Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Fabulous, Wonderful Adventure At Stony Brook This Week


This was a pretty special week for me. My doctor gave me permission to fly for the first time since my stem cell transplant left me without an immune system. I've spent the last 6 months gets immunized for everything from whooping cough and diptheria to polio and dozens of strains of influenza. But she told me I can start going to concerts again and even go on planes-- crowded places where germs are known to lurk. My old university, Stony Brook, had planned a ceremony to honor my support of the EOP/AIM program, which provides access to higher education-- and the opportunities that come with that-- for economically disadvantaged students who possess the potential to succeed in college, but whose academic preparation in high school has not fully prepared them to pursue college education. The scholarship I've set up with them is particularly aimed at kids determined to pursue a career in public service.

I wasn't sure what they had in mind but I did know there would be a ceremony starting at 5 and there'd be dinner. Since I was going out there for the day anyway, I asked if it would be possible to put together a lunch with the current EOP/AIM students who are interested in public service and I asked 3 friends to join me in answering questions from the students, DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, and a current candidate for Congress (Peter King's seat on Long Island's South Shore); Tom Suozzi, the fiery former Nassau County Executive who is also running for Congress this year (Steve Israel's seat on the North Shore); and David Keith, closer in age to the students and one of the most sought-after political strategists anywhere in America, currently employed by Michael Bloomberg and Bette Midler's non-partisan greening of New York initiative.

My three guests were outstanding and, judging by the questions and responses, the students seemed to get a great deal out of it. Afterwards a faculty member stood up and announced that long after the students in the room had forgotten any individual classes they had taken during their college careers, they would probably still remember the two plus hours we had just spent talking about public service and leadership.

DuWayne Gregory has been endorsed by Blue America and we've talked about his qualifications for office and about his campaign for the seat before. The other candidate, Tom Suozzi, is in the middle of the extensive Blue America vetting process and we haven't written much about him and his swing-district race that came alive when Steve Israel announced he would finally be retiring from Congress. Tom is a consummate Long Island politician, albeit always a fighter and an outsider, never an establishment hack, and he turned out to be a truly inspirational speaker in the best sense of the term.

The NY-03 race features 5 Democrats vying for Israel's seat, including Jonathan Clarke, the candidate who endorsed Bernie and is running on his platform, plus 3 pretty standard, garden variety careerist local Democrats, Jon Kaiman, Anna Kaplan and Israel-crony Steve Stern. Suozzi is the outlier in the bunch, the deep thinker, primarily concerned with what he can do to perfect democracy and make the lives of his Nassau, Suffolk and Queens constituents better.

As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline, Israel's candidate, Steve Stern, had raised the most money, $500,634 (including nearly $70,000 in self-funding) with the help of Israel's machine. Suozzi, a late entrant into the race, was close behind with $451,306, an amount similar to the $445,161 Anna Kaplan had raised. Jon Kaiman reported $242,379 and Jonathan Clarke, who's running a Bernie-style small donor campaign, hadn't generated enough money to have triggered a report by the end of March. Many observers are betting on Suozzi to win the Democratic nomination and to go on and win the district, which is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans but swings reliably blue in presidential years. Obama won the area against McCain 54-46% and 4 years later beat Romney there, 51-48%.

This cycle, the DCCC has been quietly counseling their corrupt conservative candidates to challenge their progressive opponents' ballot petition signatures, tying them up in court and draining their campaign funds in endless and expensive bickering. Israel recently got his puppet candidate, Steven Williams to try that with Syracuse progressive Eric Kingson and the DCCC succeed with that strategy to knock Lindy Li off the ballot for "ex"-Republican Mike Parrish in a suburban Philadelphia district. Jon Kaiman, a sleazy ex-Hempstead town supervisor, clallenged Suozzi's signatures, in what looks like a Steve Israel-inspired move that he hopes will help Stern. The likely Republican nominee, Jack Martins, pointed out, through his campaign manager, that "Whoever wins will be crawling across the finish line bruised and out of money" and that "Martins will be ready for them and will win in November."
Though more than 2,400 people signed Suozzi’s petition backing him as a candidate, Kaiman’s campaign charges the former Nassau County executive did not have 1,250 signatures from active registered Democrats living in the Third Congressional District.

“Suozzi did not submit the required number of valid signatures, and thus is not eligible to run for Congress,” Kaiman campaign manager Jeff Guillot said in a statement Monday. “As was shown, by our successful filing of over 4,000 signatures, it takes only grassroots support and a strong organization to get on the ballot.”

The signatures in question could be from people registered under different parties or at an address outside the district, or those who signed more than one candidate petition.

In a statement on Tuesday, Suozzi campaign manager Mike Florio said Suozzi’s petition is valid and called Kaiman’s objections “sad attempts by his opponents to distract voters from the real issues” that come “straight out of the Republican playbook.”

Back to Stony Brook for a moment, the school I graduated from in 1969. The Suffolk County legislature recognized the award the university gave me last week with an official proclamation of congratulations, a fancy-looking document suitable for framing and hanging. I had to laugh because my last previous interaction with Suffolk County was when I was the focus of the largest college campus drug bust in history (until then), Operation Stony Brook. Being incredibly incompetent, the police failed to arrest me. (They used to try busting me by sending policemen "disguised" with store-bought fake beards and hippie vests but with police shoes sticking out under their pants.) Anyway, instead the corrupt, Republican D.A., Harry O'Brien, negotiated with me to testify at a Grand Jury convened in Riverhead. During the proceedings there was a lot of screaming and cursing from righteously indignant conservatives and O'Brien had vowed to lock me up forever. He failed and years later he was caught late one night on Jones Beach with an underage black kid engaging in oral sex. These conservatives never change! But after all these years Suffolk County has changed-- and very much for the better; hey... I guess they like me now.

The picture up top is of me and Stony Brook poet Nickeisha Gaynor-- you can call her Keisha-- who introduced me at the ceremony. The Right To Grow Up is a video she made as a class project, inspired by Black Lives Matter, connecting the Jim Crow era to the present day. It's worth watching:

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At 6:31 PM, Blogger TeddyPartridge said...

Congratulations to you and to these inspirational young people at Stony Brook.

I'm glad Suffolk County has come around on their Howie Klein opinion, for the better! Too funny....

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your generous sharing of your experience at Stony Brook. It's very heartening and also inspiring. It's nice to see your remarkable life completing a circle like that, still being yourself as you are, and not what someone else would necessarily want you to be, and the world being a better place because of it. Congratulations, and thanks!

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked to see what you look like and the recognition for an interesting life well-lived. Thank you for your integrity and for your constant striving for truth in this country. Don't ever let the bastards get you down!

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats, Howie, for the recognition of a fraction of YOUR public service.

The story of Republican D.A., Harry O'Brien put into focus the recent spate of anti-LGBT bathroom laws.

The monsters writing and passing these laws are simply trying to eliminate perceived, but non-existent, competition for their next abuse victims.

John Puma

At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Pamela Matzner said...

It was our pleasure to have you join us last week! The students learned so much from the short time they spent with you, and as was said, probably more then in any classroom. As a counselor in EOP/AIM I know many students will benefit from your generousity for years to come. We look forward to the next time we can spend some time together and hear about all your great adventures and stories.

Stay well Howie!!!

Pam Matzner
EOP Counselor
Stony Brook University


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