With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.
The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers.
During the debate Weiner took what would be considered a somewhat conservative approach to education by promising to take on local teachers’ unions in order to reward top performing teachers. Weiner blasted high-stakes testing originating in Albany but did not join his fellow Democratic candidates in criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s focus on the expansion of charter schools. Many of these education stances have support from middle-class parents who are increasingly overwhelmed by struggling schools and admissions processes that rival that of most Ivy League universities. Recently, the city’s parents have become obsessed by two scandals involving testing for students wishing to enter the coveted gifted and talented program. Access to quality and affordable education is an important issue to parents and students across the country, but for those in New York City, it is one fraught with an incredible amount of confusion, anxiety and cost.
If Weiner had come off during the debate as well-informed and passionate about the issue, it could have been a game changing debate for his young and highly mocked campaign. However, according to the New York Times roundup of the debate, Weiner came off incredibly flippant and ill-informed on a crucial issue to a constituency his campaign has hinged its success on. Late in the debate, the candidates were all asked about an influential founder of a charter-school network in the city and whether she received special treatment from city hall, as her detractors allege, and Weiner didn’t seem to have any idea who she was. There are few issues more important to middle-class voters in New York City right now than education. Weiner’s disregard for voters and their concerns doesn’t bode well for his chances.