Democrat attacks Republican's support for Right To Lifers
In the political playbook of J.J. Balaban, the Philadelphia-based political consultant for Dave Calone, nothing is more powerful than video images on television, social media and the internet. And nothing may be more emotional in politics than abortion.
In the Suffolk County executive race, the Calone campaign plans to put the spotlight on the abortion views of Ed Romaine, his Republican opponent, with video attack ads. They’re designed to rally support for Calone among independent voters — especially those upset by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade — and to depress voter turnout among Republican women for Romaine, who is generally viewed as a moderate.
“Romaine protested outside an abortion clinic,” Balaban told The Point. The Brookhaven Town supervisor has in the past strongly opposed Roe v. Wade and donated money to the New York State Right to Life Party more than two decades ago. Romaine and campaign manager Brendan Sweeney could not be reached for comment. But Suffolk County GOP chairman Jesse Garcia told Newsday that Romaine “supports life, with reasonable exceptions” and called Calone’s criticisms “desperate.”
The abortion ads are the latest salvo in the video wars in Long Island’s most high-profile race. Already, Calone’s campaign has spent nearly $1 million with Balaban’s Technicolor Political firm that includes a series of cable TV and internet video ads claiming Romaine is a crook. Romaine’s camp has fired back with similar vitriol at Calone in video ads and mailers, saying he wants to “welcome unvetted migrants to Suffolk County!”
Expect the final days of Calone’s video campaign to intensify on the abortion issue, especially with the county’s nearly 300,000 unaffiliated independent voters. A pro-Calone mailer sent out last week tries to paint Romaine as an anti-abortion extremist because he is endorsed by the state’s Conservative Party, which advocates for the view that abortions should be performed only to save the life of the mother.
“His willingness to ban abortion is cruel and backwards,” the mailer says.
According to state Board of Elections records, Romaine personally gave $500 to the New York State Right to Life Party in February 2000. Another $200 was given to the Right To Lifers by his “Friends of Ed Romaine” campaign arm in 2002.
In 1989, Romaine told Newsday during a debate: “I don't think people can separate their personal morality from their public morality. So I would oppose abortion and I would oppose Medicaid funding of abortion.”
A spokesman for Calone said he is “pro-choice” on abortion, and favors the previous Roe v. Wade restrictions that forbade states from regulating abortion until fetal viability. Whoever is the next county executive will oversee a county health department that is affiliated with privately run health centers that provide referrals on women’s reproductive health and family planning but do not perform abortions.
Abortion rights has been a potent issue for Democrats since the Supreme Court’s decision last year, resulting in surprise electoral victories in such GOP strongholds as Kansas. Whether Balaban, Calone’s political consultant, can turn it into a local issue in Suffolk’s county executive race remains to be seen.
— Thomas Maier firstname.lastname@example.org
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Spectacles of deceit
One of the political buzzwords of our fraught times is “rigged,” along with its many permutations. The most notable example: the many false claims that elections have been rigged.
Way back in 1960, Newsday’s editorial board also was concerned about rigging — but of a different variety. The focus for the board was TV quiz shows and what became known as the 1950s quiz show scandals. The essence of the scandals was that producers of several popular quiz shows — including “Twenty-One” and “The $64,000 Question” — secretly gave some contestants answers to questions they would be asked while pretending the competitions were fair. This allowed producers to create storylines around the champions they had created. The public was shocked when these arrangements were exposed, and Congress quickly amended communications law to prohibit TV networks from rigging the outcomes of quiz shows.
Newsday’s board wrote about one aspect of the scandals in an Oct. 19, 1960 piece called “The Guilty Go Free.”
“Yesterday’s isolation booth has become today’s courtroom,” the board wrote. “We can’t feel any sympathy for the likes of Charles Van Doren, Elfrida von Nardroff, Vivienne Nearing, Hank Bloomgarden and the others who now have to face perjury charges. The charges are that these ex-contestants — 15 so far, and there will soon be more — lied before a grand jury when they said they had never received any help in advance of their appearances on TV’s high-prized quiz shows.”
The board was upset that only the contestants were in legal jeopardy: “What is distressing is that the TV moguls behind these crooked shows are out of reach of the courts. Apparently, there was no law against rigging TV shows, dishonest as it might be. So what we have is a situation where the pawns in this unsavory drama pay the penalty while the ones who thought up the game can thumb their noses at the law.”
Careful readers might note the echoes in the trials of Jan. 6 defendants.
In the end, 10 contestants — including Nearing, von Nardroff, and Van Doren, the most famous of the bunch — pleaded guilty in 1962 to misdemeanor perjury charges and received suspended sentences. Many of them, along with some of the network honchos, lost jobs and/or reputations.
As almost always, there were Long Island threads to the story. Jack Barry, a popular TV game show host who helmed “Twenty-One,” was born and raised in Lindenhurst. Nearing, an attorney who dethroned champion Van Doren on “Twenty-One” in 1957, lived in East Hampton and New York City and died in East Hampton of adrenal cancer on July 4, 2007.
And von Nardroff, who won $220,500 in 1958 on “Twenty-One,” more than anyone else on the show — and worth about $2.3 million in today’s dollars — died Nov. 11, 2021, at age 96 in a hospice in Westhampton Beach.
— Michael Dobie email@example.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells firstname.lastname@example.org