Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Special Election

----Contestants for the special election contest to succeed Kirsten Gillibrand as U.S. Representative from the 20th Congressional District, which includes Greene County,have been selected. The Republican nominee is James Tedisco of Schenectady, leader of his party's minority bloc in the State Assembly. The Democratic nominee is Scott Murphy of Glens Falls, a venture capitalist. ----(Eric Sundwall of Kinderhook, who is chairman of the Libertarian Party, has voiced an intention to stand as an independent candidate. To get on the ballot he will need to submit, to the State Commission of Elections, petitions containing signatures of 3500 eligible voters). -----The major party candidates were selected by the chieftains of party committees in the ten counties, or portions of counties, that compose the District. On the Republican side the main contenders, in addition to Mr Tedisco, were Elizabeth Little, State Senator from the northern end of the district, and John Faso, former State Assemblyman and former G.O.P. candidate for governor and for comptroller of New York. On the Democratic side, Mr Murphy emerged from an initial field of more than 30 prospects,from whom the ten selectors chose a short list of six contenders, two of whom withdrew from consideration just before the interviewing phase. The finalists in addition to Mr Murphy were Tim Gordon, the State Assemblyman whose district includes the northern part of Greene County (an independent who caucuses with the Democratic bloc); Ronald Kim, Saratoga City Councilman; and Carol Schrager of Hunter,an attorney. -----Mr Tedisco launched his career in politics in 1977, with election to the Schenectady City Council. In 1982 came his first of many elections to the heavily Republican 110th Assembly District. In November 2005 his fellow Republicans picked him as leader of their conference in the Assembly. Before entering politics, and after graduating from Union College, he was a high school basketball coach. -----On his newly established campaign web site ( > ( Mr Tedisco emphasises "fighting for real property tax relief, fiscal responsibility and more jobs." (He also commits the literary sin of Dangling Construction: "Serving as your voice in the House of Representatives,you can count on me to keep fighting the good fight..."). In the estimation of political scientist Alan Chartock, Mr Tedisco characteristically copes with the problem of being out-gunned in the Assembly by the disciplined Democratic majority by adopting a "fire and brimstone" approach to advocacy. (Best compilation of material on Mr Tedisco is contained in the Wikipedia biography, with links). -----A Round Top resident, Chuck Kaiser, opined in a recent letter to newspapers thatAmerica is currently embroiled not only in a war against "a radical group of militants" who would slay all non-believers but also in a domestic "battle for the soul of the nation." The latter is a "culture war" wherein sound "traditional ideologies" are being "assaulted" by "liberal socialistic ideology." Fortunately, "In the rising tide of socialistic ideologies stands one bulwark," one "God-fearing man who is sound in principle, strong in character and powerful in leadership." "His name is Jim Tedisco." ----Mr Murphy, 38, is a newcomer to elective politics (as was Kirsten Gillibrand just three years ago)but not to election campaign work. According to his campaign web site after graduating from Harvard College, Mr Murphy worked in his native Missouri as staff aide to two governors, then worked for Bankers Trust on Wall Street, started up two dot-com firms, and in 2001 joined Advantage Capital Partners. -----As affirmed on its web site,that venture capital firm uses "a dual bottom line" to measure success: "excellent investor returns" plus "significant community impact." It raises private funds "to invest in states and communities that are underserved by traditional sources of risk capital. [It] built a...record of public-private partnerships with state and federal economic development organizations, facilitating the flow of billions of dollars of investment capital into these communities. [It]provides equity and debt capital, along with value-added counsel and other support, to operating businesses...." "The 20th Congressional Discist," says Mr Murphy, "needs innovative leadership that will bring smart economic development and good jobs to our communities. That's what I've done in the private sector, and that's what I'll do in Congress." The by-election is bound to be closely fought. Mr Tedisco starts the race with greater name recognition. He also stands to gain from a big edge in Republican Party registrations in the district. He may benefit as well from the prospect that party stars--Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin--will jump at the chance to play visible roles in what could turn out to be a first sign of Republican resurgence. Favoring the Democratic candidate, on the other hand, is recent electoral history. The majority of 20th District voters, just two months ago, supported the Democratic nominees for Congress and for President. On this occasion, in the current climate of economic anxiety, the voters may be drawn to Mr Murphy's record as a job-creating enterpriser. -----One more factor could shape the election's outcome. It has to do with tangible favors. Delivering the goods. Supporting constituents' pet projects. Bringing home the bacon. It is seldom mentioned in campaign rhetoric,apart from vague "has done a lot for the district" remarks. -----To express the matter in brutally direct terms, rival candidates for elective office differ in prospective abilities to win government grant, subsidies and other material favors for their constituents. The crucial difference between candidates stems not from their skills, their diligence or their principles, but from their alliances. Of supreme value in this matter is affiliation with the majority party (in the legislature and, ideally, in the Administration as well). For many years, accordingly, the incumbent Republican Congressman was positioned to do more for the 20th Congressional District,in the way of material favors, than his successive Democratic challengers. In November 2006, and more completely in November 2008, that situation was reversed.

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