Schumer Apparently Backing Spitzer's Opponent Tom Suozzi for Governor of New York
by Matt Stoller, Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 03:51:39 PM EST
Sen. Charles Schumer is secretly encouraging Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi to challenge Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for the Democratic nomination for governor, insiders have told The Post.
Schumer's backing of the just-re-elected Suozzi -- which includes informal advice on strategy and fund-raising -- results from a long-standing rivalry with, and a deep personal dislike for, the high-profile Spitzer, Democratic Party insiders say.
Spitzer's political advisers are aware of Schumer's apparent actions.
"It seems pretty clear to us that Schumer is playing 'footsie' with Suozzi," a source close to Spitzer told The Post.
Evidence of Schumer's support includes a decision by his top Long Island fund-raiser, lawyer Howard Fensterman, to begin preparations for an all-out fund-raising effort on Suozzi's behalf.
Fensterman confirmed he was gearing up to help Suozzi but said Schumer wasn't involved.
Meanwhile, Suozzi -- who has told friends he's likely to announce his candidacy early next year -- has hired Christopher Hahn, Schumer's former Long Island regional director, as his new chief deputy.
Schumer is old-school in every way. He is unbelievably proud that he was able to lure anti-choice Bob Casey into the Senate race in Pennsylvania, and he told us on a conference call that every campaign manager, communications director, and finance director for Senate campaigns has to be approved by him and the DSCC. A party strategist tells me that a great fundraising idea would be to put press hound Sheila Jackson Lee in a room with Chuck Schumer and one TV camera and ask people to pay to watch them fight over it. But he backs it up - Schumer has raised huge amounts of money for the DSCC, erasing the party committee's $4 million debt entirely.
Schumer also doesn't take well to rivals, and Eliot Spitzer is a clear rival in every way. The Post continues:
A prominent Democratic political operative said Schumer's support for Suozzi was "rooted in a personal rivalry over who is going to be the first Jewish president, over who is a more significant political figure from New York, in Chuck's perception that he was insulted by Spitzer, and in what could be called class rivalry."
He said Schumer was furious when Spitzer announced his campaign for governor while Schumer was still weighing entering the race.
Party insiders also said Schumer, who has strong ties to many leading Wall Street bankers, has also objected to some of Spitzer's aggressive prosecution of investment-banking firms and insurance-industry executives.
Party insiders, meanwhile, contended that Schumer, who has recently emerged as one of the most important Democrats in the Senate, harbors presidential ambitions and feels that Spitzer, who has achieved national recognition for his investigations, could overshadow him and emerge as a competitor -- much as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton already has.
And they said Schumer, 55, of a middle-class Brooklyn background, doesn't like what one called the "rich brat" Spitzer, 46, who came from a super-rich Manhattan family and attended private schools.
The class issue is a hugely interesting subtext here, as is Spitzer echoing FDR as a 'traitor to his class'. Spitzer is widely hated among business managers for what he did on Wall Street, and right-wingers (who have also given to Schumer, as Scott notes in the comments) will in turn provide $30 million or more to Tom Suozzi. Spitzer is a rock star with an amazing presence, but he isn't a political mind. Suozzi by contrast is a very good candidate who has governed Nassau County quite well - Suozzi also has great political abilities. Don't just take my word for it, though - Schumer doesn't back losers.
I'm frankly not surprised by Schumer's behavior in backing Suozzi, even though the campaign is going to be about the right-wing sliming fellow Democrat Spitzer. He has a history of knocking at fellow Democrats, and this will clearly tarnish Spitzer and take the sheen off the guy. Schumer was after all just in New Jersey interviewing candidates for the DSCC, and tried to show that he and not Corzine is in command by leaking the meetings to the AP. Schumer is widely known to create intraparty tensions over what he perceives as fundraising lapses and poor spending priorities. For you blog triumphalists out there, it's clear Schumer ain't such a fan of the internet - his Senate web page still questions Yasser Arafat's judgment. And he's immensely hawkish on the war, refusing to meet with Cindy Sheehan and continuing to say that he "thinks this war is good for America." I don't actually think Schumer really cares one way or the other, as he believes that all politics is local and it's just easier to be patriotic than not on TV.
At any rate, get ready for a vicious primary in New York State. I hope Spitzer is prepared and not as overconfident as I fear he might be.