Getting back on the horse
Activity is already afoot in New York’s 1st Congressional District in Suffolk County, where Democrats are prepping for another fight to topple Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2020.
Last year, Perry Gershon, a businessman with homes in Manhattan and East Hampton who only registered to vote in Suffolk County in 2017, lost to Zeldin by about 4 percent, not quite cresting the blue wave.
And he’s not discouraged. Gershon has told The Point that he is “highly leaning very strongly toward running,” and will make a decision on a rematch by April.
Now a full-time resident of East Hampton, Gershon says he has been talking to “everyone and their sister and brother” -- including elected officials, party and union leaders, campaign volunteers, and people from crucial western towns like Brookhaven and Smithtown, which Zeldin won.
Other people are looking at runs, too. One local Democratic operative’s shop has spoken with five potential candidates.
Nancy Goroff, chair of the Stony Brook University chemistry department, told The Point that she is thinking of running because she is “very frustrated to see what’s happening in Washington,” including the lack of attention on issues like health care, climate change, and the financial stability of the middle class.
Goroff, a registered Democrat who grew up in Chicago, says she has been on Long Island since 1997 and has raised her kids here. She’s among those weighing whether they have the tools or profile to do better than Gershon did in 2018.
And Gershon, who put in some $2 million of his own money for the last run, has his supporters. Stony Brook distinguished professor of physics Barry McCoy, a local politico, told The Point that Gershon has “the largest name recognition of anyone who’s in a position to run” and that he’d like to see Gershon run and win.
Water, water, everywhere...
Tuesday was clean-water lobbying day in Albany, and the contingent of environmentalists, water suppliers and wastewater treatment plant operators who met with lawmakers and the executive branch left the state capital in an optimistic mood — as optimistic as one can be when you’re asking for $2.5 billion in a tough budget climate.
The principal task for the advocates was to convince members of the State Senate and Assembly to put into their respective one-house budget bills the same $2.5 billion for clean water infrastructure that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included in his budget proposal. That funding would build on another $2.5 billion approved two years ago in that budget process.
“The meetings were very positive, I’m extremely optimistic,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point. “This will be a year of action on clean water.”
Advocates also pushed for passage of legislation to ban the probable carcinogen 1,4-dioxane from common household products. The chemical, a byproduct of the manufacturing process and thus not listed on any product labels, has been found by three-quarters of Long Island’s water suppliers. The measure in question is being carried by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh).
Citizens Campaign for the Environment is preparing to release results of tests for the presence of 1,4-dioxane done on dozens of products ranging from shampoos and laundry soaps to baby products, hand soaps and bath gels.
“I have a feeling it’s going to make the bill easier to pass,” Esposito said.
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The show must go on
Michael Cohen’s appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday made for great TV. But there was a time when hearings in the House of Representatives weren’t always televised.
The first live TV broadcast of a proceeding in Congress came on Jan. 3, 1947 — the opening of the 80th Congress. But skepticism of this evolution among members of Congress festered until House Speaker Sam Rayburn banned TV cameras from floor sessions and committee hearings in February 1952.
Newsday’s editorial board weighed in on the controversy on Feb. 27 of that year, writing about Rayburn’s “astonishing arrogance” as verging on “the type of censorship dictatorships go for.”
The board wrote that it hoped that members of Congress “will admit that sight and sound of their representatives at work increases public interest and provides valuable public education.”
Turns out that Rayburn was worried precisely about those sights and sounds. In 1950-51, Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver’s hearings on organized crime in America captivated the nation, drawing nearly 30 million viewers. Some watched in movie theaters that advertised the hearings on their marquees. The nation “adjusted itself to Kefauver’s schedule. Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, business sagged and department stores emptied while the hearings were on,” according to a report in Time magazine contained in the book “Congressional Communication in the Digital Age,” by Jocelyn Evans and Jessica M. Hayden.
Rayburn was concerned about the lack of decorum among senators, what one account called “a three-ring circus, a fourth-rate stage production with hamming and phony theatrics...”
The so-called Rayburn Rule lasted in the House until the political reforms that followed Watergate. In 1974, as impeachment proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon became more likely, the House authorized TV coverage of floor debate, paving the way for telecasts of the Judiciary Committee’s hearings.
Speaker Tip O’Neill allowed a trial period in 1977 and C-SPAN began regular broadcasting of House proceedings on March 19, 1979. (Trivia question: Who was the first member to address the floor with the cameras rolling?).
The rule might have changed, but the hamming and phony theatrics continue.
Answer to bonus question: Tennessee Rep. Al Gore.