Those words are echoed by Ed Walsh, chairman of the Suffolk County Conservative Party and vice chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, himself a Levy supporter. “I haven’t heard enough policy issues from Rick,” says Walsh. “That’s half my problem. I’m waiting for more meat and we’re not hearing enough from him.”
Of course, what Levy has said and done about illegal immigrants ultimately might not matter to Republicans or Conservatives if he doesn’t get nominated at the June 1 Republican convention at the New York Sheraton. He needs 50 percent of the delegates’ votes plus one to get onto the primary ballot. Recently, Levy claimed he’d reached 40 percent. Lazio only needs 25 percent.
“Levy still has an uphill battle,” says Frank MacKay, the chairman of the Independence Party of Suffolk County, New York State and the national Independence Party of America. His party has the third line on the November ballot, coveted by Levy and Lazio (and Andrew Cuomo, too, no doubt). MacKay won’t divulge his preference, but he does say, “Never count Steve Levy out of any race.” As for their stance on immigration, MacKay says, “We as a party don’t take a position on social issues.”
The Bigger Fight Ahead
“The Lucero case will have a greater impact on the Tim Bishop race than it ever would on Steve Levy,” says John Jay LaValle, about the upcoming contest in New York’s First Congressional District. This race pits the incumbent Democrat against Christopher Cox, the son of the New York State Republican Party chairman, Edward Cox, and the grandson of President Richard Nixon. “The bottom line is that illegal immigration is destroying our communities and our quality of life. It’s breaking our health care system and driving up the cost of education. It will remain an issue until the federal government does something about it.”
“Chris believes that our unsecured borders represent a significant vulnerability to our national security and should be immediately secured,” says Michael Levoff, the Cox campaign’s communications director. “Immigration should be done in accordance with our laws.”
No stranger to the immigration issue, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) has opposed efforts to grant undocumented immigrants New York State licenses and supported measures to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“Most Suffolk County residents realize we have an unacceptable status quo when it comes to illegal immigration,” says Bishop. “I will continue to be focused on finding solutions, not playing politics.”
But he’s not done enough to satisfy the likes of LaValle, who faults the Democrats in Long Island’s Congressional delegation. “They’re the ones who have failed to enforce the federal laws,” LaValle says. “They’ve allowed these immigrants to infiltrate our communities and destroy our quality of life.”
Those are fighting words to Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York State Democratic Party.
“Republicans historically run their campaigns on two themes: anger and fear,” Jacobs tells the Press. “They try to scare voters, and they try to make them angry about something. I think the job of the Democratic Party is to do the right thing in terms of where the country is and where it ought to be, and let the chips fall where they may. Immigration reform is necessary. And I think we all understand on both sides of the aisle that there are about 12 million undocumented workers in our country, and we’re not about to throw them out. It would create huge turmoil in our economy and our social structure. That’s not going to happen so let’s face facts.”
To Jacobs, the facts are that these immigrants must be assimilated legally and appropriately and, he says, “have them pay some sort of penalty, either financial or through community service, to rectify the fact that they got here illegally. And we have to move forward. But to vilify these people is just not a productive or positive way for our country to conduct itself. It never has been, and it never will be. And the people who do it understand far less about what it means to be an American than those they are condemning.”
And so the battle lines are drawn.