Who Is Joe Pinion?

He could be the candidate to topple Senator Schumer.

Bobwalks1025 via Wikimedia Commons
Joe Pinion, 2022 file photo. Bobwalks1025 via Wikimedia Commons

Who is Joe Pinion?

When a colleague called with that question last week, I was stumped. It turns out that he is the Republican Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022 in New York, running against the Senate majority leader, Charles Schumer. 

The Schumer-Pinion race is a study in contrasts, and not only when it comes to name recognition. Mr. Schumer’s campaign has raised a lot more money: Federal Election Commission data through June 30, 2022, show that Mr. Schumer had raised $39 million to Mr. Pinion’s $254,397, and that Mr. Schumer had $37.9 million in cash on hand, while Mr. Pinion had $25,150. 

Mr. Schumer, 71, was elected to Congress in 1980 and to the New York State assembly in 1974; Mr. Pinion just turned 39 and has not yet been elected to political office.

Mr. Pinion himself says in a phone interview that people thought he was “crazy” to try to beat Mr. Schumer. He says, though, that he’s in a “great position” to take on the majority leader. Two polls taken in late July show Mr. Schumer with support at 53 percent or 56 percent, down from the 70 percent of the vote Mr. Schumer won when he was re-elected in 2016. A McLaughlin poll taken in August found 42 percent of New Yorkers would re-elect Mr. Schumer, while 48 percent want someone else.

A lot of campaign money can get raised in the last eight weeks of a campaign, Mr. Pinion says. In the meantime, he’s planning a grassroots effort based on 1,000 volunteers. He’s expecting endorsements soon from law enforcement unions concerned about Democratic Party support for what Mr. Pinion calls the “three most dangerous words” in English — “defund the police.” 

Mr. Pinion warms up when he steers our conversation toward the numbers that actually reflect reality for New Yorkers — what he describes as an untold story of pain and suffering. Sixty percent of children are not proficient in school. The city of Rochester, New York, has a per capita murder rate that is higher than Chicago’s. Syracuse, New York, has the highest child poverty rate in the nation among cities with populations of more than 100,000. Inflation is hurting seniors living on fixed incomes. Grandmothers died alone in nursing homes as a result of decisions made by Governor Cuomo.

The things that really matter to New York voters, Mr. Pinion says, are crime, children who can’t read, the cost of gas, the cost of a rotisserie chicken, heating bills. 

When he spoke about poverty, Mr. Pinion, who played tailback in football for Colgate University, reminded me of another talkative New York football player turned Republican politician, Jack Kemp.

“We’re here to finish the unfinished legacy of Dr. King,” said Mr. Pinion, who is Black. He advocates “school choice for every single child” and says public housing is the “largest slumlord in America.” It’s part of a pattern he sees of government agencies not being held accountable for their failures.

There is a history of members of the congressional leadership being defeated in surprises. Eric Cantor, who was the House majority leader, lost a Republican congressional primary in Virginia in 2014. Tom Foley, a Democrat who was speaker of the House, lost his seat in 1994. Joe Crowley, who was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a 2018 primary in New York. 

Even heavily Democratic states can sometimes elect Republican senators, especially in elections that don’t match up with presidential campaign cycles. Republican Scott Brown won a Senate special election in Massachusetts in 2010 to a seat that had been opened by the death of Edward Kennedy. 

Mr. Schumer, Mr. Pinion says, has spent 42 years in Washington and 24 years in the Senate. He’s been “too wrong for too long.”

Mr. Pinion is running to the pro-Israel side of Mr. Schumer, faulting the majority leader for the “shameful” fact that the movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel is “fueled by members of his own delegation,” while New York experiences an “astronomical spike in antisemitism.”

He challenges Mr. Schumer to a series of debates on policy issues such as poverty, the economy, and climate. So far, nothing has been scheduled. Mr. Pinion, who had his own show on Newsmax TV, might be surprisingly strong in a televised faceoff with Mr. Schumer.

In the end, though, a re-election is a referendum on the incumbent. New Yorker voters have a history of firing the occupants of the seat currently occupied by Mr. Schumer. Senator Jacob Javits lost in 1980 to Alfonse D’Amato, who was unseated in 1998 by Mr. Schumer.

As for the dangers of being a status quo candidate in a change election — well, there is another former senator from New York, one who served for a while alongside Mr. Schumer, who might have some cautionary experience to share. Hillary Clinton could tell Majority Leader Schumer a thing or two about how high name recognition, a long Washington resumé, and lots of campaign cash are no guarantee of electoral success against a Republican candidate with no prior electoral experience who used to have his own TV show.

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use