The legislative program of the NY State Conservative Party is a guide to making the rich richer. From doing away with progressive taxation to no taxes on dividends, it wants to increase the already immoral wealth disparity. It proposes to pay for these reductions in taxes with cuts to Medicaid and education. Fire districts and libraries would also face the chopping block. The list includes one proposal after another leading to the wealthy living in luxury and the rest of us driving on pot-holed streets and paying private companies for use of once-public facilities.
But it is not just the reverse Robin Hood agenda that characterizes the Conservative Party. It encourages law enforcement agencies to use “profiling, surveillance and stop, question and frisk.” It wants to restore the death penalty in New York. It wants to loosen gun laws, and its program’s language suggests support for the frightening “stand your ground law” that led to the acquittal of an armed man who murdered a 17-year-old unarmed boy who was minding his own business. In addition, it wants to eliminate parole for felons – without mentioning the costs of our incarceration industry. And, of course, it wants police to detain people “suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.”
The Conservative Party is not just right-wing: it is reactionary – so far right that it withheld its support from Republican Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral runs in 1989, 1993 and 1997 because he was too liberal. Yet, Westchester County Legislator Virginia Perez was a Conservative Party member. She became a Democrat – in her words – “Because I care.” Actually, she had to register as a Democrat in order to run for office in her corner of Yonkers. But how has she demonstrated her Democratic politics since her years in the Conservative Party?
“I was her [Perez’s] first donor. She cares for her constituents,” said Julie Killian. “She’s involved in politics for the right reasons and those are the kinds of people I support.” Julie Killian is the fact-free Republican who runs against DEMOCRATS and is opposed to Democratic policies. Many other Republicans (e.g., Maisano, Tubiolo) also donated to her campaigns. One has to wonder: why are these Republicans donating to a Democrat?
Perez’s biggest donor, with three donations totaling $4,000 would be the one-and-only Jeff Klein. That’s right – the NY State Senator who founded and led the faction of Democrats who caucus and vote with Republicans – the so-called Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC. A primary motive for joining Klein’s IDC was monetary gain in the form of “lulus.” Lulus are payments in lieu of salary, attached to leadership duties or top committee posts. All members of Klein’s caucus received lulus. You can bet the ranch that Perez is looking for the same “because she cares.”
Perez writes “my constituents are my only ONE and TRUE priority.” Yet, she worked with Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, voting yes on every one of his budgets – leaving the County with millions in shortfall. Astorino, a Tea Party and Trump acolyte, attempted to fulfill the Conservative Party’s wish list for cutting taxes on the rich, privatizing everything and cutting every safety net program that helps the poor. This would be particularly disastrous for Perez’s southwest Yonkers constituents, but she claims to be running for the State Senate “Because I care.”
Critics of Perez have complained that she did not represent her constituents’ interests by voting with Astorino and is not a Democrat. She always responds the same way: “I am a fiscally conservative Democrat.” On Dec. 28, 2011, citing unmanageable debt, Perez filed papers in federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, stating that she had $476,976 in liabilities and $120,561 in assets. That characterizes Perez perfectly: a fiscal conservative just like Astorino.
The thing about her campaign for New York State Senate District 35 is the glaring lack of statements of her positions or of any achievements in the County Legislature. All she seems to have to say is “In me you will always have a fighter, a doer and someone who will ALWAYS and ONLY answer to you and never to the establishment.”
Perez recently announced her main policy position: she will ensure that Yonkers gets its fair share of state education funding. Either Perez is misleading her constituents or is willfully ignorant. Yonkers gets less funding per student than districts in Long Island and upstate because the state senate is controlled by Republicans. By aligning with them, Jeff Klein and the IDC have perpetuated the inequity in funding. In a FiOS1 interview, Perez was pressed about her intentions in Albany, but she refused to commit that she would not caucus with Republicans. If Perez were to win, it’s a good bet that she would align herself, once again, with Republicans and the shortfall in funding for Yonkers’ schools will continue.
Virginia Perez is not and never was a Democrat. One doesn’t switch from the Conservative Party to become a Democrat. How do her constituents reconcile her votes with Astorino? Do they know that Phil Gille, Astorino’s Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Social Services is running her campaign? Why are Republicans canvassing for her? She couldn’t have repeatedly voted with Astorino and claim to represent her constituents who aren’t the super-rich. She couldn’t have voted to reduce funding for the needy and call it “fighting the establishment.” She couldn’t have voted not to fix infrastructure, and to use one-shot deals to pay for operating costs, and to privatize as many governmental activities as possible and claim to be a Democrat. No, I don’t doubt that Virgina Perez cares, but it is only for herself – certainly not for her constituents.
Fred Polvere, national political columnist spends his days climbing, hiking and reading, reading, reading.