Monday, November 13, 2006

The Redness of Greene

While Jeanine Pirro was being swamped by Andrew Cuomo in the contest for Attorney General of New York State, swamped by a margin of 17 percentage points, she was swamping Mr Cuomo, by 12 points, in the County of Greene. Among contestants for State-wide office—Governor and Senator on down—Ms Pirro was, in GreeneLand, the champion vote-getter. The case illustrates the scale of Republican proclivities in voting from the top to the bottom of the ballot. Thus, Democrat Eliot Spitzer beat Republican John Faso in the gubernatorial race by 40 percentage points; in GreeneLand he also beat Mr Faso--by one point. Democrat Alan Hevesi won his bid for re-election as Comptroller by a small margin in New York State; he lost to Republican challenger Chris Callaghan in GreeneLand by about 5 points. As for the U.S. Senate race, Hillary Clinton won overwhelmingly (67%-31%) State-wide; she also won in Greene County, but by a relatively small margin (about 7 percentage points). THE CONGRESSIONAL RACE Similarly, while Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand scored one of the nation’s most startling victories in a Congressional race, toppling Republican Representative John Sweeney in the 20th District, she lost to him in GreeneLand. District-wide, she garnered 115,017 votes (53%) to Mr Sweeney's 101,989. In GreeneLand, she received 7220 votes (47.8%) to Mr Sweeney's 7895. (In Columbia County, meanwhile, she out-polled Mr Sweeney by a 7-to-5 margin and carried every municipality).

ASSEMBLY RACES Equally demonstrative of the Republican red-ness of GreeneLand are the results of the races for State Assembly seats. Two districts contain parts of Greene County, so that voters in different sections were confronted by different choices. And in neither case was the incumbent a candidate for re-election. In the District 108 race, with Pat Casale retiring, the majority of GreeneLander votes went to his would-be Republican successor, Martin Reid, over the Independence Party candidate, Timothy Gordon, by 1672 votes to 1368. But Mr Gordon, who was backed by the Democrats, beat Mr Reid in the district as a whole, by a margin of 24,766 to 21,426. His victory margin would have been even bigger if the third candidate who appeared on the ballot, Keith Hammond, had been allowed to withdraw from the race as he requested. He endorsed Gordon. In District 127, from which Assemblyman Dan Hooker chose to retire, eligible GreeneLand voters supported his would-be Republican successor, Peter Lopez, over the Democratic nominee, Scott Trees, by 6357 votes to 4341, or about 59.5 per cent. This outcome magnified the scale of the Republican’s margin in the district: 21,106 to 17,604, or about 55 per cent.

DEFECTIONS While those results show the scale of Republican proclivities in GreeneLand, relative to the State as a whole and even to neighboring counties, they also indicate that on November 7th, many GreeneLand voters who are registered as Republicans did not care for their party’s nominees. In terms of party registration, Republicans in GreeneLand out-number Democrats by a margin of almost two to one; and voters who are not registered with any party out-number registered Democrats. On the basis of those figures, it appears that the Democratic candidates scored well in GreeneLand.

LOCAL RACES By late evening last Tuesday it seemed likely that the party-political complexion of the Greene County legislature was destined to change a bit, with the ranks of Democrats doubling, to four seats out of 14. But the results in several races were too close to call, prior to the counting of provisional and absentee ballots. (That process started today and will likely take all week). In District 8, with two seats to fill, Republican incumbent Michael Camadine came in a distant third (with 812 votes on the regular ballot) behind non-incumbent Democrat Harry Lennon (1252 votes) and incumbent Republican Bill Lawrence (1218 votes). Elsewhere, at least three results that occurred in regular voting could be reversed after the counting of paper ballots. Arithmetically subject to post-Election Day change are contests for county legislature seats in Districts 1 (Catskill), 4 (Greenville) and 9 (Durham). In Catskill, still to be determined is whether Forest Cotten will hold onto his current 81-vote lead over Gary Kistinger. At present, Mr Cotten ranks fourth in total District 1 votes and thus would be entitled to occupy one of Catskill’s four seats in the legislature. Mr Kistinger, the new boy on the Republican Party line (incumbent Republicans Keith Valentine, Dorothy Prest and Karen Deyo were definitely re-elected). But 212 absentee ballots in District 1 remain to be counted, along with provisionals ballots. (Those are votes by people who turned up at a polling place, were told they were not enrolled, swore they were eligible, and filled out paper ballots whose inclusion in the final tally hinges on confirmation of their eligibility claims). Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Les Armstrong’s 7-vote victory on Election Day (358 votes, vs. 351 for Democrat Sean Frey, with Jim Karkheck and Mark Darling getting 241 and 59) will be sustained after the paper ballots are counted. There are about 85. Similarly, in Greenville (District 4) incumbent Ken Dudley’s current 36-vote lead over Democratic challenger Jim Mulligan could be reversed by results of Monday’s tally of the 70-80 paper ballots.

DIRTY TRICK? Mr Dudley’s grip on the District 4 seat could prove to be shaky, or abbreviated, for another reason. The Dudley camp distributed a mailer containing what appeared to be a facsimile of the actual ballot. It was an exact duplicate of the real thing, except for one thing: at the place where the actual ballot showed Mr Mulligan as a candidate, the pseudo-duplicate was blank. Questions about the legality of this dirty trick have been referred to the State Elections Board, which in turn can refer the matter to prosecutors and judges.

SHUFFLE AND SCUFFLE? LEGISLATIVE POWER Among inside dopesters, special significance may be ascribed to the fact that among candidates for the four Catskill seats in the county legislature, the top vote-getter was Mr Valentine. His support (2051 votes on Election Day), surpassed those of his longer-serving Republican colleagues, Ms Prest (1984 votes) and Ms Deyo (1753 votes). This could make Mr Valentine eligible for consideration for promotion to Majority Leader (Ms Prest at present) or even Chairman of the legislature. The presumptive candidate for the latter job, however, still is Bill Lawrence. He makes a strong claim on the basis of rapport with colleagues and length of service. CATSKILL GOVERNANCE. If Mr Cotten’s election to the county legislature is confirmed by the counting of paper ballots, he will likely resign from the Village of Catskill’s Board of Trustees. That would leave a vacancy.. Who would be his replacement? That question builds on an assumption that could be wrong, namely, that there will be a replacement. The other trustees, or a majority of them, may decide that they can get along just fine as a foursome. COXSACKIE GOVERNANCE. In Coxsackie, Village Trustee Thomas Hobart (Republican) beat Erin Kennedy-Smith (Democrat) for election to a Town council seat, by 1180 votes to 902. This result could be awkward for Town Supervisor Alex Betke, who had openly and earnestly endorsed Ms Kennedy-Smith.

NEW YORK’S BIGGEST SURPRISE Spectacular as it was, the victory of Kirsten Gillibrand in the 20th Congressional District was eclipsed, in terms of surprises, by John Hall’s upset win over Republican incumbent Sue Kelly, in the 19th District (Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Rockland and Westchester counties, or parts thereof). That win, over a respected and politically moderate incumbent, served to underscore the point that Republicans are not secure in metropolitan suburbs and upper-income enclaves. Farther to the north, in lower-income and more rural districts, incumbent Republicans were seriously challenged but two of them survived. Mr Hall benefited from strong turnout by Democrats and independents, and from substantial cross-over votes by Republicans. Throughout the State, the incidence of Republican support for Democratic candidates in this election seems to have been strongest in relatively affluent districts.

OF PRESIDENTIAL PROSPECTS The visit here of Gen. Wesley Clark, in support of Ms Gillibrand’s Congressional campaign, was accompanied by whispers to the effect that he is the man who will be Senator Clinton’s first choice for running mate “when” she makes a run for the Presidency in 2008. Other locals who observed him in action voiced to Seeing Greene the opinion that the vice-presidency would not be good enough for General Clark.

THAT WOMAN Although Senator Clinton carried GreeneLand by a comfortable majority of votes, she evidently is still regarded by some locals with special animosity. That attitude was signaled by the abnormally high rate of vandalism aimed at pro-Clinton campaign signs. Some day, perhaps, we will learn what events, or what passages from what books or speeches, show that Hillary is a diabolical force.

GILLIBRAND’S NEW CHALLENGE Having achieved a stunning victory, can Representative-elect Gillibrand hold on? It will be a daunting task. Working to her disadvantage in 2008 as compared with 2006 will be at least two forces: the presence of a well-credentialed, ethically untainted post-Sweeney opponent, who is determined, along with the captains of his party, to retrieve what they regard as (thanks to history and gerrymandering) as Republican property; and the absence, from the top of the Republican ticket, of George W. Bush. On the other hand, Ms Gillibrand begins her Congressional career with substantially more than the average freshman’s assets. As TimesUnionist Tim O’Brien points out (11/9), she is more than superficially connected to both Clintons, to House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, and to her powerful neighbor and mentor, Rep. Mike McNulty. Those allies will try to help her to get good committee assignments (she has asked for Energy and Commerce) and to get approval for projects that bring tangible benefits to her district. To that end, last week’s elections brought particularly hefty gains in strength for New York State members of Congress, thanks to growth in the size of the members who belong to the majority party and to increments of power through seniority. And Ms Gillibrand will have one more thing in her favor: for the first time in 12 years, Democratic candidates for office in New York State will occupy row A on the ballot; Republicans will be relegated to Row B.

SUCCESS STORY A magazine was launched recently in Clifton Park. It is called Success. Its current edition salutes, by way of pictures and a six-page article, a putatively successful figure from the world of politics rather than of business. Promotional copies were mailed to every address within 25 miles of home base. They landed in mail boxes on Wednesday, November 8th. The cover story is devoted to John Sweeney.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There will be a benefit breakfast at the Catskill Fire Company on 11-19 for Sean McCullough. Sean served in Desert Storm in the Marines, and worked for the Catskill Police Dept. and the Sherriffs Dept before he was diagnosed with a 12mm brain tumor which has put him on medical leave.

Please stop and show your support at this all you can eat breakfast for a great citizen of this community.