In a low interest election last Tuesday – both from the press and from the voters who turned out in record low numbers – there were some results of interest. At least four members of the New York City Council lost their bids for re-election.
There has been a lot of talk this summer about the anger on display in the public discourse especially at town hall meetings, but the question has been whether this anger would be demonstrated when voters actually go to the polls.
The New York City Democratic Primary this week was an opportunity for voters to act on their anger and many of them did. The lightening rod in New York City was the recent City Council vote to revise term limits for elected city officials so that they can no serve twelve years instead of eight years. The Democratic primary voters in New York City used their vote to term limit four members of the city council (Alan Gerson, Kendell Stewart, Helen Sears and Kenneth Mitchell) the old-fashioned way – by voting them out of office. In the latest preliminary returns a fifth city council member – Maria Baez – is trailing by 90 votes and a sixth city council member – Thomas White – only leads by 6 votes.
This is the largest number of incumbent city council members to lose re-election in New York City in decades and it could be a sign of trouble to come for other incumbents running for re-election this year and next year. Edison Research exit polls on November 3rd will measure how much this anti-incumbent sentiment works against Governor Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City.
A quick review of the latest state polls shows that in addition to Governor Corzine, the following office-holders are trailing their challengers – Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada, and Governor David Paterson of New York. And this list doesn’t include a large number of incumbents who decided not to run in order to avoid tough races – Senators Bond, Bunning, Burris, Gregg and Voinovich and Governors Douglas, Doyle, Palin and Pawlenty.
Tuesday’s New York City primary may be remembered as just the first sign of angry voters sending incumbents into forced retirements.