WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
So far this campaign season, it has been the battle for governor that has dominated the news. But come November, voters will also be picking the State Comptroller, the chief financial officer who also oversees the state's $129 billion public employee pension fund. It's shaping up to be a slug fest between a Wall Street turnaround specialist and a veteran politician.
The current Comptroller is Democrat Tom DiNapoli, a long-time member of the Assembly who was appointed in 2007 after his predecessor, Alan Hevesi, was convicted of improperly using state personnel. His Republican challenger is Harry Wilson, a 38 year-old former hedge fund manager who helped the Obama administration turn around General Motors.
Wilson's campaign is predicated on the idea that the pension funds needs a financial manager, not a politician like DiNapoli. "I spent much of my career restructuring broken companies. I think that is exactly the skill set Albany needs," Wilson said, after receiving Mayor Michael Bloomberg's endorsement. "Last year I led the restructuring of General Motors and I want to bring to New York State exactly what i did for General Motors. You need a full blown restructuring that ends the downward spiral and allows the company, in this case the state, to grow and prosper again."
DiNapoli's tenure has coincided with an ongoing state criminal probe into how firms have been historically selected by the Comptroller's office to invest state pension funds. There already have been convictions in the case. DiNapoli has responded with reforms and increased transparency.
DiNapoli has also criticized excessive state spending and warned that public sector layoffs can do real damage to New York's economy."When anybody loses their job, including public workers, that has an overall impact economic impact on a community," DiNapoli has said. "And depending on how dependent your community is on the public sector, and some parts of New York State are very dependent on the public sector, it could have a very real impact."
DiNapoli is trying to discredit Wilson by emphasizing his ties to Wall Street. Meanwhile, Wilson is trying to use DiNapoli's government resume against him.
Wilson has loaned his campaign more than $2 million, giving him with $2.7 million to DiNapoli's $1.8 million on hand. A recent Quinnipiac poll gave DiNapoli a healthy double digit lead, but late-breaking developments on the long-running criminal pension probe could be a real game changer.