Stuart Shorenstein, David Bronston and I attended the Crain’s breakfast this morning which featured a debate among the five Democrats seeking the position. I guesstimated the crowd at only about 200, including the five tables occupied by the respective campaigns. Although several of the candidates alluded to it being a business audience, much of the audience was political consultants and government relations folks. I didn’t see any major real estate figures or even the leadership of the RSA or REBNY.
David thought all of the candidates came across as smart and articulate and that each could handle the job. He noted that Richard Brodsky and Eric Schneiderman both struggled to distance themselves from the Albany mess. On the politics, he noted Kathleen Rice’s natural constituencies as a woman and as a Nassau County elected official, as well as press speculation that she has the tacit support of Andrew Cuomo. David noted that Sean Coffey had good presence and was running the hardest against Albany.
Stuart observed that across the board the candidates had all given a nod to Eric Dinallo for the work that he had done under Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, especially for effectively using the state’s Martin Act to assert jurisdiction over business activities. He thought that Coffey gave a strong presentation.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss their comments on the Martin Act and a couple of other issues that came up. In terms of overall presentation, I thought all of the candidates made a good case for their vision of the office, except for Brodsky, who seemed to think it was a kind of statewide Assembly Member. He’s the only one who didn’t claim significant experience as a lawyer. Coffey distinguished himself by opening with an Albany reform agenda including a number of specific proposals. Schneiderman was clearly comfortable reciting his list of accomplishments on progressive issues. Rice spoke about her experience in law enforcement and I could sense that she took the responsibility of having had to make tough decisions seriously, although she wasn’t as facile on some of the political curve balls that Erik Engquist of Crain’s threw out. Dinallo, of course, could point to having been in the office but I thought he focused a bit too much on how to get things done rather than what needed to be done.