Sunday, August 26, 2012

Andrei Cherney for US Congressional District 9

Introduction

Let me start by saying that I cannot relate to those who vote early by mail.  I'm fine with getting a mail-in ballot, looking at it, doing your homework, then on election day turning it in.  I can't relate to people who feel the need to mail in their ballot early. Ok, maybe if the election is easy and there is a clear difference between the candidates. For example, if the ballot had Paul Penzone running against Joe Arpaio and nobody else? I would fill in that ballot and drop it in the mail months early.

But voting is hard and serious business.  Wait until the last possible minute, read as much as you have time to read, discuss, ponder, change your mind, then when you are finally forced to make a decision,  vote.  Make it count.

Even at this late hour, the Saturday night before the primary election on Tuesday, I'm only leaning toward Andrei Cherney.  I reserve the right to change my mind.   What follows are the reasons I'm inclined to vote for Andrei Cherney if I was forced to vote today.

First of all, all three candidates are incredibly solid.   I've watched now three debates involving the candidates.  To tell you the truth, ideologically, all three are pretty similar, so ferreting out the differences is pretty challenging. 

Kyrsten Sinema

Kyrsten graduated from BYU at 18.  She later received a Masters degree in social work and a law degree, both from ASU. In other words, she is incredibly smart and ambitious.

Based on whatever I can get access to from the internet, her main contributions in the state legislature came in the form of opposition to other bills.  She was a leader in opposition to two bills to ban gay marriage in Arizona, the first failed, the second passed.  And, she was a leader in opposing Russell Pearce in strident anti-immigration bills.  She has sponsored many bills, but very few ever came to a vote. Cherney has given her some heat here, but I given the strong legislative majority the Republican party has enjoyed here, I cut her some slack.

She has gotten a lot of press for her immigration stances, from the NY Times:
In the Arizona Legislature, an elective body of astounding dimness, one of the few bright lights was Kyrsten Sinema, who as a state senator gave a blistering critique of S.B. 1070, the state’s radical, Arpaio-inspired immigration law. (She sponsored several bills to rein in the abuses of Sheriff Arpaio and his ally Mr. Thomas, the county attorney, though her colleagues didn’t go along.) Ms. Sinema, who is a lawyer and on the faculty of the Arizona State University School of Social Work, debated the law for hours with its sponsor, Russell Pearce, ruthlessly exposing its many legal flaws. The law was later eviscerated by the United States Supreme Court, too. Arizona voters eventually recalled Mr. Pearce. Today, Ms. Sinema is running for Congress.
Here is an impressive display as she eviserates the SB1070 law that made Arizona so, well, infamous.  I really wish I had access to this during the heat of the debate.

David Schapira

David Schapira is running for Congress making two fundamental points:   1) That he is the only one of the three candidates with thorough, authentic ties to this community and 2) That he is the only candidate that will make education a priority at the national level.

This really is at the heart of who he is.  He was born in this district and has basically lived here all of his life.  His degree is in political science at George Washington University, but on his return, he has flung himself into politics, volunteering locally while teaching high school at his alma mater.  As soon as he was old enough, he ran for state house and won.  He seems to be most impressive when he's running.  He's everywhere, he has a massive staff of volunteers and deep local connections. He's picked up key endorsements from Tempe, most notably Harry Mitchell and The Arizona Republic.

He also has strong experience on the education issue, working as a teacher for a short time, but serving on education committees in the legislature and serving on the Tempe High School school board.

I've watched three debates now and of the three, he is the most articulate and charismatic. All three are really good, I say Schapira shines in his ability to express himself with energy and charisma.

Beyond all of this, though, I find him the least accomplished of the three.  Accomplished sure, but what specifically has he done?  His internet presence is shallow.  I don't see any significant legislative accomplishments on his resume.  He talks a lot about how he wants to improve education, but I have never heard him share specifics.  I do have an e-mail out to a volunteer on his staff asking for more information, I'll update this blog when I hear back.

I started this campaign leaning Schapira based purely on superficial reasons - he's been my representative for years now, almost my entire time living in Tempe.  But to be honest, I only really hear from him when he's running for office.  Granted, I've had a hard time keeping track of our state legislature other than when something controversial crops up.  But based on the amount of internet research I've been able to muster, he's impressive, but falls short of the other two.

Andrei Cherney 

I think all three candidates have impressive backgrounds, but Andrei's is particularly unique, from wikipedia:
Cherny was born in Los Angeles, California on August 4, 1975. His parents were Czechoslovakian immigrants that spoke little English. His parents struggled to provide for him and his brother and sometimes received assistance. Cherny utilized Pell Grants and worked three jobs to get through college[3].
Cherny graduated with honors from Harvard College. As writer for The Harvard Crimson, he wrote political pieces highlighting Clinton's reelection campaign[4]. The White House communications director noticed his column and circulated it until it finally reached President Clinton's desk. President Clinton used several of Cherny's lines in his 1997 inaugural address and hired the twenty-two-year-old Cherny ten days later[5]. He later received his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).
Those two paragraphs are pretty unbelievable.  He worked three jobs to get through college at... Harvard and later Berkely School of Law.  At age 22, he became the youngest presidential speech writer in US history.  At age 25, he wrote The Next Deal: The Future Of Public Life In The Information Age.   Eight years later, he published, The Candy Bombers.

Here is a short essay that echoes his thoughts on his first book, a book I anxiously want to now read.
The New Covenant addresses provided a break with a liberalism that had become out of date and out of touch. Contemporary Democrats bear both the benefit and the burden of the twenty years that has since passed. Today, in large part because of the eight years of the Clinton presidency, there are fewer litmus tests for politicians; there is less ground that is off limits for discussion. By speaking forcefully and unapologetically about issues such as crime at a time that the discussion was seen by many as a code word for racism, Clinton made it possible for Barack Obama to run for the White House and barely mention the issue. The reform agenda advocated by Education Secretary Arne Duncan might well have led to a civil war among Democrats had Clinton not laid the groundwork for such a debate.
Here's an an interesting interview with him here.  And here's a discussion between him and David Frum.

Since then, he has run unsuccessfully for State Treasurer but has led the Democratic party in the state, getting Democratic mayors in Phoenix and Tucson and helping to recall Russell Pearce.

His main weakness is that he has never really been successful running a campaign.  Running twice, losing both.  Of the three, he has a tendency to go negative and tends to make unfair or irrelevant attacks on his opponents.  Much of what I've heard from him say seems boilerplate to me.  Perhaps he is more insightful in his writing than on the campaign.

Summary

I think in this race, you have to look at the position they are running for.  I think Schapira has the best chance of winning in a general election.  He portrays a pretty moderate and pragmatic message, but he tends to stay shallow.  This does work well in a campaign since most people are looking for personality over substance. Once elected, I'm worried not much will get done.

Sinema has a more impressive record of getting things done.  She's done the hard work of getting elected.  And she's been substantive once getting there, making a name for herself locally and nationally.  Her weakness is that she has had a history of taken pretty extreme positions, which may hurt her in the general election: opposing the Afghanistan invasion most notably when there was almost unanimous support for the invasion.  She has moderated since then, but I'm not sure whether independents will cut her some slack on this.

Cherney has not really won an election, but he has deep and significant experience in Washington DC. He is a deep thinker and has worked out issues relevant at the national level.  I think this puts him ahead of both Sinema and Schapira.

This is a fantastic race.  I think we have three good choices.  At this moment, my support is with Andrei Cherney.


2 comments:

Brad Kincaid said...

Scott, I appreciate your thorough analysis of the candidates in CD9. I agree that we have three great choices, and I agree with most of your conclusions regarding their strengths and weaknesses. However, I have come to a different conclusion. I am supporting David Schapira for CD9.

As I have become older, I have become more pragmatic. For me, electability in the general is very important. While we may have an excellent opportunity in CD9, I could see us blowing this opportunity. This is especially the case with two of the candidates based on your own assessments of them.

I also value a candidate with a strong connection to the community that he/she serves. We both agree that David wins on this count. I believe he is someone who would listen to my opinions on issues that I know something about like the environment and education. This will be even more important in the general election when it is possible that that our opponent will have a very compelling life story that would be hard for anybody but a hometown person to overcome.

And like you, I have strong opinions about education reform especially with respect to elementary and science education. You mention that David has not been too specific about his education policy. What he has been clear about is that the goal of education reform must be to make sure that all children have access to quality educational opportunities. My reading of his position is that he will take a pragmatic approach to reform because there is no single solution that will solve the problem.

Anyway, thanks for putting your thoughts out there for all of us to ponder.

tempe turley said...

Brad,

You make good points. I did get a pretty detailed response from someone on Schapira's side. I think what you're saying is correct here.

It's a really, really tough decision. I really want to avoid just voting for the person who has the best shot of winning, and go with the one I like the best. But I guess I'm not as pragmatic as I should be :-).