
Here in New York, the Democratic party had a field day and, with that, same-sex New Yorkers have a brighter flicker of hope.
Former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was elected governor, earning 69% of the vote. In March of 2004 Mr. Spitzer issued an informal opinion in which he indicated that legal same-sex unions that originate in jurisdictions outside of New York State should be recognized in New York (whether they be Canadian marriages or Vermont civil unions).
Andrew Cuomo, the son of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, was elected to fill the Attorney General vacancy left by Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Cuomo served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for four years under former President Clinton. Mr. Cuomo took 57% of the votes cast.
Also raking in 67% of the vote, Senator Hillary Clinton easily won her bid for re-election and, as this blog is being written, is taking a sort of "victory lap" around New York state to thank her constituents.
New Yorkers showed by their votes that they are not easily influenced by recent events or scandals that mar candidates. Republican Tom Reynolds was re-elected to Congress, following a lot of hooplah regarding the House page scandal involving Tom Foley (now stepped down). State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was also re-elected (soundly), following the disclosure that he had used a state-paid employee to chauffer his ailing wife around town to medical appointments. Hevesi stroked a check for $83,000 back to the state to make restitution but to some Republicans, this wasn't enough. An inquiry was launched and, while the inquiry came back in just days before the election, it brought back the conclusion that, while there were grounds to have Hevesi removed from office, there was nothing illegal or criminal about what he did. One of Mr. Hevesi's responsibilities is the administration of the state retirement system, the one that I belong to. Mr. Hevesi released a statement a couple of years ago that assured the partners in same-sex relationships that their relationships would be honored the same as a heterosexual married couple when it came to these state pensions. Hevesi also raised eyebrows as well as ire when he remarked at a commencement ceremony that "...Senator Charles Schumer was so tough he would "put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it." Perhaps the voters' numbers in the state indicate that they think it might be a good idea?
What's interesting about the Hevesi situation right now is that, while Eliot Spitzer withdrew his endorsement of Hevesi just prior to the elections, the fact remains that the people have spoken and re-elected the man, giving him 57% of the votes. This situation perplexes current Governor George Pataki, along with other state officials looking into the possibility of removing Mr. Hevesi from office. How do they override the people's voice?
Susan V. John was re-elected to the State Assembly again as well. A few years ago, as the Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Committee, Ms. John was arrested for DWI and petulantly told reporters that it was her private business. Apparently that one "aw shit" did NOT outweigh all the "attaboys" she's earned in Albany.
Local incumbent Republican Congressional candidates all won their bids for re-election, but only by razor thin margins. Walsh took 51% of the votes, Reynolds 52%, and Kuhl 51.5% -- again, another indicator that the Republican party has garnered disfavor in New York State.
Nationally, the Republican party lost their stranglehold on the American people in both the House and the Senate, with Virginia weighing in today with the news that a source in George Allen's camp has indicated that Mr. Allen will concede to Jim Webb today, giving Democrats the weakest of leads over the Republicans in the Senate. Otherwise, if a recount is demanded and the results show Allen winning, the Senate would be evenly split, with VP Dick Cheney being the deciding vote in anything that would require a simple majority.
In Florida, voter-scandal queen Katherine Harris was squashed by Bill Nelson, with Nelson getting 68% of the votes.
By a slim margin, Arizona voters defeated a proposal to write discrimination into their constitution while, oddly enough, haning on to their Republican leadership. It would appear that Arizona voters support Republican ideals and values while at the same time rejecting the notion that a group of people should be discriminated against because of who they are. Interesting folks, those Arizonians. Seven other states didn't see things that way, though, and voted to amend their state constitutions to ban same-sex couples from marrying.
Along with New York State, several other states changed state leadership from Republican to Democrat.
So. What does it all mean? Besides the obvious, of course? What does it mean for ALL Americans, across the country, regardless of income level, sexual orientation, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), age or gender?
If you ask my son's girlfriend (a STAUNCH Republican mindset and a huge Dubya fan), it's the end of this great country -- a sentiment many of us expressed in 2000 and then again in 2004.
Personally, I think it means that this country is going to get back to being OF the people and BY the people, as opposed to OF the government BY the government. We need to stay in Iraq and clean up Dubya's mess but we need to have an exit plan -- a viable one, devised by knowledgeable and experienced people, not politicians and businessmen.
I think it means that the middle class will no longer support the upper class as well as the lower class. And workers will be able to work at a liveable wage (barely). Our government will no longer be bogged down in the House and Senate voting on symbolic measures (that are sure NOT to pass) designed to bring the favor of special interest groups and to disenfranchise groups of Americans.
I think it means that we'll get back to the things that really are important to the nation as a whole. Education. Health Care. Economy. Services. Hope.
I'm reminded of the closing lines from the movie The Shawshank Redemption:
I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.
I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border.
I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand.
I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.