The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Monday, November 28, 2005


Here's an article from the New York Times you may find interesting. We posted the article in it's entirety because the Times on-line requires registration.

By Raymond Hernandez New York Times
Published: November 25, 2005

Perhaps no minor party has shaped modern-day politics in New York as profoundly as the state's Conservative Party, sending a little-known candidate to the United States Senate in 1970 and helping orchestrate the defeat of a Democratic star, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo a generation later.

But now, with the steady erosion of its base of power over the last decade, the party faces the grim prospect of going the way of the Brooklyn Dodgers, The New York Herald Tribune and the subway token.

In one of the more intriguing plots of the 2006 political season, the Conservative Party is at risk of losing its place on the statewide ballot next year, political analysts say, and some Republicans are questioning the value of their longtime alliance with Conservatives at a time that tensions between the two parties are high.

Under state law, a party's candidate for governor must draw at least 50,000 votes to ensure that the party has a place on the ballot for the next four years. But political analysts say that it is an open question whether the Conservative Party can do that, given its dwindling enrollment, disenchantment within its ranks and infighting among some of its leaders.

In the 2002 election for governor, for example, the Conservative Party had a remarkably weak showing, drawing 176,848 votes, about one-fifth of the 827,614 votes it collected in 1990, according to results compiled by the State Board of Elections.

"Party leaders have to be very worried about survival," said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. He recalled the fate of New York's Liberal Party in 2002, when it lost its place on the ballot after a half-century of existence.

Even if the Conservative Party manages to get the 50,000 votes it needs to remain on the ballot, it faces the strong possibility that it will tumble to a lower spot on the ballot if it draws a relatively small number of votes on Election Day 2006 because ballot positions are assigned according to a party's vote totals in the governor's race.

In 1998, for example, the Conservative Party lost the third line on the ballot, Line C, to the upstart Independence Party and has not been able to recover that coveted position since. The third ballot line is the highest spot for a third party, behind the Republicans and Democrats, and so is easier for voters to notice than lower ballot lines.

"I have deep concerns about the longevity and future of the Conservative Party," said Richard Stack, the chairman of the Albany County Conservative Party. "The party might end up on Line G. And you know what G stands for? Gone."

Michael R. Long, the chairman of the Conservative Party, acknowledged a need to rally rank-and-file Conservatives, though he said he did not see the situation as dire as some describe. "The stakes are high," he said. "But I don't necessarily fear us going out of business."

The situation has implications beyond the fate of the Conservative Party. In an apparent effort to mobilize their party's base, leading Conservatives in the state are sharply criticizing Republicans Party leaders, as Republicans try to field a slate of politically moderate candidates to compete next year in heavily Democratic New York.

In particular, Republican leaders are championing Jeanine F. Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, to run for the Senate and William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, to run for governor.

But their support for abortion rights and gay rights has alienated some conservative leaders, who have indicated that they may run their own candidates for governor and for the Senate if Republicans do not select candidates with more right-leaning ideologies.

Mr. Long said he is far more interested in making an ideological statement that would resonate with his party than he is in simply winning. "We are not just in it to win elections no matter who the candidate is," he said. "We are in it to win elections with like-minded conservative candidates."
If Conservatives break with Republicans in 2006, the implications could be significant, political analysts say.

Minor parties can often provide margins of victory to major-party candidates when races are close. That was the case in the 1994 race for governor, when the Conservative Party line made the difference in George E. Pataki's victory over Mr. Cuomo.

Republicans are outraged at the criticisms being leveled by conservative leaders, including Mr. Long. Many Republicans say the Conservative Party's attempt to influence, if not dictate, the Republican Party's political lineup for 2006 is a classic case of the tail trying to wag the dog.

One high-ranking Republican official, who insisted on anonymity because he did not want to inflame tension between the two parties, said that the Conservative Party's political clout had diminished so greatly that Republican candidates would be better served with the Independence Party line instead.

"The Republican Party doesn't need to be beholden to the Conservative Party anymore," the official said.

Several Republicans have even asserted that Conservative Party leaders would be spiting themselves by running their own candidate for governor and thereby inviting the possibility of failing to get the 50,000 votes needed to keep the party's line on the ballot.

But Conservatives note that there is evidence that their party is better able to excite its supporters when it picks its own candidate. In 1990, for example, Herbert London, running as a Conservative, had nearly as many votes as the Republican nominee for governor, Pierre Rinfret. Mr. Cuomo, then the governor, was re-elected that year with 2.2 million votes on the Democratic and Liberal lines, to about 865,000 for Mr. Rinfret and 828,000 for Mr. London.

In a sense, the Conservative Party has been a victim of its own success since 1994, when it entered into a pivotal alliance with New York Republicans to support Mr. Pataki. Mr. Cuomo had 2.4 million votes on the Democratic and Liberal lines. Mr. Pataki, who had 2.2 million votes on the Republican line, was lifted to victory with the roughly 329,000 votes he received on the Conservative line.

But the Republican-Conservative coalition that was cemented in 1994 eventually became a source of dismay among Conservatives. Even as the Conservative Party endorsed Mr. Pataki in his two subsequent re-elections, in 1998 and 2002, he moved to the left ideologically, adopting Democratic positions in order to remain politically viable in an increasingly Democratic state.
Today, many Conservatives point to the years of support that party leaders provided to Mr. Pataki as one of the main reasons for disaffection in the party ranks.

The party has also lost enrollment in recent years, with 155,000 registered members this month, compared with 173,905 in November 2000, according to the Board of Elections.
James Brewster, vice chairman of the Conservative Party, said one reason the Conservative line on the ballot had such a weak showing in 2002 was that the candidate was none other than Mr. Pataki, who moved toward the middle politically in his later runs for governor.

Mr. Brewster said part of the "grass roots of the Conservative Party didn't go out to vote" because Mr. Pataki was at the top of the ticket.

"And if they did go out to vote, they didn't vote for the governor," he said. "They didn't vote for George Pataki because he moved to the left too far."

Mr. Brewster said it would be a mistake for the party to endorse another liberal-leaning Republican. "We're not going to energize our base with a Weld," he said.

The party's circumstances are a far cry from its standing in 1970, when James Buckley was elected to the United States Senate on the Conservative line with more than two million votes. These days, some in Conservative circles believe that the party must be open to moderate Republican candidates who may differ with Conservatives on some matters but who are viable as candidates in a largely Democratic state.

"They have to learn to compromise a little bit," said Mr. Stack, the Albany Conservative chairman, referring to party leaders. "Their refusal to compromise is leading them to select candidates who are unelectable."

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