New York: Activists May Run Progressive for Senate

Posted January 16, 2009 at 5:56pm

Regardless of whom Gov. David Paterson (D) selects to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) — and at press time Friday, no announcement had been made — a group of progressive activists in the Empire State has put Democratic leaders on notice that they plan to run one of their own for the Senate seat in 2010.

The group — which includes authors Larry Beinhart and Barbara Ehrenreich; Tim Carpenter, the national executive director of Progressive Democrats of America; and Chris Owens, son of former Rep. Major Owens (D) — issued a statement expressing its doubts that the appointed Senator would be sufficiently progressive.

“We believe that the people deserve a choice,” they wrote. “We believe primary contests are a time to debate the direction of a party.”

Jonathan Tasini, a writer and labor activist who took 16 percent of the vote challenging Clinton from the left in the 2006 Democratic primary, said the group doesn’t have a candidate yet — and could wind up supporting Paterson’s pick. He said the activists are concerned because whoever is selected will have been chosen by only one voter.

“No one is waiting in the wings — at least, with the group I’ve been pulling together,” Tasini told Roll Call. “We have purposely stayed away from either criticizing any particular person, or promoting an alternative, in part because we are focusing on a vision and a process.”

Tasini said he is “seriously thinking” about running for the Senate seat again.

“I think we have a strong network from the campaign in 2006,” he said. “But I’m involved in other projects that I care about, so we’ll see. But truly, more important, is that we have a movement behind a strong, progressive candidate — whoever that person might be will need money, troops, a willingness to devote full time to the campaign and an infrastructure to run a statewide campaign.”