Cross-endorsement would survive Cuomo plan

State Sen. Malcolm Smith leaves federal court in

State Sen. Malcolm Smith leaves federal court in White Plains after being arraigned on fraud and bribery charges. (April 2, 2013) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's bid to strip political party leaders of their cross-endorsement power marks one of several proposals floated in the immediate wake of federal corruption charges against State Sen. Malcolm Smith and others.

This measure may prove most interesting for what it would not do. It would not end New York's unusual practice of allowing multiple party endorsements for a single candidate -- a practice barred in most states. For a nonmember to seek a party's nomination, Cuomo argues, a candidate would only need to submit valid petition signatures.

That is, rather than try to ban cross-endorsements, Cuomo asks to revoke the state's unique Wilson-Pakula law, which lets party officials decide if a nonparty member may compete for a nomination. It was enacted in 1947 to prevent an outside candidate with no fealty to a party's positions from usurping its ballot line.

Smith (D-Hollis) has pleaded not guilty to charges that he arranged for bribes to Queens and Bronx Republican leaders to get him Wilson-Pakula authorizations so he could run for New York City mayor on the GOP line.

Naturally, party leaders who stand to lose clout oppose Cuomo's proposal. Naturally, many legislators seem indisposed to vote for it.

Cuomo, a Democrat, may well be cross-endorsed -- again -- by a minor party or two next year when he seeks re-election. Parties need 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election to keep automatic ballot status.

If Cuomo were trying to kill fusion voting outright, critics could argue convincingly that the state's top Democrat was using his state power to suppress labor-union voices in the Working Families Party or anti-tax activists in the Conservative Party.

But party bosses have long brokered ballot access for elected officials' funds and patronage. A veteran election lawyer noted Smith could legally have contributed to GOP county organizations as they considered granting him a Wilson-Pakula authorization. Party chairs have broad discretion over those funds -- and of course strike transactional deals.

NAMED IN NASSAU: Former Democratic Assemb. and one-time Oyster Bay Supervisor Lew Yevoli has been chosen to chair Howard Weitzman's comeback campaign for Nassau comptroller, a drive that could put Weitzman in a primary against Legis. Wayne Wink to challenge GOP Comptroller George Maragos. Yevoli calls Weitzman "a man of integrity . . . focused on how best to protect Nassau taxpayers."