Saturday, February 17, 2007

Change Agent: A Podcast Interview With (NY) State Sen. Liz Krueger

Three-decade incumbent Republican Roy Goodman represented the 26th Senate District of New York. He was a “Rockefeller” Republican and symbol of Albany’s unchanging status quo. Goodman had delivered for this district covering Manhattan’s east side and midtown. He appeared invulnerable and his continued success helped the GOP maintain their Senate majority for decades.

Liz Krueger, a longtime advocate for tackling issues pertaining to poverty, hunger and homelessness, challenged Goodman for the State Senate in 2000. Although a liberal district, Goodman was popular, well financed and enjoyed a reservoir of good will. As a liberal on social issues Goodman remained in sync with his constituents.

Krueger mobilized an enthusiastic grass roots campaign based on reforming Albany’s corrupt and closed culture. I lived in the 26th at the time and noted Krueger’s campaign appeared more visible with high-energy volunteers patrolling the streets. Nevertheless, it never occurred to me Krueger had any chance of upsetting Goodman. Yes, he was older and might not win as comfortably as before. But I had no doubt Goodman would win convincingly. I was very wrong.

As the country fixated on the delayed outcome of Bush vs. Gore, the New York Senate’s 26th District wasn’t decided until six weeks after Election Day. Goodman won re-election by approximately 190 votes over Krueger. Krueger had a slim lead that disappeared after the count of absentee ballots.

Stunned by his near defeat, Goodman soon accepted a position in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and a special election for the 26th was held in February 2002. She won convincingly and has steadfastly pursued a progressive/reformist agenda. Krueger’s priorities as Senator are a continuation of her work in private life. As the biography from her website notes,
“For 15 years, Senator Krueger was the Associate Director of the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC) where she was responsible for directing its efforts to expand access to government programs for low-income New Yorkers. She helped monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of Federal and State programs in New York City, identifying barriers to participation, and fighting for improvements in the effectiveness of these programs.

Prior to joining CFRC, Liz Krueger was the founding Director of the New York City Food Bank, building that organization into one that now serves over 1,100 emergency food programs, senior centers, day-care centers, and other community-based programs serving an estimated 5.4 million meals each year.”
With Eliot Spitzer’s election as Governor, the reformist winds represented by Senator Krueger may finally be blowing her way. In late January, legislative leaders adopted ethics reforms she had championed for years such as closing the “revolving door” lobbying loophole, a ban on legislators accepting honoraria as well as a gift ban for legislators and their staff.

Senator Krueger is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Standing Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development. She is also a member of five other committees: Banking, Consumer Protection, Finance, Higher Education, and Rules.

For the previous two election cycles, Senator Krueger served as the Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC). Democrats have gained under her leadership and following the recent special election of Craig Johnson in Nassau County, the Republican majority is a mere two seats.

In recent weeks there have been persistent rumors two Republicans may switch parties and deliver the Senate to Democrats. Ironic, because in 2002, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said casting a vote for Krueger was a waste due to the Republicans entrenched majority. Instead, Krueger’s efforts have the Democrats poised to assume one party rule in the state’s capitol. In five years the onetime outsider has increased her influence and remained an agent of change.

Senator Krueger agreed to a podcast interview with me and among the topics covered were: her experience as a reformist outsider and campaign leader of Senate Democrats; the possibility of future gerrymandering favoring Democrats in New York State; Governor Spitzer’s adversarial relationship with the legislature; the Governor’s proposed budget and whether New York might move up their presidential primary date to help the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Guiliani. Please refer to the media player below.

This interview can also be accessed for free via the Itunes story by searching for "Intrepid Liberal Journal."

1 comment:

Anais said...

Well written article.