Most political columnists feel compelled to do a 'Winners and Losers' column at this time of year. Usually, anyone that follows politics can write the column. Yes, we all think Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos were big losers this year. Madden a winner. Those who won, winners. Those who lost, losers and so on. We'd like to be slightly unorthodox in our post. Not wholly unorthodox (we enjoy Greek food too much) but just a little. So, from a political standpoint we offer the following...
The Casey Stengel of Rensselaer County politics. Consistently underestimated. Consistently under-appreciated, consistently wins. Like Stengel, he doesn't win all the time but he does win more often than not.
Tom Wade has been the Democrat County Chair for about a decade. When he took over the party was slightly less powerful than the Whig Party. Wade has generally selected good candidates over the years and has rebuilt the party. The Democratic Party is now the dominate party, once again, in the City of Troy.
People have short memories. When Wade took over there was a Republican mayor, Republican District Attorney and the GOP had an overwhelming majority on the City Council. It took some time but it is clear, from the last election, that Troy's default setting is Democrat. The towns in the county are reliably Republican with the exception of East Greenbush and North Greenbush. One wobbles back and forth and the other is just a chaotic mess of factions that is about as stable as Sybil. The City of Rensselaer is Democratic, but not through Wades efforts. The remaining towns are overwhelmingly Republican but who really cares. You can have Petersburg.
Two Democratic mayors have been elected under Wade. The D's won the DA's office for the first time since Jim Canfield. They have done well in the judicial races as well. The City Council has had strong Democratic majorities for numerous cycles and this year there would currently be a 5-4 majority but for the third party.
This year, the Democratic mayoral candidate survived a third-party challenge that undoubtedly took votes from the Democrats, and won handily. Tom Wade has had a successful stint as County Chair.
Kind of, sort of, the Pete Rose of politics. Especially this year. Not a very talented candidate (not the worst by far) but she masks that lack of talent with hard campaigning. Very hard. We wouldn't be surprised if Mantello knocked on every door four or five times. That hard work, a pathological need to hold office, and the Team Troy splinter group, propelled Mantello to the Council presidency.
A candidate can hit social media all day long but this is still a city that rewards retail politics. We doubt anyone campaigned harder than Mantello.
Politically, very much like Dick Allen and if you understand that comparison you win a year subscription to The Troy Polloi. We were hard on Wiltshire and make no apologies for our position. It should be no secret why. We thought he could cost the Democrat the election and we did not want Gordon to become mayor. It's really that simple.
County Chair Tom Wade did not run Ernest Everett in the democratic mayoral primary. For those in the know, Wade tried to convince Everett to run for a city council position. Everett insisted that he was gunning for the top spot. That certainly worked in Madden's favor on primary day. Those who believe it was a big conspiracy will continue to believe that it was all planned out by Wade. Those privy to behind-the-scene conversations know that Wade tried to get Everett to run for council. Not trying to convince you but them's the facts.
That said, if Wade did convince Everett to run and siphon votes from Wiltshire, it was a stroke of political genius and nothing that requires any apologies. The fact that Everett may have played fast and loose with the rules is Everett's problem. Conventional wisdom says Wiltshire would have won the primary but for Everett. Maybe. Hard to say. If we were gamblers, we'd make that bet but we wouldn't bet our paycheck.
With that all out of the way, why do we place the man that lost the primary and came in third in the general election in the winners column? Regardless of motivation, Wiltshire built a third party organization, found candidates for almost every race and took on the establishment. He refused to back down. He refused to make nice with the establishment and plunged headlong into a third party bid for mayor. In the end, he won a not insignificant minority of votes. His group probably cost Democrats the majority on the council (one at-large and District 6). He had an impact on the race that far exceeded most third party bids. If there's to be a successful third party winner in the future (admittedly a tough slog) Wiltshire certainly created a viable blue print for that win.
Kopka is the Lynn Kopka of politics. Kopka, the former at-large council person and current District 5 council person, has used up three of her nine lives. Two years ago she squeaked out a win over Carmella Mantello for an at-large council seat. This year, she was even more impressive.
Popular, out-going District 5 councilman Ken Zalweski does not like Kopka. He recruited political virgin David Bissember to run against Kopka for the Democratic nomination. Bissember, a likeable young man, was probably the most promising of the Team Troy council candidates. With the backing of Zalewski (again a very popular councilman in District 5), Bissember had a real chance of taking the nomination. On primary night it looked like he had won. When the absentees were counted, Kopka barely edged out Bissember by fourteen votes (or something crazy like that).
In the general, Kopka had to contend with a GOP challenger as well as Bissember's Working Families Party bid. A bid that clearly took votes from Kopka. So many votes that, once again, Kopka looked like the loser on election day. Once again, the absentee ballots propelled her to a win.
Say what you want about Kopka. Like her or not. This was an impressive campaign season for her.
Like Willie Randolph or Roy White, except he has a better arm. Bodnar won his fourth and final term as District 3 councilman. Bodnar has been professional, pragmatic and has steered clear of much of the partisan bull shit that occurs in city politics. If there were four or five Dean Bodnars on the council...well that would be strange and create a confusing ballot. But, you get our drift. A class act.