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Editorials of The Times

Posted November 5, 2018 10:20 p.m. EST

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Elections on Tuesday will be the most sharply contested and consequential midterms in years. New York and Connecticut will also select governors and other state officials.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in New York and from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in New Jersey.

Here are the races in which the Times Editorial Board made endorsements.

— New York Governor: Andrew Cuomo

When focused, Gov. Andrew Cuomo can be a nearly unstoppable force for progress. After two terms in office, his list of accomplishments is substantial — stricter gun safety regulations, a statewide pre-K program, a higher minimum wage and paid family leave.

Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Marcus Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and a former state assemblyman, has presented himself as a moderate, and his substantive, largely positive campaign is refreshing. His legislative record, however, presents few signs of the centrist politics he has recently espoused.

Cuomo is better positioned to lead this diverse, dynamic state.

— New York Attorney General: Letitia James

James, a Democrat, has a lengthy record of defending New Yorkers from special interests, as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, as chief of the state attorney general’s Brooklyn office and as a City Council member, before her election as New York City’s public advocate in 2013.

In her primary campaign, James presented herself as part of Cuomo’s team and accepted his fundraising, acts that raised doubts about her independence. But she has promised to push for a law that would allow her to pursue prosecutions without first getting approval from the governor, which would be an important tool to fight Albany’s rampant corruption. She has also wisely said she would ask the highly experienced and capable Barbara Underwood, now acting attorney general, to stay with the office.

The U.S. House of Representatives

— New York’s 19th District, the Hudson Valley and the Catskills: Antonio Delgado

Delgado, a lawyer and Rhodes scholar, made health care the central theme of his campaign to unseat Rep. John Faso, a Republican. He backs a public option to allow people under age 65 to opt into Medicare, and legislation to lower premiums and deductibles. His opponent has largely supported the Trump agenda, including voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Just as troubling, Faso benefited from race-baiting attack ads against Delgado, funded by the Republican congressional leadership, highlighting Delgado’s brief career as a rapper.

— New York’s 2nd District, Long Island: Liuba Grechen Shirley

Grechen Shirley, a Democratic activist challenging a longtime Republican incumbent, Rep. Peter King, is among the wave of women inspired to run by the election of President Donald Trump. She previously helped galvanize Democrats and women in the district by starting an organization to oppose the Republicans’ attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A mother of two young children, she persuaded the Federal Election Commission to let her spend campaign funds on child care, making her the first woman to do so. King has stirred anti-immigrant sentiment. Asked about the separation of children from parents at the border, he told one news outlet, “Americans care more about Americans.”

— New York’s 1st District, Long Island: Perry Gershon

Gershon, a Democrat, supports Medicare for All and has backed the Affordable Care Act, which the Republican incumbent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, voted to gut. Gershon, who favors sensible restrictions on immigration as part of comprehensive reforms, has backed protection for Dreamers without other stipulations, unlike Zeldin. Zeldin, who has enthusiastically backed Trump, kicked off his re-election campaign at an event with Sebastian Gorka, a far-right former Trump aide who has worn a pin from a Hungarian group founded by Nazis. That group has claimed Gorka as a member, although he denies it. Zeldin has also had a fundraiser with Steve Bannon, another former Trump aide, who has been connected with some of the most extreme right-wing groups in Europe and the United States.

— New York’s 22nd District, central New York: Anthony Brindisi

Brindisi, a Democratic state assemblyman hoping to oust Rep. Claudia Tenney, a Republican, is refreshingly earnest and moderate. He supports abortion rights but voted against Cuomo’s gun-control legislation. But he also supports expanded background checks and other gun safety legislation. Tenney has wrapped herself in Trump-style politics. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting this year, she said that “so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats.”

— New Jersey’s 7th District, northwestern New Jersey: Tom Malinowski

Malinowski, a former Washington director for Human Rights Watch and assistant secretary of state for President Barack Obama, is running against the incumbent Republican, Leonard Lance. For decades, in and out of government, Malinowski has fought against torture and lobbied for protections for women, LGBTQ people and vulnerable minorities around the world.

Lance is no right-wing ideologue. He sponsored legislation to prevent Trump from firing the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and Gabby Giffords’ organization endorsed his re-election in August, citing his reasonable stances on gun safety. The Times endorsed his candidacy the first time he sought this seat, in 2008. Since then, though, he has been more conservative than we expected, fighting the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration, though ultimately opposing its repeal under Trump. He has also voted for Trump-backed legislation to harm labor protections, consumer rights, pollution controls and abortion rights.

— New Jersey’s 11th District, the northern suburbs: Mikie Sherrill

Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, is the Democrat vying for the seat against state Assemblyman Jay Webber, a Republican endorsed by Trump who has opposed state funding for Planned Parenthood. Sherrill has said her top priorities would be passing legislation to create universal background checks for gun purchases and drumming up support for the Gateway project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River to New York. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, one of several House Republicans who chose to retire this year, represented the district for 24 years. Sherrill offers a centrist campaign that should appeal to voters who elected Frelinghuysen every two years for more than two decades.

New York State Senate

— 5th District, north central Long Island: James Gaughran

Gaughran, the Democratic candidate, promises a fight against the corruption that has made itself at home in Albany. He supports banning outside income for legislators, closing the loophole that lets campaign money get funneled through secretive limited liability companies and prohibiting the personal use of campaign funds. He also wants to make it easier to vote in New York, starting with early voting, easier party registration and letting people cast absentee ballots for any reason they choose. Gaughran supports stronger gun safety measures, and unlike his Republican opponent, Sen. Carl Marcellino, he would write the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law, guarding against the likelihood that the Supreme Court will gut federal abortion rights. Marcellino has held this seat since 1995, and his better efforts, mostly for the environment, were long ago.

— 8th District, south central Long Island: John Brooks

Brooks, the Democratic incumbent, is an unusual politician. His colleagues in Albany have learned to respect his thoughtfulness on issues and the way he carefully studies up before speaking out — welcome traits in a politician. His concern about how the Trump tax bill will hit his constituents has made him press for more state education aid, with a goal of finding a better way than property taxes to fund schools. His Republican opponent, Jeffrey Pravato, mayor of the village of Massapequa Park, has shown less interest in understanding the issues than in divisive attacks on New York City, which he says wants to move public housing to Long Island and take Nassau County’s water, both ridiculous claims.

— 22nd District, southern Brooklyn: Andrew Gounardes

State Sen. Martin Golden, a Republican former police officer, is a classic, affable politician. But voters should not let such good cheer distract from some of his questionable actions in recent years. He has resisted, until recently, efforts to increase the number of cameras to enforce the speed limit in school zones despite his constituents’ demands for them. His own record on the road provides a possible explanation for this lack of interest: His car has been given 38 tickets in five years. His Democratic opponent, Gounardes, is an Eagle Scout and community activist who has been general counsel to Borough President Eric Adams. Gounardes says that along with more speed cameras, he would press for public financing of campaigns to create fairer elections as well as early voting to increase turnout — policy changes that Golden and his Republican colleagues have kept in limbo. Gounardes would help end the obstruction to reform in Albany and would provide fresh energy in a stultified Senate.

New York City Ballot Proposals

— No. 1, Campaign Finance Limits: Yes

The contribution limit for citywide candidates in the city’s campaign finance system would be lowered to $2,000 from $5,100. Matching funds would increase under the proposal, to an 8-to-1 match from a 6-to-1 match now. Its goal is to boost the effect of smaller donations, to pave the way for more competition in the city’s elections.

— No. 2, Create a Civic Engagement Commission: No

Some measures proposed for this panel controlled by the mayor, particularly on budgeting, could tread on the authority of the City Council. In a city with ample mayoral influence already, it is best that the powers afforded to the council be carefully guarded.

— No. 3, Community Board Term Limits: No

This could weaken community boards by stripping them of their most seasoned members.

——End Yemen’s Agony

Though much remains clouded in the murder of Saudi journalist-in-exile Jamal Khashoggi, this much is clear: Saudi Arabia’s rulers are ruthless and not to be trusted or believed. It is now time to recognize those realities in the kingdom’s unspeakably cruel war in Yemen. The Trump administration has been prodded into demanding a cease-fire, but that seems only to have provoked new fighting. The United States, Britain and other enablers of the Saudi campaign can and must demand an immediate halt to the carnage.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, revealed his true face in his lies about how Khashoggi met his end, though it was his thugs who strangled and dismembered the loyalist-turned-critic in their Istanbul consulate.

Hard on the furor over that murder, The Times published heart-rending reporting and photography by Declan Walsh and Tyler Hicks from the killing fields of Yemen, a war that Crown Prince Mohammed has waged with murderous bombing raids using weapons largely provided by the United States. The wide eyes of a starving little girl became the face of a tribal and sectarian struggle that has rendered the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country into a humanitarian nightmare. Shortly after her picture was taken, 7-year-old Amal Hussain died, just as innumerable other Yemeni children have died and continue to die.

Trump administration officials finally seem to have understood the horror and pointlessness of the war, in which the United States is deeply entangled by the ordnance, targeting and refueling it provides the Saudi-led coalition. Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged all sides to stop the killing and to set a 30-day deadline for starting talksto cooperate with United Nations-facilitated peace negotiations. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement calling on the Houthi rebels to stop firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi-led coalition to stop bombing populated areas.

Both demands are long overdue, and they should have been made by President Donald Trump along with a concrete warning that the United States will pull the plug on the military assistance if the Saudis persist in their irresponsible and indiscriminate bombing.

Minus a concrete threat, the Saudis seem to have taken the calls as a signal to make what gains they can now. The Saudi coalition pummeled the airport in Sanaa, the capital, and began an offensive against the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida, a vital gateway for food and supplies. But the Houthis, who control Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, held, and the Saudi objective of defeating the rebels has come no closer.

That has been pretty much the situation since the civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis seized control of much of the country and forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who remains the internationally recognized leader, to flee. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and seven other Sunni Arab states, saw the Houthis as a proxy of Shiite Iran and initiated a military campaign to restore the government, with logistical and intelligence support from the United States, Britain and France.

The campaign, however, has turned into a cruel war of attrition. Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia has tried to strangle the Houthis into submission through punishing bombing raids, blockades, withheld salaries and other punitive measures, driving Yemen toward collapse and a famine of catastrophic proportions. At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, and nearly half the population of 28 million faces starvation.

As the civilian casualties have escalated, Saudi Arabia has blithely denied responsibility, or, on a few rare occasions, has said it would investigate. In one of the worst attacks, Saudi-led forces dropped an American-sold bomb onto a school bus, killing at least 51 people, 40 of them children. In an interview with “Axios on HBO” that aired Sunday, Trump called the attack a “horror show,” which he attributed to Saudi coalition forces not knowing how to use the weapon correctly.

Yet all along, Trump seems to be more worried about protecting the lucrative arms deals and maintaining his cozy relationship with the crown prince than curbing the prince’s excesses and lies. But as Pompeo and Mattis have recognized, a continuing blood bath in Yemen serves neither U.S. nor Saudi interests; on the contrary, the United States, according to Amnesty International, stands “at risk of making itself an accessory to war crimes.”

The secretaries have taken a first step. The next must be to demand an immediate halt to the bombing, combined with the start of negotiations and a large-scale, global relief effort led by the United States. And if the prince hesitates, pull the plug on the arms.

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