his Election Day, conservatives and libertarians should focus on four specific campaigns. The free-market movement needs the right men to win these key races:
Sacking New York’s Republican governor George Pataki should be the Right’s top priority, given his potential for high-level sabotage of its principles. Independent entrepreneur Tom Golisano should send Pataki packing.
Pataki cut taxes modestly early on, but his spine softened severely in his second term. Craving reelection, Gelatinous George pushed in January for $1.8 billion and $200 million, respectively, in taxpayer-funded pay raises for hospital workers and teachers. Their Left-wing unions then endorsed him.
Manhattan Institute scholar E. J. McMahon reports that the 15 percent real growth in state-level spending through Pataki’s first seven years nearly doubles the 8 percent growth rate during liberal Democrat Mario Cuomo’s final eight years. Since 2000, Pataki has boosted state cigarette taxes from 56 cents-per-pack to $1.50 and allowed cities to impose a new 30-cent-per-month cell-phone tax.
Pataki’s greener-than-Greenpeace plan to dredge the Hudson for PCBs will stir up chemicals buried in upstate riverbeds since 1976. Too bad local fish and wildlife can’t vote. They will suffer as Pataki drags these toxins to the surface to impress environmentalists. He even has put the brakes on the Millennium Pipeline that would bring natural gas to clean-burning power plants in Westchester County. Pataki wound up to the left of New York’s Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both of whom support the project.
Pataki also has turned Albany into Jakarta on the Hudson. Its equatorial atmosphere of cronyism delivers public favors to private donors. For instance, in July 2000, U.S. District Judge Frederick Block declared Pataki’s current Parole Board chairman, Brion Travis, an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme that sprung armed robber John Kim from prison after his father steered $7,000 into Pataki’s 1994 campaign. (Kim stun-gunned a shop owner and terrorized an eight-year-old girl at gunpoint in her home.) Three Parole Board officials and a Pataki fundraiser pleaded guilty or were convicted in this scandal.
In my informal, non-scientific discussions with GOP and free-market activists here, Pataki’s support looks an avenue wide and a subway-token deep. Many seem unenthused and are itching for a reason not to vote for him. The terminally-liberal New York Times’s embrace of Pataki on October 27 didn’t help. Appalled, one conservative former aide to Rudy Giuliani says Pataki “certainly must have lost his way to win this endorsement.”
“During the last eight years, we have seen the state’s per-capita debt increase to the highest level in the U.S.,” says Hudson Institute president Herbert London. “This is the legacy of Pataki’s stewardship.” London, a well-respected New York conservative activist, ran for state comptroller on Pataki’s 1994 GOP ticket. London endorsed Golisano in a radio ad recorded October 28.
For his part, Golisano has surged past Democrat Carl McCall in some polls with a reform agenda featuring property tax cuts, spending controls, term limits and access to medical marijuana for sick people. Surveys show Golisano waxing as Pataki wanes.
Pataki’s defeat would achieve two objectives: First, prevent him from running for president as New York’s thrice-elected governor or Dick Cheney’s replacement on the 2004 ticket should he step aside for health reasons. Second, invertebrate Republican politicians must learn that building socialism is a recipe for retirement. “The Fall of Gelatinous George” would be a powerful cautionary tale.
Will California elect freedom-minded Republican Bill Simon, or will America’s most populous state retain a profligate Democrat with ethical woes? While Simon’s campaign has suffered its stumbles, his agenda is encouraging. He proposes to renegotiate long-term energy contracts that Governor Gray Davis approved during California’s 2000 electricity crisis. Simon plans to revive the economy through an overall tax freeze, capital gains tax cuts and urban empowerment zones. Meanwhile, France has outstripped California as Earth’s fifth largest economy. To regain its position, Simon urges voters to send Davis there.
Davis could use a Left Bank hiatus. He has turned an $8 billion surplus into a $23.6 billion deficit in just four years. He also has been tainted by numerous cash-for-goodies swaps, such as a $55,000 donation from Tosco that arrived in February 2000, shortly before state regulators permitted its oil refinery to quadruple its dioxin discharges into San Francisco Bay.
Bill Simon is the right man to burnish the tarnished Golden State back to a glowing sheen.
New Jersey Republican Doug Forrester deserves to win for running for Senate on missile defense and permanent Bush tax cuts while opposing former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a free-spending dove who voted seven times to spare terrorists the death penalty. More important, Forrester’s victory would curb the corner-cutting culture that the Clintons bequeathed to American politics. Lautenberg’s last-minute appearance on the ballot after scandal-plagued Democrat Robert Toricelli fled the race wagged a wizened middle finger at the Constitution, provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and state election statutes. This is intolerable. A vote for Doug Forrester is a vote to restore respect for basic institutions, among them: the law, living by the rules and obeying deadlines.
Mark Sanford’s triumph as South Carolina’s new GOP governor would be a welcome antidote to his 2001 departure from Congress. After keeping his promise to limit himself to three terms, Sanford left Capitol Hill to accolades.
“He was our number-one-rated guy in Congress,” says Sean Rushton, media director at Citizens Against Government Waste. He departed the House with a 96 percent CAGW lifetime rating. The National Taxpayers Union gave Sanford “six straight, solid years of As — from 1995 through 2001,” says spokesman Pete Sepp. “That’s his whole career in Congress.” Sepp adds: “In 1998, Sanford scored the highest in the entire House of Representatives.”
Handsome, funny, relaxed, and lauded across the political spectrum for his integrity, Sanford makes 180-proof libertarianism taste like mint juleps. He currently is serving up a plan to eliminate the state income tax over 18 years, front-loaded in the first five. Sanford also was an early and energetic advocate of Social Security choice. Columbia’s governor’s office would be a superb platform from which this promising visionary can spread free-market solutions across the Palmetto State… and beyond.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.