Our Views: City money’s big role in 7th


Do you remember the vigorous discussion that Elaine Phillips and Adam Haber had about charter schools in the race for the 7th Senate District?
Neither do we. That’s because there was no discussion on the subject. 
But as it turns out the issue of charter schools, which in New York State are located mainly in New York City, appears to have played a large if not decisive factor in Phillips’ victory in the 7th District here in Nassau County.
New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a political action committee formed by the pro-charter school group StudentsFirstNY, had spent $2.6 million in radio and television advertising on behalf of the Phillips campaign when the 11-day pre-general election financial disclosures were filed.
The $2.6 million spent by New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany was part of the $3.14 million spent on behalf of the Phillips campaign by independent expenditure groups at that point and alone exceeded the $2.3 million spent by Haber and outside groups on his behalf. 
In addition to the $2.6 million in television and radio advertisements,  New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany also spent $136,100 for polling in the Phillips-Haber race as well as other state Senate contests.
StudentsFirst was joined in support of charter schools by the Jobs for New York PAC, whose treasurer is listed in state Board of Elections data as William Auerbach, the CFO of the Real Estate Board of New York, which spent about $330,000 on digital media advertisements, wages and polling for the Phillips campaign.
Combined with $1.03 million received by Phillips’ campaign the independent contributions gave Phillips, the Republican nominee, a nearly 2-1 edge in spending over her Democratic opponent — $4.17 million to $2.3 million.
The Nassau Democratic Party chairman, Jay Jacobs, said that while Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election may have played a role in Haber’s loss he believed the spending by independent expenditure groups on political attack ads against Haber had the biggest impact on the race.
In what should win an award for chutzpah, the New York City-based PACs focused their attacks on New York City, tying Haber to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Democrats. But they did not specifically mention charter schools.
“The truthful answer is take the political answer and add to it literally millions of dollars pumped in by independent expenditure groups and Republicans to smear with false lies Adam Haber’s integrity [and] make him look like a sleazy politician,” Jacobs said. “People bought it and they voted for the lady who looked nice.”
Jenny Sedlis, the executive director of StudentsFirstNY, didn’t disagree about the impact of her group’s spending.
“New Yorkers defied expectations by rejecting a State Senate that would have turned its back on the needs of all public school students across the state,”  Sedlis said. “With the help of New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, families who believe that every child deserves a great education regardless of their ZIP code stood up to the special interests to protect our most vulnerable children. We congratulate Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan for his impressive stewardship. We also had tremendous partners in the Real Estate Board of New York.”
In public appearances during the campaign, Phillips often focused on how her election would help prevent New York City Democrats from taking control of the state Senate as well as her record of cutting taxes as mayor of Flower Hill and protecting the environment. 
She argued that the Democrats’ taking control of the state Senate would lead to more school aid for city schools and higher taxes on suburban residents. No mention was made of charter schools.
Haber, a former commodities trader who serves on the Roslyn school board, said he opposed charter schools, citing the potential loss of support for public schools.
Chris McKenna, a spokesman for the Phillips campaign, said independent expenditures were not the reason for Phillips’ narrow victory.
“Elaine’s win can be chalked up to her hard work on getting out and meeting with as many voters as she could, as well as a superior message and ideas that will make a difference for Long Island,” McKenna said.
The debate over charter schools — taxpayer funded, for profit, privately owned and managed institutions of K-12 education — is a worthy one.
But charter schools are private businesses primarily located in New York City.
Are their concerns really what should determine the outcome of elections on Long Island?
And, if that is the case,  shouldn’t the candidate benefiting from the support of pro-charter school groups explain why?


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