Monday, November 02, 2009

Local Elections IV: The Athens Case

ATHENS’s elections this year are distinctive in GreeneLand on account of a formidable challenge to a sitting county legislator, a tight contest over who shall succeed a retiring Town Supervisor, and a four-candidate, two-slates race to fill two Council seats. Among episodes and aspects::

----- *Press for Pfister. The Daily Mail’s editorial writer opined that the non-incumbent candidate for county legislator, offers to Athenians a desirable “new direction.” The paper’s endorsement went to Chris Pfister, 62, a retired technology professional and former Village Trustee (2002-09; deputy mayor during 2007-09) standing as the Democratic and Independence party nominee, over incumbent Ray Brooks, 69, a retired prison corrections officer and a prominent Mason, standing on the Republican and Conservative lines for election to a third term.

----- *Press for Lubera. Coinciding with its endorsement of the Democratic candidate for county legislator came a Daily Mail endorsement of the Republican candidate for county supervisor. Here the contestants, aiming to succeed incumbent supervisor Al Salvino (Democrat) are John Lubera, who has spent eight years as Town Councilor (including two as Deputy Supervisor) and Lee Palmateer, who is an attorney with an engineering background, a veteran school board trustee, and the bearer of a locally resonant family name. Both candidates, the editorial writer opined, “are impressive and would make an excellent supervisor.” Although they are “evenly matched” Mr Lubera's greater depth of experience puts him ahead.. (In addition, the author mysteriously anticipates that “If elected, Palmateer plans to take the unorthodox measure of developing the village.”)

- *Pro-Brooks mailer. Included in a campaign tract mailed to Athenians was a picture of Greene County Judge Daniel Lalor, presented in a way that suggested an endorsement. Judge Lalor responded with a letter to the Press, saying that the deed was done without his permission, and that if permission had been asked it would have been refused.Also contained in the mailer was language characterizing Mr Pfister, in effect, as a neophyte on matters of substantive policy. That line offered a counter of sorts to Democrats who kept harping on the multiple, time-consuming services rendered by Mr Pfister (and his wife Carol) to the community.

---- *Anti-Brooks Lines. Exemplifying the Democrats’ preferred lines of attack against Mr Brooks was a letter in The Daily Mail, accusing the legislator of excessive partisanship and of inattention to home town matters. According to Athens resident John McInerney, Mr Brooks habitually sticks uncritically to his Republican colleagues. (That accusation indirectly belittles passages that Mr Brooks included in his campaign statement to The Daily Mail, deploring “partisanship and divisive actions…. I will not participate n that activity,” and “I have the courage to equally represent all people with unparalleled energy and dedication.”

Mr McInerney also voiced the claim that Mr Brooks has never attended a session of the Town Council or the Village Board. This factual claim works rhetorically, in context, as an accusation. It draws accusatory force from two implied, unsupported, claims: (i) a functional claim, that attendance at those local council meetings is vital for solid legislative performance, and (ii) a comparative claim, that most other county legislators do, more or less frequently, attend local sessions.

*Deerslayer charge. In a letter to the The Daily Mail, Republican County Chairman Brent Bogardus dealt with the Pfister candidacy by way of a recollection that some Democratic leaders have made legal moves “trying to take your vote away from you.” “Why,” he asks, “would anyone do that?” Well, “ he answers, “if you had candidates like Chris Pfister in Athens, who allegedly beat a fawn to death in his backyard with a hammer and then had the Village crew come clean up his handy work [sic],... you wouldn’t want anyone running against them either.” That bit of Bogardistry offers a memorable example not just of delivering a less-than-conclusive indictment, but also of rhetorically confounding what somebody allegedly said about what happened with what actually happened. (In Athens, BTW, deer hammerings hardly ever happen--and the Pfister case was not an exception).

*Cop-Outs. All Athenian candidates for office in Tuesday’s election were invited to a candidates’ forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The Democratic candidates attended. The Republican candidatesdid not attend. None of them gave to organizer Fawn Potash an advance notice of unavailability. None sent a post-forum apology or explanation.

Moreover, all Athenian candidates for Town Council, like Town Council candidates elsewhere in GreeneLand, were invited to fill in questionnaires and to supply candidate statements to The Daily Mail, for inclusion in its Election 2009 guide. Two of the four candidates accepted the invitation. They are Phyllis Dinkelacker (Democratic and Independence parties), and April Paluch (Republican/Conservative).

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