Marty: I’m Not a Kicker Off’er

During last night’s State Senate debate, Connor sidetracked during time allotted for a state budget conversation to discuss allegations that as an election lawyer his basic task is to kick people off the ballot (fast forward to about 1:12 in this clip):

This myth that election lawyers all we do is kick people off the ballot.  Most of my cases have been defending someone and keeping them on the ballot defending them against someone the rules, particularly the old rules that were oppressive… Most of the work i do includes ballot recounts, defending candidates who someone is trying to kick off the ballot.

While Connor’s statement is fairly accurate regarding his work for others,  Ken Diamondstone, Connor’s 2006 opponent for the Democratic nomination and current City Council candidate would disagree as evidenced in this press release from August ’06:

The New York State Supreme Court ruled today that Ken Diamondstone, candidate for the 25th state senate district, is legally eligible to appear on the ballot as a candidate in the primary and general elections. Diamondstone had been challenged by his opponent Martin Connor, not on the issues and needs of the constituents, but rather by trying to limit Diamondstone’s access to the ballot through legal action.

“My opponent’s attempt to block my access to the ballot was an act of desperation,” said Diamondstone. “The court decision proves that this type of action is not only unethical and undemocratic, but that, ultimately, the Board of Elections overstepped their bounds in removing me from the ballot. This entire process was a tremendous waste of time, money and resources and a perfect example of why we need immediate reform in Albany.”

This action was business as usual for Martin Connor and is another installment in a long line of unethical and undemocratic actions that prove he is part of the problem in Albany. From misusing campaign funds to buy a car, to making a living on a legal practice devoted to knocking candidates off the ballot, Connor represents the worst of what is wrong in Albany.

Diamondstone proved in court that he moved into the district before the legal deadline of November 7, 2003 through testimony and evidence such as a lease signed for November 1, 2003 and a receipt from Ken’s landlord showing payment for the apartment for the same date.

Diamondstone’s challenge to Connor’s incumbency was his most significant battle since redistricting caused him to face off against fellow State Senator Thomas J. Bartosiewicz in 1982.

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  • ChangeNow

    Roger Clemens: I’m not a steroid user! (it’s only part of what I do)

  • Attorney

    The adversarial system requires both sides are entitled to legal representation. What Diamondstone does not allege is anything unethical or improper by Marty–just that he lost. A self-justifying press release does not address the question of whether it was unreasonable or improper to file the complaint in the first place. Maybe it was, but the Squadron simply do not know. 6 days is cutting it a bit close, and at least one finder of fact was persuaded by the evidence.

    Honestly, races in Long Island matter a lot more because the only way any change is going to happen is if the Democrats take control of the State Senate. The first-past-the-post system–and any focus on uncompetitive races in the general election–is irrelevant to modern politics.

  • nicky215

    Marty is a political hack- who worked for now jailed leader Clarence Norman. Don.t believe anything he says.

  • Claude Scales

    My learned colleague at the bar, “Attorney”, makes the correct observation that there was nothing “unethical or improper” (at least in the sense of violating any statute, regulation or professional canon) in Senator Connor’s attempt to have Mr. Diamondstone removed from the ballot. However, I want to go beyond the question of rights under the existing law to the more important issue of whether that law, as it exists, is good. I think not.

    My political philosophy could be described as “default libertarian”; that is, given the option of a rule that limits a person’s freedom to choose as against allowing that freedom, and all else being equal, I would select the latter. The phrase “all else being equal” is an important qualifier. What would pull me from my default position could, for example, be a situation in which there is great asymmetry between the knowledge of the person offering a choice and the person making it, and the consequences for the person making the choice of a “wrong” decision are serious. Pure food laws are a classic example. I don’t have the wherewithal or the inclination to test the contents of a jar of marinara sauce for botulism before I put it on my pasta.

    To the extent that election laws establish barriers to candidacy, they limit the choices available to voters. While the consequences of making a “wrong” choice in voting may be serious—I would be disheartened to discover that someone who had persuaded me that she shared my philosophy and whom I helped to elect was actually a Marxist-Leninist or neo-Nazi—the nature of political campaigns and the media scrutiny they attract assures the minimization of any asymmetry of information concerning a candidate. This extends, for example, to questions of residency. Where a person lives, and for how long, is generally readily knowable. If it isn’t, that fact is also available (think of Senator McCain). For this reason, I fall back on my default position, which is, “Let the voter decide.” Ideally, in my opinion, election laws should essentially confine themselves to three things: (1) controlling the balloting and tabulating process to ensure fairness and accuracy; (2) regulating the exercise of the franchise (I should only be allowed to vote once in an election, and only in the district in which I’m registered); and (3) dealing with such informational asymmetries as exist by, for example, requiring disclosure of how a campaign is financed. The one exception I would make is to establish a minimal barrier to entry, such as a petition requirement limited to, say, 500 signatures , and with stringent rules limiting the disqualification of signatures, in order to keep the ballot from being swamped by frivolous candidacies.

    I’m frankly confused by my colleague’s second paragraph. First, s/he seems to have fallen for the common misconception that “Long Island” begins and ends at the border between Queens and Nassau Counties. When someone here in Brooklyn says “I’m going to Long Island”, I always ask what bridge or tunnel they plan to traverse. Getting, however, to what I think is the point of that paragraph: yes, state senatorial elections in the ‘burbs are perhaps more meaningful than in the City in that they are more likely to determine control of the Senate, while whoever wins the Democratic primary in this district is fairly certain to prevail in the general election and therefore not have any effect on the party balance. However, it doesn’t follow that there’s nothing at stake in the choice between Connor and Squadron. While there appears to be substantial agreement between them on most issues (although I would suggest that Connor’s commitment to such matters as election law and districting reform has a bit of a “born again” quality), they do, for example, disagree on the use of luxury housing to finance Brooklyn Bridge Park. More importantly, I believe that they differ significantly in that Connor is steeped in the traditions of New York State government, traditions that I believe have evolved in a way that is unfortunate for the polity, while Squadron is not.

  • Claude Scales

    could anyone possibly care which one of these politician scumbags wins[?]

    Yes, for the reasons I stated above. If you disdain local politics, you’ll continue to get the government you deserve.

  • nabeguy

    What the heck is local about the state senate? Okay, maybe Albany is not Washington, but it ain’t around the corner either (that would be Marty M’s borough hall). The issues in this election happen to be a lot more important than whether or not we can get a hip bar on Montague Street.

  • Attorney

    Claude — half the district is in Manhattan (and for all intents and purposes, so is Brooklyn Heights).

    Squadron and Connor may disagree about condos to finance the park, but there’s nothing to be decided. Pinning a “change” agenda on an issue that is unlikely to come before the body you seek to join doesn’t make one a credible messenger of change. This is why neither candidate will “change Albany,” and with Connor you get the more progressive record.

  • BklynLifer

    Attorney — sorry, you are wrong. The condos-in-the-park deal would NEVER have happened in Marty’s senate district (and Joan’s assembly district) if Marty didn’t want it to. That’s the back-scratchers’ version of “professional courtesy” in Albany. If Squadron gets elected, two things happen — there is no longer local legislator support for the back-room financing scheme that produced the deal, and Squadron will demand to see the complete set of “books,” which he will make public. It would be very hard, if not impossible, for the currently-devised plan to proceed “as is” if the local legislator wasn’t on board. The current plan may already be dead because of the imploding real estate market and the lack of a state commitment to even MORE public funds to build this “park.”

  • nicky215

    Why did Marty and Joan agree to private housing in the park- while Shelly Silver’s district gets a great park.. no housing.?
    They did nothing for us..sold us out for developers money.

  • Claude Scales

    Attorney, thanks for your response. I know that the district in question is half in lower Manhattan and half on Long Island (the Brooklyn part, that is). Indeed, that’s been an advantage for Connor, in that any challenger would likely be known on one side of the water and not on the other, while incumbency means he’s well-known on both.

    I do take issue with your assertion that Brooklyn Heights is part of Manhattan “for all intents and purposes”. Shortly after I moved here, in 1983, I invited a friend who lives on the Upper West Side to come over after work and have a drink with me on the roof of my building. I live in the 12 story “Breukelen” at 57 Montague, which has a roof deck commanding a very nice view of the East River (actually a strait–sorry, but I’m a bug on geography) and lower Manhattan. As we sipped our wine, she said, “It seems really nice to have that stretch of water between where you live and where you work.” While most of the people who live here work in Manhattan, I think they have chosen to live here because this is a community with a small town sense about it–a place where you get to know your neighbors, not just on your floor or in your building, but throughout the neighborhood. While I’ve maintained work and friendship relationships in Manhattan over the years, I’ve come to think of myself primarily as a Brooklynite, immersed in the community through church, civic organizations, and my volunteer work tutoring high school students in East Brooklyn and Bushwick.

    As to Marty’s “progressive” record, I agree that he’s been good on a lot of issues, such as civil rights for gays and lesbians, and women’s choice, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as to being sincere rather than just seeking to appeal to a significant part of his constituency. However, I believe Squadron is equally good on these issues. As I said in my initial comment, however, I do doubt his sincerity in wanting to make serious reforms to legislative and election processes. Anyone who has been part of a system for thirty years has to have developed a level of comfort with the way things are done, or not done, within that system. Granted, Squadron alone can’t change the system, but having never been part of it, he has no reason to want to preserve any part of it.

    I like Marty. I think it would be delightful to sit down and have a drink with him, listen to his war stories, and his observations about life in general. He would probably tell me that, despite my being roughly his age, I’m still naive about the ways of the world and the intractability of human nature. Still, I think we need, and can benefit from, a change. It will take more than a Squadron, perhaps a whole brigade, to shake Albany to its foundations as it must be shaken. Nevertheless, I only live in, and can vote in, one senatorial district. Therefore, I will continue to work for, and cast my vote for, Dan, and hope that voters in other districts will also vote for insurgent candidates.

  • PiazzaLady

    He says he’s not a kicker offer! Yeah, and Barry Bonds never did steroids! He just represented someone who successfully threw someone off the ballot in the 32nd Council District special election on February 24, 2009 for no reason other than a minor technicality involving the alleged similarity of the party name or slogan instead of allowing that candidate the time to change the name, thereby depriving voters of that district the right to choose and vote for their candidate of choice. Elections should be decided BY THE VOTERS in the voting booth the voting booth, not the courts!