The New York gubernatorial candidates invaded Hofstra University this past week for what turned out to be an embarrassing spectacle instead of a legitimate debate. All parties involved should be mortified over this production, particularly on the heels of the 2008 Presidential debate that luminously placed Hofstra on an international stage. No matter. With less than two weeks to go until Cuomo Part Deux, there is precious little time to bother with this fiasco. Long Islanders have something bigger at stake.
Years ago the Press gave up political endorsements for Lent. Because we let our opinions fly freely throughout the year, we calculate that our readers have sufficient ammunition with which to enter the voting booth. (But there is little doubt that our official gubernatorial endorsement this year would be Jimmy McMillan because rent… rent is too, damn, high.) I offer this disclaimer because, even though the Press no longer endorses candidates, I am about to unapologetically proffer the most sycophantic, disgusting endorsement of a candidate this little column can muster.
The most important vote to be cast on November 2nd is for what is perhaps the least understood and most underappreciated job in the state. The office of comptroller is the financial cornerstone of New York’s government. More than ever, this office requires integrity and stability. Someone who cannot be bought, sold, cajoled or persuaded—someone who is beyond reproach and fervently dedicated to the people served by this position, not the person himself who serves in it. The current comptroller is Mineola native, Hofstra graduate and Great Neck resident Thomas P. DiNapoli. Let’s keep it that way.
For decades DiNapoli has represented the best of what New York politics has to offer. His story is familiar to many Long Islanders because DiNapoli has been in office since the age of 18 when he was first elected to serve on a local school board. After two decades in the New York State Assembly and three years as comptroller, he has gained the reputation of being one of the most decent and honest public officials in the state. This reputation was earned among his constituents and colleagues alike, but it’s the latter that his opponent is seizing upon.
Spending one’s entire career in public service no longer carries the esteem it once did; couple that with the fact that DiNapoli was selected for the comptroller’s position by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and it’s easy to see why this is his opponent’s theme. That’s politics. Everyone needs a hook. But don’t be suckered in by this argument. It’s easy to join the chorus of malcontents who denounce the plight of the so-called “career politician” because we are so far removed from the age when that phrase held any air of nobility and distinction. Nevertheless I do find it ironic that someone wishing for a career in politics would criticize someone for already having a career in politics.
Tom DiNapoli is indeed a career politician in the best sense of the phrase because he has dedicated his life to proper governance. No apology necessary. As far as DiNapoli portrayed as an Albany insider because he was appointed to the position, that’s a different situation entirely for which I offer this response: DiNapoli’s colleagues naming him comptroller was political penance – as though their misdeeds would be judged less harshly through this singular altruistic act. It was a moment of unprecedented decency delivered by the most dysfunctional and acrimonious band of jackals in recent New York history. It was a gesture from people who knew that for two decades Tom DiNapoli was the standard bearer for honesty in their chamber, the person every politician measured him or herself against and always fell short. This appointment was their way of honoring someone they were grateful to work with—someone who made them all a little better.
DiNapoli’s political shortcoming is the part of the job so many others live for. He is quite possibly the worst fundraiser and self-promoter in elected office anywhere. He does not long for screen time and is polite to a fault. Instead of campaigning, he works. Instead of grandstanding, he quietly gives credit to others. He cannot be bought, sold, cajoled or persuaded. His lack of exposure is strictly due to his dedication to serving others, and it has cost him donations, endorsements and publicity. And it’s what makes Tom DiNapoli perfect for this job.
We’re fortunate the State Legislature had the presence of mind to do the right thing and place Tom DiNapoli in the comptroller’s position. It’s time for us to do the same—and keep him there.