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Primary Preview: Carvin vs. Russell for GOP’s 17th C.D. Nod

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Primary Preview 2012In the June 26 Republican primary for New York’s 17th Congressional District, Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin faces Hawthorne resident Jim Russell for the right to take on Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) in November. The newly configured district will include Rockland County and parts of Westchester.

Economic Issues Front and Center for Carvin’s Candidacy in 17th CD

Rye Supervisor Joe Carvin
Rye Supervisor Joe Carvin

The supervisor of the Town of Rye since 2008 and a hedge fund manager with Altima Partners, Carvin has made financial issues the main focus of his campaign.

“If you’re looking for a congressman focused on anything other than the economy, he may not be your guy,” Carvin’s campaign bio on his website states.

A Republican willing to break with the party’s orthodoxy, Carvin said the country’s spending is unsustainable.

“There’s absolutely no way the U.S. federal government can make good on the promises it’s made in terms of Medicare,” Carvin, 57, said. “There’s no way. You will bankrupt the United States.”

But while saying the government’s deficit is 80 percent a spending problem, he won’t reject the prospect of increasing tax revenues if it’s done by closing loopholes. Asked if he’d sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Carvin responded, “No way,” but added that he is opposed to upping rates. He pointed to the Simpson-Bowles proposal for deficit reduction as a good starting point.

“I think Republicans have done themselves a big disservice, they’ve done themselves a big disservice in saying no new revenues,” Carvin said. “I don’t care if the 1 percent pay more, but do it by taking away the loopholes.”

Russell has called Carvin a “liberal millionaire” and blasted him for voting for President Obama in the 2008 presidential election. It’s not the first time Carvin’s prior support for Obama, which he now says was a “mistake,” has been brought to question his conservative credentials. Before deciding to run for Congress, Carvin had sought the GOP’s nomination to take on U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and was criticized for his Obama vote. Carvin ended up withdrawing his bid and challenging Lowey instead.

Carvin said he voted for Obama expecting him to be non-partisan and has been “enormously disappointed.” Carvin knocked the president for not fully embracing the Simpson-Bowles plan, which would have raised tax revenues and cut entitlements, and said the stimulus should have focused more on infrastructure improvements. He also criticized the Affordable Care Act, saying it “took a system that was broken and made it worse.” Improving the nation’s health care system, he argued, required tort reform and incentives to make customers more cost-conscious.

In a position at odds with Republican leaders, Carvin criticized the Dodd-Frank statute regulating Wall Street not for going too far but because it “really hasn’t solved the problems.”

“I would consider going back to [the] Glass-Steagall [Act],” he said, referring to a law limiting the activity of commercial banks. The law was repealed in 1999, and some have said its elimination helped lead to the rise of too-big-to-fail banks.

“You have to separate out the casino trading activity from the commercial banking activity,” Carvin said.

On Afghanistan, Carvin said the U.S. should stick with the timetable set for leaving the country. He believes every effort should be made to avoid military action in Iran.

A moderate on social issues, Carvin is pro-choice but in favor of parental notification and against late-term abortion and federal funding for abortions, although he wasn’t sure where he would fall on funding for Planned Parenthood. Carvin said he opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions. He’s downplayed the significance of the federal government on these issues, saying they should be decided on the state level.

Though Carvin’s background and expertise is in finance, his life hasn’t been spent in a Wall Street office. Carvin has lived in Senegal, where he was a project manager for the United States Agency for International Development, and Brazil and speaks five languages. He also worked for Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Deutsche Bank before setting up Altima Partners. Before being elected supervisor, he ran for Rye Town Board in 2005 and lost. He also sought the position of Port Chester village manager unsuccessfully.

In Rye, a town with three villages and no unincorporated territory, Carvin cut spending from $4.1 million to $3.3 million in his first year in office.

“I would argue I have the best track record of success, when it comes to fiscal responsibility, of any public official in New York,” Carvin said. “Now, I had the advantage of working with a small municipal budget.”

A graduate of Port Chester High School, Carvin is married with two young daughters and an adult son. Carvin has the endorsements of the Rockland and Westchester Republican committees.

Two Years After Essay Controversy, Russell Returns for Another Shot

Candidate Jim Russell
Candidate Jim Russell

Jim Russell, a Hawthorne resident and a case manager for the New York State Insurance Fund in White Plains, is running for Congress for the sixth time.

Last time Russell ran, in 2010, he had already become the Republican nominee when a 2001 essay he wrote surfaced in which he warns of the dangers of racial integration. Republican Party leaders withdrew their support of him, and he ended up losing to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) with 38 percent of the vote.

As he again tries to unseat Lowey, this time without support from the Republican leadership, primary opponent Joe Carvin has said his “white-separatist, anti-Semitic views disqualify him as a legitimate actor.” Westchester GOP Chairman Doug Colety has called Russell a racist.

In the 2001 essay (called “The Western Contribution to World History”) for The Occidental Quarterly, a publication the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations have called racist, Russell writes that parents have a responsibility, “as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.”

Russell has stood by his essay and said certain quotes have been taken out of context.

“I said, ‘One wonders what the effect of forcible racial integration is and was,” Russell explained, saying his goal was to counter the media’s narrative.

Calling Carvin’s campaign tactics desperate and deceptive, he added, “Last time I received over 70,000 votes. I’ve never had a voter raise that issue to me. The legitimacy of the candidate comes from how many votes they receive in the election.”

Russell’s essay can be read in its entirety in The Occidental Quarterly’s online archives.

Despite the firestorm, Russell said he believes he’d be a strong representative of the middle class.

“I think I probably understand the current stress that we live under better than a millionaire hedge fund manager does,” he said, referring to Carvin. “I’m really in the mix of what’s happening economically and health care wise, and I see and I experience on a daily basis problems that need to be rectified and that I can correct.”

Though Russell believes cuts must be made to the federal budget, he warned against cutting back on the safety net. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) plan to rein in Medicare costs, he said, was “a bit too restrictive.”

Russell said he would raise revenue and help the economy by giving companies incentives to keep jobs in the U.S. and by imposing tariffs on foreign imports.

“We need to develop a strong national economy. This ever-increasing globalization is not helping our economy,” he said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be affected, as much as we are now, by let’s say a riot in Greece, economic downturn in Spain.”

Russell, who founded Westchester-Rockland Citizens for Immigration Control, has consistently made illegal immigration one of his key issues. He supports Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s anti-illegal immigrant law, and said illegal immigrants drive up the cost of medical care and endanger hospitals.

Russell has been an outspoken critic of the county’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding affordable housing. If elected, he said, he would look to change the law to force HUD to withdraw its demands.

Like Carvin, Russell is far from hawkish. He opposed the war in Iraq and believes troops should be pulled from Afghanistan on President Obama’s timetable, “if not sooner.” Intervention in Iran, he said, shouldn’t be considered “unless somehow the United States feels threatened by an imminent attack itself.” When pointing to areas in the budget that could be cut, Russell cited foreign aid.

Similar to Carvin, Russell is pro-choice but for parental notification and against federal funds being used for abortions. He’s against gay marriage and civil unions and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

In his controversial essay, Russell suggests that exposure to different racial and cultural groups– and movies about interracial relationships like “Save the Last Dance”–can have dangerous long-term effects on young women.

“It has been demonstrated that finches raised by foster parents of a different species of finch will later exhibit a lifelong sexual attraction toward the alien species,” he writes. “One wonders how a child’s sexual imprinting mechanism is affected by forcible racial integration and near continual exposure to media stimuli promoting interracial contact.”

He also cites a quote in which T.S. Eliot says “reasons of race and culture combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.” Russell said he only included this statement because it was part of a longer quote and he wanted to reference what was said before and after it.

“I in no way intended to advocate that particular quote,” he insisted.

Russell, 56, worked at AT&T for 21 years as a computer programmer. He is married with three children.

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