With the backdrop of allegations of voter nullification, on June 30, 2017, Tarik Abdelazim announced that he was the City of Binghamton Democratic candidate for Mayor. For many residents of Binghamton, who are travelling ahead of the July 4th national celebration, the news of a Democrat candidate in the race – as well as who was selected – will come as a surprise. Considering that Google Trends reveals a total of 370 searches for his name in the past year, 100 of which in the past week, the surprise is likely to be vast.
Over the past decade we have been able to interview and speak with (publicly and privately) most candidates and elected officials throughout the Southern Tier region of New York and beyond. Due to these efforts we are able to present a snapshot of candidates over time, their positions in the past and ask if they apply in the present, to provide the public more than a 30-second soundbite introduction to a candidate. Mr. Abdelazim is an example of such a case, where we have covered events and issues that he spoke about in his failed 2012 bid for Broome County Executive (37% Abdelazim to 63% Preston). This is especially important as his 2012 election website, www.believeinbroome.com, has ceased to exist denying voters the opportunity to compare his past campaign promises and views with those yet to be announced in this race.
Perhaps the most immediate question in the public mind is how did Tarik Abdelazim become the Democrat choice in this election? Prior to June 30th, Democrats had nothing more than a “placeholder” in the form of Broome County Chairman Tim Grippen. While many political insiders were aware of the potential of Mr. Abdelazim being named as the candidate (being one of 2 unnamed potentials cited by WBNG, and named by Republican Chairman Bijoy Datta in the same article, on June 10th), there was zero public confirmation. This lead to the allegations of voter nullification within the Democrat Party, as Chairman Grippen clearly implied that rank and file input on the choice would be limited at best,
“As County Chairman, I am inserting my name on the Mayoral petition to reserve our party’s right to name a candidate in the coming weeks. To be clear, I have no interest and no intention to serve as the party’s candidate.”
While the behind closed doors operations of the Broome County Democrat Party are unknown, it is clear that the radical wing of the Party, Citizen Action, had strong influence on the outcome. Mr. Abdelazim has had a long-term association with the organization, and it was a key supporter of his 2012 loss in the Broome County Executive race.
What is known are the words of Mr. Abdelazim in regard to the importance of open and transparent involvement of voters in the election process. As stated in his public comments September 2012, Mr. Abdelazim clearly stated his position:
“I want to thank you [Americans for Restoring the Constitution] for promoting civic and respectful dialogue…” – Tarik Abdelazim opening statement at Vestal Candidate Forum, September 17, 2012, Vestal NY
“It is very important for a vital democracy that we have informed and engaged citizens.” Tarik Abdelazim at Vestal Candidate Forum, September 17, 2012, Vestal NY
Mr. Abdelazim did state in his announcement to run for Mayor that he will not use the “placeholder” petitions gathered to date. But there was no comment on the lack of transparency or denial of interaction that the “placeholder” tactic has created,
“They did the right thing to protect the city Democrats’ right to have a candidate, but things are resolved and I’m committed to get signatures and support with my name on that petition even though this is going to be a tremendous feat.” Mr. Abdelazim on June 30, 2017
Moving beyond the question of how and when Tarik Abdelazim became the Democrat candidate, there are other issues that he has publicly championed that many may not be aware of today. The following will be some of the major issues and statements that he has made. It is up to the public to ask if these issues and statements need to be addressed and clarified for the 2017 Mayoral race.
Like Citizen Action, Mr. Abdelazim is apparently an advocate of redistribution of wealth. In comments on sales tax, he stated,
” I believe that we can take at least $1 million, up to $2 million, of our sales tax – off the County share – and then figure out a fair redistribution formula to create a fund called ‘Accelerate our Prosperity’.” – September 2012
Exactly how this fund would operate was not detailed. What issues and/or types of businesses would be promoted by the suggested taxpayer subsidy was also not clearly disclosed though an undefined help to farmers, small business in general, and energy efficiency improvement was suggested. Perhaps most importantly, who would oversee and redistrubute these funds was never disclosed.
Another set of political issues that is murky is where Mr. Abdelazim stands on business and healthcare. In comments at the Vestal Candidate Forum, Mr. Abdelazim stated that he felt the Government, with emphasis on the Federal level, was all controlled by corporate greed – a view echoed by Citizen Action. But this view was not just limited to Fracking, but also encompassed healthcare – which included Obamacare. A year prior to the launch of Obamacare, passed by the Supermajority of Democrats, Mr. Abdelazim clearly included this in his condemnation of his belief in corporate control of Government,
“That’s why I don’t have confidence in Washington. It is a, no offence to my colleagues over here [at the Forum], it is a cesspool of corruption. It’s Republicans and Democrats alike. I’m not somebody that is blind to that. It’s that they are bought and sold by corporate masters. Our energy bill is written by Mobile and Exxon. Our farm Bill is written by Monsanto and Cargill. Right. Our health Bill is written by insurance companies and drug companies.” – September 17, 2012
It is unclear how, then and now, this unsubstantiated belief in corruption of government by business can effect growth of business under a potential Abdelazim Administration. Would he deny opportunities for the City of Binghamton if large corporations took interest in the region? Would he reject the offer of jobs for the community based on the belief held by Citizen Action and himself that corporations are inherently bad?
Further, is Mr. Abdelazim in opposition of the American Care Act (also called ACA or Obamacare), which Democrats nationally are in support of? Does his position in 2012 indicate that he supports, then and now, the repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare? Will he clarify this for the public and Democrats that did not get a chance to question him during the petition process?
Yet another position that Mr. Abdelazim spoke about in the past that voters may want to get clarity on is his position on blight. A significant issue in the 2013 Mayoral race, the Ryan Administration left with over 300 properties considered vacant and over 100 needing demolition. Yet, Mr. Abdelazim proudly noted at the Vestal Candidate Forum,
“For my efforts in the City, for 2 years, in a row, best in State from NY Conference of Mayors. An award of Excellence in Administration Maintenance, our strategies are now being implemented in Utica and other Upstate cities. That’s leadership.”
Is an award the same as demolition of blighted properties beyond repair? Are accolades from like-minded government administrators a goal above and beyond public safety and homeowner property values? How exactly would he address blight? It was not clearly stated in 2012, and as the issue remains well after his tenure as Deputy Mayor and Director of Planning, Housing, and Community Development, what lesson – if any – has he learned to better address this public concern?
More recently, in August 2015, Mr. Abdelazim took to the Press & Sun newspaper to advocate for economic growth for the City of Binghamton. The article is old, and a very direct attack on Mayor David, but also proposed a means of improving Downtown Binghamton via “outdoor yoga sessions, jazz events on Sunday, and interactive events during First Friday,” none of which existed then or since. But this is consistent with the ideals set forth in the Ryan Administration, that Mr. Abdelazim served in, such as the $3.3 million taxpayer funded Downtown Roundabout. Voters may want to see if this too has been a learning experience for Mr. Abdelazim, or if he continues the push – preferred by Citizen Action – of beautification as an engine of economic growth.
While this is not the comprehensive snapshot of Tarik Abdelazim, it is his record. Often, especially when time has passed out of the public eye, politicians and candidates seek to avoid or forget past political promises and platforms. But it is critical for the public to be able to access, review, and question any candidate on what they said and what they have done.
**M V Consulting, Inc does NOT advocate any candidate or incumbent in any local, State, or national election. We seek to provide the broadest coverage and information on each candidate and incumbent so that voters may make an informed decision on how they want to vote – whatever that vote may be.**