Upstart, Anti-Corruption Campaigns In NY, NH Don't Win, But Do Show Growing Anger Over Political Corruption

from the a-good-start,-but-not-over-yet dept

To the “savvy” political insiders, political corruption is still not seen as an election issue that people care about or vote over. We’ve been discussing a number of attempts to change that — such as with new anti-corruption PACs — and two of the political races we’ve discussed ended yesterday. In both cases, the candidates lost, but they way outperformed their expectations, suggesting that there’s a real possibility of a better reaction in the future.

In NY, the Governor/Lt. Governor primary ticket of Zephyr Teachout/Tim Wu was always a tremendous long shot. Going up against a popular incumbent governor in Andrew Cuomo (who also has tremendous NY name recognition as the son of a former — also tremendously popular — NY governor), the media more or less ignored any possibility of Teachout succeeding. The campaign had little money and no real established political base. It ran almost entirely on the basis of “Hey, Cuomo is kind of corrupt and lies a lot.” Before the election yesterday, an analysis of similar races suggested that incumbent governors in similar primaries often get over 90% of the vote and anything under 70% would be a political disaster for Cuomo, who is hoping to leverage his success in NY into an eventual presidential run. While he did eventually win, it was with about 62% of the vote. Teachout got 34% — again, with no political machine and very little money. Wu ended up with just over 40%, and his opponent Kathy Hochul (Cuomo’s choice) got under 60%.

Obviously, a win would have been a bigger deal, but to come out of nowhere (in just a couple of months), with no huge campaign war chest or connections to traditional politics — against such a well-known governor, basing most of their campaign on corruption issues — this suggests that corruption absolutely can play as an election issue. Teachout and Wu had one paid staffer and four volunteers. Cuomo has a campaign war chest in the many millions. And he still could only barely crack 60% of the vote. That says something. Also interesting is the fact that Teachout and Wu actually won in many rural upstate counties. The campaign had been expecting a weaker showing there (Hochul is from upstate, and Teachout and Wu are based in Manhattan — which they also won). Again, while losing the overall race, the strong showing is a good sign for future campaigns.

Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, we’d discussed the campaign of Jim Rubens for the Senate, against carpetbagging Scott Brown (who jumped states from Massachusetts after losing his Senate seat there). Early on, Rubens was basically a complete nobody. While he’d been in NH politics in the past, he hadn’t actually occupied a political office since the 1990s. He was basically roadkill for the political machine of Scott Brown. However Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC noted that Rubens was the only Republican candidate running on an anti-corruption platform to limit the influence of money in politics. Mayday PAC spent heavily on campaign ads for Rubens, and he ended up getting around 24% of the vote, with Brown pulling in less than 50%.

In the end, both of these campaigns obviously lost — but they were interesting experiments with important lessons. Two upstart campaigns from totally different sides of the traditional political spectrum (Zephyr/Wu to the “left” and Rubens to the “right”), both of which made anti-corruption efforts a key plank in their campaigns. Both were considered barely worth mentioning at the beginnings of the campaigns. Both were up against incredibly well-known, well-funded political machines with national name recognition and ambition. Neither campaign had any significant money. And both actually performed decently despite their disadvantages.

In the end, both campaigns definitely did lose, but they showed how there’s clearly a dissatisfaction with the traditional political machine. And if two such tiny, out-of-nowhere campaigns could do that, hopefully it means that future campaigns can do even more.

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Comments on “Upstart, Anti-Corruption Campaigns In NY, NH Don't Win, But Do Show Growing Anger Over Political Corruption”

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Violynne (profile) says:

“…political corruption is still not seen as an election issue that people care about or vote over.”
Yep, because they’d rather spend the next four year posting pictures on Facebook how their “elected” (but they didn’t vote for them!) official is ruining their lives.

Oh, and statistics is a bullshit number. It wouldn’t matter if 49% ended up the result for the losing side.

49 of 100 is a much different number than 490,000 of 1,000,000.

In short: most people probably don’t even waste time voting because the corruption is too rampant.

Lesser of two evils, indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Give it time, once people begin to regularly see options away from the lame stream political critter you might see more votes showing up and seriously impacting the process. This Statistical Poll could possibly be a ‘start’ and not how its going to end.

But, its still statistics….

Lies, Damn lies, and then there’s statistics.

Ninja (profile) says:

That’s interesting. In the last municipal elections what won was the rejection of one of the main 2 candidates, not the popularity or political power of the elected candidate. People are increasingly unsatisfied with the Governments that are increasingly ran by corporations and couldn’t care less about the citizenry. We are seeing this phenomenon in the presidential run now and it’s incredibly interesting.

We are about to see heavy movements against the widespread corruption in politics. How things will play out is something interesting to follow.

Whatever says:


You guys are a very small vocal minority. Corruption is a good thing and the voters vote for these corrupt criminals because that’s what they want. All the millions of dollars spent by big businesses to keep these guys elected is just part of how democracy is supposed to work because that’s free speech.

If you eliminate corruption how will copy protection laws keep getting extended and continue lasting forever minus a day? Think of the poor distributors (strikethrough) artists. There will be no more art at all. and if broadband gets cheaper then no one will want to make art because it will all just get pirated. It will be a huge problem for the profits of middlmen (strikethrough) for our culture and for art.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: (Parody)

You can actually ratchet down the parody. The people do know that their brand of political ass clown is indeed corrupt, they just happen to know this corruption just so happens to benefit their community in jobs and benefits.

You can practically seriously remove the Parody part because everything you said is literally true and is actually desired by the people. They only get pissed of when the corruption works against them.

Anonymous Coward says:

How about the ballot measure that was proposed this year in an effort to implement redistricting reform in Illinois, one of the most badly gerrymandered states in the country? The measure got more than 532,000 signatures, nearly double the 298,000 required to put the measure on the ballot in November. The elections board pulled out all the stops to get more than half the signatures declared invalid, then cut off all funding that would be needed toward any effort to get the invalidated signatures reinstated.

KevinEHayden (profile) says:

How about the actual governor's race?

Since this was only a primary, can Teachout and Wu still run in the actual election, or are there rules prohibiting that?
(Sorry I’m not a US citizen so don’t know).
Or if so, maybe they should swap the offices they’re running for to try and get around them. They’ve obviously got some name recognition now, and if they can steal some votes from the Republican side too, maybe one or both of them could actually get elected.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: How about the actual governor's race?

“Since this was only a primary, can Teachout and Wu still run in the actual election”

The primary is where the political parties select who is running on their ticket. A candidate who lost a primary can absolutely run for the office, but they would have to do so as an independent, not on a party’s ticket (unless the manage to win a primary for some other party).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: How about the actual governor's race?

Which would make it an uphill struggle, but they were facing that from the start, so nothing new there…

I think they should go for it if at all possible. They may not have won the nominations, but they most certainly got their names out, and it shouldn’t be too hard to leverage that name recognition to gather funds and volunteers to make a real run for office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: How about the actual governor's race?

…and it’s always nice to have a few independents in office; helps keep the party boys on their toes, as independents have to be lobbied by the rest on controversial issues. They don’t tend to have a lot of policy power though, even if they’re running for mayor/deputy mayor. Having a party behind you gives you much more ability to make abrupt changes to policy (as long as they’re supported by the party).

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: How about the actual governor's race?

The primary is where the political parties select who is running on their ticket. A candidate who lost a primary can absolutely run for the office, but they would have to do so as an independent, not on a party’s ticket (unless the manage to win a primary for some other party).

Also, I believe some states have rules that bar candidates who lose the primary from jumping on the ballot under a different party or independent… but not sure if that’s true in NY or what the specific rules there are.

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