Sizing up the competition
This week, the nation’s eyes are turning to a high-profile race with a very crowded field. Each day brings news of who is in and who is out, whose chances are on the rise and whose fortunes might be fading. Experts analyze the experience and pedigree of each candidate, and of their connections, looking to hints as to who will win the big prize. Just making it to the big stage takes a lot of quantifiable accomplishments, and then a lot of luck, as positioning on that stage comes down to random chance.
But at least this race includes mint juleps, big hats, huge gambling fun and the most exciting two minutes in sports.
The contest we’ll have to go back to focusing on when Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is over won’t see its field shake out until another "Run for the Roses" has passed.
This year there a lot of similarities between the Derby and the Democrats' expanding primary field but some big differences, too.
The Derby has a longshot named Gray Magician. In Joe Biden, the Dems have a silver-haired frontrunner who first lost a presidential run 31 years ago, but hopes to close late (in life). The Derby has War of Will, Tax, Maximum Security and Code of Honor. The Dems have arguments brewing about such things. The Derby has Improbable. The Dems have improbables like Seth Moulton. And Jay Insley. John Hickenlooper and John Delaney. And Marianne Williamson and Eric Swalwell and Andrew Yang.
The Derby had 21 entrants listed, just as the Dems did when Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet entered this week. But the Derby, which ranks entries by points won in other races to grant spots, limits the actual number of runners to 20, and ended up with only 19 when Haikal and Omaha Beach scratched.
The Dems will use qualifications like money raised and polls to decide who gets into debates, but can’t stop anyone from running, a fact for which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio must be thankful.
In the Derby, age is not a consideration, as all entrants must be 3-year-olds. For the Dems, it’s a minimum age of 35.
In the Derby, every entry is a certified thoroughbred. But none of these Dems are even thinking of competing in Kentucky.
- Lane Filler @lanefiller
Honey, I shrunk LI school enrollment
When the Census Bureau released its annual population numbers last month, the figures themselves were fascinating, showing a growing Nassau County and a shrinking Suffolk. That, combined with recent stories about overall school spending on Long Island, raised the question: What is happening with school enrollment numbers?
Despite a population increase of 1.5 percent in Nassau County from 2012 to 2017, school enrollment for the same period decreased by one-half of 1 percent. However Suffolk County, which saw a population decrease of 0.4 percent, met with an even steeper decline of 5 percent in school enrollment.
In Nassau County, total public school K-12 enrollment stayed steady. There was a total of 201,579 K-12 students in 2012-13. By 2017-18, enrollment had fallen slightly to 200,886, a drop of less than one-half of 1 percent.
Suffolk County is a story of shrinkage. Suffolk’s public schools had 247,139 students enrolled in 2012-13, but by 2017-18 that number had declined to 234,524, a drop of more than 5 percent.
The data will put all the more emphasis on the question of why educational costs continue to trend up when there are fewer students.
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Chatting with Perry
It has been almost a month since Perry Gershon announced his second attempt to unseat Republican Lee Zeldin in New York’s 1st Congressional District.
Some early campaign themes are beginning to coalesce from the East Hampton Democrat’s messages to supporters and social media activity.
They include reprisals from 2018 like health care and the GOP tax bill and cap on state and local tax deductions, plus what Gershon calls “water quality, climate and the environment.”
Those are the “big three,” Gershon says.
Early last month, he published an opinion piece about the opioid crisis in the conservative-leaning Washington Times. And he has been joining fired-up Democrats on trending hot-button issues of the moment like the Mueller report.
Naturally, he also sent an email to supporters celebrating Zeldin’s inclusion on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program list, generally seen as a program to boost candidates facing competitive races.
Faced with concerns about expanding his base beyond the East End, Gershon tells The Point that he has been spending time supporting Democratic candidates in local races. That includes Jan Singer, a Suffolk County Legislature hopeful in Smithtown who is the party’s pick. Gershon says he collected petitions for Brookhaven candidates like Cheryl Felice who is seeking a town board seat.
Both Brookhaven and Smithtown are places where Gershon would need to make up ground against Zeldin, who took both of those towns last year.
Other potential Democratic candidates are eyeing the race and talking to representatives for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but for now, Gershon has space to himself.
- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano