Our Magic Eight Ball says: Outlook Bleak!
As much as it pains me to say, we forecast that the Republicans will maintain their stranglehold on county and city politics for the next few election cycles. We say pains us not because they are Republicans but because one party control of a county/region is never good when it lasts too long.
Albany is a perfect example of the problems inherent in one party control. That's not to say that Albany is poorly run, for the most part, it is not. This is not about efficiency, it is about corruption (corruption with a small 'c'). The New York State Assembly is corrupt, the Senate is corrupt, Rensselaer County and Albany County are corrupt.
We do not mean corruption in a legal sense but as a word to describe the arrogance and incestuous attitude that develops with one party rule. The party in power begins to take shortcuts, forgets to dot the 'I's' and cross the 'T's'. It gets easier to do things in a sloppy way because hell, "if we wanted to we could have done it right to begin with."
Some examples: Michael Boxley. That case is still disturbing in so many ways. The early release of Mrs. Anslow, who remains unrepentant to this day, by Republican appointees. The selection of the new head of SPAC. SPAC is truly a regional gem and one would think that a nationwide search for a director would be appropriate. But lo and behold, the perfect person for the job happens to be in Bruno's office. What a coincidence!
Unfortunately for the Democrats of Troy, the best example of arrogance was when the City Council overturned term limits.
Term limits are undemocratic and unamerican. If someone wants to vote for Pattison or Tutunjian three times, four times....they should be allowed to do so. Term limits were a silly campaign ploy that played to the more obtuse citizens of Troy. But, the people have the right to do stupid things and if they vote on it, why overturn their misguided will? The Democrats did so arrogantly and the party will pay the price for the next two or three election cycles.
Some misguided party leaders said term limits would not be a factor. They were proven wrong. Do you think the citizens elected so many empty-suit Republicans because term limits were not an issue? If the Democrats on the Council had been smart enough to drop the issue, they would still be in power. Harry might still be mayor, but at least there would be some balance.
We hope the Democrats have learned a hard lesson.
Now, they face an uphill fight to retake the council. We say uphill but in reality, it's a near impossibility for many reasons.
1- Republicans, love them or loathe them, are far superior at building an organization. They are organized and disciplined.
2- Republicans also have the important third-party lines. Why anyone lets Mirch wield so much power is beyond us but the Republicans are deathly afraid of losing his support. If they do, they're in real trouble. Therefore, they won't lose that support. They'll swallow their pride and let a glorified garbage man run the show.
3- Republicans have Uncle Joe Bruno. Once he's out of the picture, they'll be in trouble. But, when will he be out of the picture?
4- Republicans understand the importance of constituent relations and know how to turn that into propaganda. That's not an insult. Good politicians know how to use photo opportunities. It was silly for Harry and Deputy Dan to plow snow on a Saturday night. It's a stunt. It's not their job. But, the masses love it.
Is all lost? We'd never say that. With a renewed organization, discipline and hardwork, the Democrats can be competitive. However, it's tough to get off the floor when you've had your ass handed to you three elections in a row. Only in judicial elections are the Democrats strong and those tend to be a crapshoot. Chris Meier won his election, but would he have defeated the ethically challenged Bauer? Maybe, maybe not. What is clear is that he should have won his race when his opponent had only two or three weeks to campaign.
In most elections, the citizens need a reason to toss out the incumbents. Defeating those in power doesn't just happen. They'll need and issue or two and then, it's still a challenge.
There are issues the Democrats can raise and run on. We'll talk about them in Part II. Will it work? There are no guarantees but it's better than flailing about with no direction.*
This is not meant to insult the current party leaders. The Democratic Party's current problems are a direct result, in our opinion, of Mayor Pattison's gambit to overturn term limits. After that disaster, everything just crashed and burned. Picking up the pieces will be difficult.