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Fracture over infrastructure

U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) received a death

U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) received a death threat over his vote for President Biden's infrastructure bill. Credit: Marcus Santos

Daily Point

Death threat amid a GOP in disarray

The arrest of a 64-year-old Lake Ronkonkoma man charged with threatening the life of Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), reportedly over his pro-infrastructure vote last week, marks just one of thousands of vicious messages to members of Congress reported annually to Capitol police.

But this instance, following a Republican’s support for what in normal times would be considered a bipartisan bill, has a special context. With national politics still in the throes of extremist rhetoric, a breakaway vote like Garbarino’s can define district independence.

Records checked by The Point show the accused man, Kenneth J. Gasper, to be a longtime registered Republican who over the past 20 years has locally exercised his franchise at least 15 times in general elections and at least four times in primaries. His enrollment is relevant to mention in this context.

Former Rep. Peter King, who was Garbarino’s Republican predecessor in the 3rd Congressional District, tweeted on Friday: "Death threat against @RepGarbarino absolutely disgraceful. Republicans in Congress who publish phone numbers of other GOP members encourage and enable this dangerous insanity and are rightwing version of Antifa! Knock it off!!"

King was clearly alluding to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s tweet on Saturday: "These are the 13 ‘Republicans’ who handed over their voting cards to Nancy Pelosi to pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America via so-called infrastructure."

On the same thread, the frequently unhinged Georgia congresswoman listed their Washington, D.C. office phone numbers. These were all still posted on her Twitter feed on Friday. Gasper’s call came into Garbarino’s Massapequa office, authorities said.

The 13 crossover votes, including Garbarino and three others from New York State, drew a petulant reaction from ex-President Donald Trump who lost his election a year ago. One of the lawmakers, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, reportedly was on hand for a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser where Trump slammed the "yes" voters.

Both Garbarino and Malliotakis have tried in their own statements to explain their votes from a partisan Republican perspective to constituents willing to listen.

"I cast my vote FOR the bipartisan infrastructure bill and AGAINST advancing the socialist spending spree," the Staten Islander wrote. "For far too long our leaders have failed to modernize our aging roads, highways & bridges, upgrade sewer systems & implement flood resiliency projects."

Garbarino posted in part: "This bipartisan infrastructure bill is completely separate from the Democrats’ radical tax and spend reconciliation package, which I adamantly oppose."

That simple if hyperbolic distinction may be lost on his critics.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Weighing the WFP line

We won’t know the exact margin in the race for Nassau County Executive before Monday, when election officials are set to start tallying the 23,524 absentee and valid affidavit ballots.

But the results may be close, given that Republican Bruce Blakeman leads the incumbent, Laura Curran, by 11,834 after election night.

One question that will surely emerge in the postelection analysis: Was the margin close enough that another minor party line could have made the difference?

Curran did not have the Working Families Party line in 2021. Party members met with Curran, and the left-leaning organization wasn’t able to reach alignment on its vision for Nassau and thus ended up not endorsing, says WFP spokesman Ravi Mangla.

Instead, Curran opted to circulate independent nominating petitions for a Common Sense line, on which she got 1,666 votes as of election night.

In 2017, she had notched 5,251 votes on the WFP line, and this year other Nassau Democrats did have the WFP line. Democratic comptroller candidate Ryan Cronin and clerk hopeful Justin Brown earned 3,999 and 4,114 on the WFP line, respectively, in their unsuccessful bids.

Did some or any of the people who voted on that minor party line four years ago or now decline to vote for Curran in 2021 because the WFP wasn’t behind her? Long Island candidates are famous for valuing additional minor-party lines — from the Conservative slot on which Blakeman already has 18,010 votes, to the Keep Crime Low line which losing Suffolk district attorney candidate, Democrat Tim Sini, opted to use. (He didn’t seek the WFP line, according to the party.)

Curran was popular to a reasonably broad selection of voters, as she outperformed all the other Democrats running for countywide office while her opponent ran behind all his countywide colleagues. So she surely picked up some GOP or blank voters. Yet there was a drop-off in Democratic turnout from 2017, when Curran got 154,549 votes, which would still be 7,000 more than this year even if Curran captured every single outstanding paper ballot, a very unlikely feat.

Asked about the effect of not having the WFP line, Nassau and state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs emailed The Point that "All we have, on both sides of the argument, is speculation."

He noted that just 401 of WFP registered members voted, out of just over 2,000 countywide — not a huge bloc.

"People vote for candidates on minor party lines for a number of reasons," Jacobs wrote. "The fact that someone votes on a minor party line does not mean that without that line, that vote would have been lost to that candidate."

Curran campaign spokeswoman Maddy Mundy said we have to wait and see: "There are still tens of thousands of votes to be counted, and we cannot speculate as to how those votes will impact the outcome of this election."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Critical scare

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Whose rabbi?

The just-released transcript of Andrew M. Cuomo’s July testimony to sexual harassment investigators provided plenty of reading material for New York politicos this week. It even prompted a debate about the former governor’s use of the word "rabbi."

The phrase popped up in a section of the transcript where Cuomo was criticizing one of his interlocutors — Joon Kim, who served as acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York after President Donald Trump forced out his boss, Preet Bharara. Kim was deputized by Attorney General Tish James for the Cuomo investigation.

Hearkening back to Kim and Bharara’s previous work looking into Cuomoworld, Cuomo said, "Preet Bharara has political aspirations, may have political aspirations against me. His rabbi, your rabbi, Senator Schumer called for my resignation."

The phrase denotes someone who is a bit of a guide or mentor, and is a familiar one to many old political hands.

"I’ve heard it since I was a kid," former Rep. Pete King told The Point. He said it was a "very common phrase," if "old fashioned," and uttered by Catholics, Jews, and Protestants alike.

Common usages: "Who’s his rabbi?" "Everyone needs a rabbi in politics." And, "Gotta get the rabbi’s approval."

The term also continues to be used in police circles, including in a 2018 Daily News article about an NYPD time-log scandal, which said that then-chief of crime control strategies Dermot Shea was a "rabbi" to one of the people involved.

Though the concept is well-known enough to have an Urban Dictionary entry ("By metaphor from the Jewish religious role, an older, more powerful or higher-ranking person in the corporation where one works"), there was some social media chatter that Cuomo’s usage was offensive or at least off-color, given the fact that Schumer himself is America’s highest-ranking Jewish elected official.

Incoming Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who is Jewish, said that a lot depends on the context.

"It’s often used as a term of respect and even affection in politics," the NYC Democrat said, noting that "it’s probably a little antiquated."

He himself has been referred to as a rabbi, Levine said, and he wasn’t sure about the exact origins or timeline of the term.

"By the time I came on the scene it was already old school," said Levine, who is 52.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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