Sean Eldridge earned his Politico hit piece

Politico may have played rough with an uncooperative candidate, but based on his campaign he deserves it

Topics: Politico, 2014 elections, Sean Eldridge, Money, The New Republic, chris hughes, Congress, New York, ,

Sean Eldridge earned his Politico hit pieceSean Eldridge (Credit: Wikimedia/Mzorick)

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt has a new story on Sean Eldridge, a Democratic congressional candidate from (well, “from”) New York’s 19th District. The story is actually a meta-story, about how Eldridge refused to speak with Politico. The piece paints him as something of a rich flake, “testing the limits of dollars and cents to secure a seat in the House of Representatives,” with help from his husband, uber-wealthy Facebook co-founder (and New Republic publisher and editor in chief) Chris Hughes. Politico even made a little video about how Isenstadt was forced, poor thing, to write a write-around, as if writing a story about a non-cooperative subject wasn’t a terribly common occurrence for many journalists. The entire thing comes off as a threat: cooperate with Politico or we’ll slam the hell out of you in our national news outlet.

So yes, it is easy to trash Politico for writing a transparent hit piece on a candidate whose crime was not speaking to Politico. But you know what? Sean Eldridge deserves it. He’s a man with no reason to be in Congress beyond being rich enough to throw money around a district — a district that was his second choice after his first one didn’t pan out. He represents every self-regarding super-rich would-be do-gooder who parachutes into a community with no understanding of the lives of its residents and expects them to recognize his inherent suitability for high office.

There are lots of reasons, good and bad, for someone to run for office. You could have experienced or witnessed or studied injustice, and you wish to go to Washington to fix it or fight those responsible. You could come from a family with a tradition of public service. You could consider yourself, because of your skills or background, uniquely qualified to manage a city or state or country effectively. You could simply want to improve people’s lives, or it could just be that you are sure you’d do a better job in office than the incumbent. Voters will accept just about any of those reasons, depending on the candidate. A message that doesn’t tend to resonate with people is “vote for me because I’m quite rich and I have always wanted to be in Congress.” From everything I’ve ever read on the man, that seems to be Sean Eldridge’s pitch.

Sean Eldridge wants to be in Congress. He wants to be in Congress so badly that he doesn’t actually seem to care that much about which district he will represent in Congress. Eldridge and Hughes bought a $5 million home in New York’s 18th District in 2010, with the intention of running for Congress from there. Unfortunately for Eldridge, Sean Patrick Maloney — another rich man, but one with a bare minimum of prior government service — had also bought a house in the district with the intention of running. (The sitting member at the time was a one-term Tea Partyer out of step with the district, making it an attractive option for a carpetbagger.) Maloney ran, and won.

So in 2013, Eldridge and Hughes bought a $2 million home (in cash) in New York’s neighboring 19th District. As Jason Linkins pointed out at the time, each of Eldridge’s home purchases was accompanied by a New York Times article emphasizing the fineness of the homes. On both occasions, Eldridge or a spokesman referred to the new homes as where the couple planned “to put down roots.”

A running theme in Eldridge campaign stories is how he inspires little in the residents of his district(s) but a sort of puzzlement as to his intent. From the Times, last year:

Justin Riccobono, who is the director of a hops farm in the district, was somewhat perplexed after meeting Mr. Eldridge at a gathering of local leaders working to establish a beer trail featuring area craft breweries.

During the gathering, Mr. Eldridge, polished and enthusiastic, spoke of his commitment to helping the region. Mr. Riccobono, a local Republican official who supports Mr. Gibson, was impressed with Mr. Eldridge, who talked with him about financial help he could provide hops farms like the one he runs. It was only later that Mr. Riccobono learned of the young man’s political aspirations.

“He seemed pretty friendly,” Mr. Riccobono recalled. “Then I found out he was running against Congressman Gibson and I thought that this was all a little bit of a staged situation.”

Another problem Eldridge may run into is that he’s part of a class of people that lifelong upstate New Yorkers hate. As the Times put it: “Mr. Eldridge and Mr. Hughes are part of the flock of New York City residents who have bought second homes in the Hudson Valley in recent years, then involved themselves in local politics.” Mr. Eldridge, that is, is campaigning to represent the place in which he summers.

Here’s how a local liberal talk radio host — a person who should be naturally sympathetic to a Democrat seeking to unseat a Republican — put it to Politico:

[Alan] Chartock came away without any real sense of the candidate.

Eldridge sounded like “what a young person thinks a politician should sound like,” the radio host said in an interview. “He’s right on all the issues, but what I think people are looking for is a person. He’s extremely bright, has all the assets that you need to run. But it’s cookie cutter.”

If you can’t articulate a compelling reason to vote for you to a professional liberal, and you’re unwilling to answer questions from other political reporters, you deserve to be called out as a completely vacuous candidate.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...