Saturday, July 13, 2013

Will Gay Democrat Sean Eldridge Be Any Better In Congress Than Gay Democrat Next Door, Sean Patrick Maloney?


Sean's on the left-- at least in the photo

We looked at New York New Dem Sean Patrick Maloney's putrid record as a freshman a couple months ago; it hasn't improved. As of this morning he's tied with corrupt Texas Blue Dog and warmonger Henry Cuellar as the 200th "best" voter in Congress. His ProgressivePunch crucial vote score (32.91) was earned by backing Boehner's and Cantor's toxic agenda more than any Democratic freshman and more than any Democrats other than Bill Owens (New Dem-NY), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT) and John Barrow (New Dem/Blue Dog-GA). But Maloney is good on gay issues. In fact, Maloney is gay-- a very, very right-wing gay, imbued with an ideology based on selfishness, greed and egoism. And he has a lovely family. He slipped into Congress last year by narrowly beating pathetic Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth in NY-18, winning in Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties and only losing Dutchess County. He spent $2,246,008 and the DCCC ponied up another $1,108,154.

Chris Gibson is the moderate Republican in the district next door, NY-19. He was able to narrowly stave off a strong challenge by Democrat Julian Schreibman (who won only 2 of the district's 11 counties, Ulster and Sullivan). Both NY-18 and NY-19 are swing districts. NY-18 is one of the only districts in the country with an exactly even PVI score. McCain and Romney each took only 47% of the votes when Obama beat them there. NY-19 has a PVI of D+1 and Obama did even better there-- leaving McCain 45% and Romney 46%. NY-19 looks ripe for a takeover by the Democrats next year... on paper.

Their candidate is Sean Eldridge a rich and ambitious technology executive, who was profiled in the NY Times this week in a way that probably won't help much: Young, Rich and Relocating Yet Again in Hunt for Political Office. They left out "gay" and "Facebook" in the headline. But only in the headline.
This is the story of how one young couple came to the Hudson Valley with a fortune and big political dreams.

Two years ago, Sean Eldridge and his husband, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, bought a $5 million estate in Garrison, about 50 miles north of New York City. It offered 80 acres of rolling fields and a farmhouse once owned by a Vanderbilt. It would also allow Mr. Eldridge, 26, to run for the local Congressional seat if he chose to.

But that seat appeared unattainable, and soon the couple’s gaze shifted north, to the neighboring district on the other side of the Hudson River. In January, they bought a $2 million modern home here overlooking a reservoir, laying the groundwork for Mr. Eldridge’s campaign for their new local Congressional seat, New York’s 19th.

Word of Mr. Eldridge’s political plans has delighted the friends who make up his social circle: Donors to his exploratory committee include George Soros, the billionaire financier, and Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur behind Napster and Spotify.

But his ambitions have puzzled some residents among the farmers, mill workers and small-business owners who populate this district, which rises through the Catskills and rolls north through cornfields and apple orchards to the Vermont border.

Amy Shields, a mother of three children who lives a few miles from Mr. Eldridge, cannot get over the fact that he has just moved into town and is already planning a run for Congress.

“It’s a little bit presumptuous,” Ms. Shields said. “In a community like this you like to know who your neighbors are. Having ties to your neighbors is important. How can he expect to represent people he doesn’t know?”

Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Hughes are among the most politically active of a new generation of entrepreneurs who gained their fortunes in Silicon Valley. Mr. Hughes, who left Facebook with about $500 million, oversaw online organizing for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and has since bought the New Republic. The two men helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his push for same-sex marriage.

But Congressional campaigns, especially in upstate New York, can be very personal contests, built on longstanding relationships and local perceptions. And it may be hard to dislodge the incumbent, Representative Chris Gibson, a well-liked Republican and veteran of the Iraq war who lives in a modest home around the corner from where he grew up.

...Mr. Eldridge’s supporters note that for all the trappings of wealth he now possesses, Mr. Eldridge grew up in a middle-class community in Ohio, where both of his parents were doctors; they say he has a genuine understanding of people of modest means.

And while the 19th District has vast stretches of rural, conservative communities, it is also home to more Democratic-leaning places, like New Paltz and Monticello, that could give his candidacy a lift.

“He clearly has a bright future,” said Mike Hein, a Democrat who is the Ulster County executive.

Still, as Mr. Eldridge has sought to ingratiate himself with local residents, some awkward moments have resulted.

He raised an impressive $300,000 in the first three months of this year, but only a small fraction of the donations came from individuals in the district. And Mr. Eldridge’s voter registration, which he applied for in January, was placed on the inactive list after a confirmation postcard sent to his new home was returned to the local board of elections marked: “Return to sender. No mail receptacle.” His registration has since been reactivated.

A few months ago, he quietly moved an investment firm he owns to the small city of Kingston, and, with the help of SKDKnickerbocker, a public relations agency based in Manhattan, has begun directing attention to his interest in making investments in local businesses.

Since late last year, the firm has provided at least $800,000 in loans to businesses in the district, including Bread Alone bakery and Prohibition Distillery. And Mr. Eldridge has dug into his own pocket, donating $250,000 to a $1 million effort in the district to build a 3-D printing technology center at SUNY New Paltz.

...Back in New York City, Mr. Eldridge has little need for introductions. The 4,000-square-foot loft he and Mr. Hughes own has become a hub of fund-raising receptions attended by major Democrats like Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader. For the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington in April, Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Hughes were A-list invitees, appearing at the Vanity Fair-Bloomberg party at the French ambassador’s residence, which also drew Barbra Streisand.

Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Hughes are part of the flock of New York City residents who have bought second homes in the Hudson Valley in recent years, then involved themselves in local politics. After the couple bought their first upstate estate, which they still own, Mr. Eldridge briefly entertained a run against the local Republican representative at the time, Nan Hayworth, according to published reports and two people close to him. (An aide to Mr. Eldridge noted he never took any formal steps to establish a candidacy.) And Sean Patrick Maloney, another newcomer with a similar profile-- a gay Democrat from downstate-- emerged as the party’s candidate and went on to defeat Ms. Hayworth.
My only interest in Eldridge is his political philosophy. Someone that wealthy-- who thinks he understands people of modest means because both his parents were "merely" doctors-- is more likely than not to be a conservative scumbag when it comes to issues of economic justice-- like Maloney next door has proven to be. Eldridge and his husband have contributed quite a bit of money to Maloney's campaign so presumably they approve of his reactionary-- or cowardly-- agenda. I sent him a message asking if he'd like to have a talk. Five months have gone by and he hasn't responded. He has a Facebook page but I haven't been able to find a campaign website. A few days ago I sent him a message through Facebook. I wonder if that'll work.

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