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A big departure in NY

Daily Point

Lowey’s departure will spark stiffer competition

Big changes are coming for New York’s 17th Congressional District, which covers the lower Hudson Valley, Rockland County and parts of Westchester County.

Its congressional representative, Nita Lowey, announced her retirement Thursday after 31 years in office. 

Lowey, the first woman to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee, says she will serve out her term. New York political insiders noted her age — she’s 82 — and the fact that it doesn’t get much better in the House than heading Appropriations to explain her exit. 

The Democrat also was facing an intriguing primary challenger in Mondaire Jones, a young lawyer local to the district with a sparkling resume outlined in the opening lines of a recent City & State profile: “Stanford University undergrad. Harvard Law School alumnus. Worked in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. Black. Gay.”

If nothing else, it likely would have been stiffer competition than Lowey has had in years, though her long service and fundraising abilities would have made her a tough opponent. 

“Knowing Nita, I can say that this decision is all about family and her belief that it was simply time to step aside,” state party chair Jay Jacobs wrote in an email. “She knows, as we know, that in her district, she was simply unbeatable.”

The plaudits for Lowey rolled in from state politicos Thursday afternoon. But how long until other hopefuls throw their hats in the ring? Some possibilities from the Democratic political class: State Sen. David Carlucci, Assemb. David Buchwald, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach. The district is home to plenty of self-funder types who may want to give it a shot. And will this finally be the race that draws out Chelsea Clinton, whose residence is listed as Manhattan but might benefit from her parents’ power base of Chappaqua?

In another open congressional race, this one in the Bronx, the number of candidates officially vying for the seat held by retiring Jose Serrano is in the double digits. Off to the races.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

A bird in the hand...

As Long Island continues to deal with corruption in all levels of government, chronicled in headlines of exposes and arrests and trials, Newsday’s editorial board took a trip down memory graft lane for some perspective and found this delightfully grimy gem.

In 1963, Thomas R. Pynchon, the Republican supervisor of Oyster Bay Town, acknowledged that in his previous capacity as town highway superintendent, he had accepted a turkey, flowers and World Series tickets from a company that was the town’s biggest supplier of paving materials. Pynchon was quoted as defending the gifts as “part of normal business procedure.”

On Oct. 9 of that year, as Pynchon was running for reelection, Newsday’s board wrote of Pynchon’s “shocking blindness” to his responsibilities.

“He is a well-regarded man, and he has been a competent supervisor,” the board wrote. “But he should be aware that the acceptance of gifts creates an implied obligation, and that every public officer must adhere to a standard of conduct so high that no adverse inference can ever be drawn from his acts. The size or value of the gifts is trivial, it is the principle that matters.”

The board noted that the revelations about Pynchon and other similar issues with the paving supply company were made by a Democratic county official during election season and termed them “conveniently timed.”

But the board had a bottom line that still rings true today.

“No matter what political considerations underlie these disclosures, the fact remains that Pynchon should not have accepted favors, however small, from a company with whom he dealt in an official capacity...”

Pynchon ended up losing that election, in large part because of the corruption scandal, as the town voted for a Democrat for the first time in 32 years.

But Pynchon became far more famous in a certain way in the years that followed — as the father of Thomas Pynchon, the great reclusive American novelist who wrote the National Book Award winner “Gravity’s Rainbow”, “The Crying of Lot 49” and “V.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

One call

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Final Point

High scores

Environmental groups impressed with how Democratic control of the State Legislature advanced their agenda in 2019 continue to lavish praise on the lawmakers. 

The latest comes from the environmental scorecard from EPL/Environmental Advocates of New York, which has been at this for many years. Besides praising budget wins like $500 million for clean water infrastructure, a plastic bag ban and a commitment to congestion pricing for New York City, and a spate of legislation highlighted by the climate change bill that seeks to move the state off fossil fuels, the group also noted that for the first time in years no bill was brought to a vote in either chamber that carried a “smokestack” rating — meaning it would have a negative impact on the environment.

The scorecard, which noted the Democratic takeover of the Senate, was given based on how lawmakers voted on 33 bills in the Senate and 27 in the Assembly.

All six Long Island Democrats in the Senate (John Brooks, James Gaughran, Todd Kaminsky, Anna Kaplan, Monica Martinez, and Kevin Thomas) received marks of 100 as did Republican Phil Boyle, and the GOP’s Kenneth LaValle was close behind with a 96. But Minority Leader John Flanagan scored a 61, which was better than only seven of his colleagues.

In the Assembly, Independence Party member Fred Thiele and eight of the nine Democrats scored 100 (the lone outlier, rookie Taylor Darling, got an 84 due to five missed votes). The top-scoring Republicans were Anthony Palumbo and Andrew Raia, tied at 94. The lowest score was the 72 recorded by Andrew Garbarino.

The scorecard expressed the “renewed hope” that the legislature is “reclaiming its status as a national environmental leader.”

In other words, let’s see what 2020 brings.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie