As the dust settles, reviewing the 2018 elections and taking a small peek at what comes next

Poor Rick Scott. All those tens of millions of dollars of his own money, and it might not have been enough to buy a Senate seat in Florida. Maybe just $10 million more would have done the trick.

Or maybe he will wind up winning the re-count. It is Florida, after all, where they are pretty good at screwing up recounts and getting rolled by Brooks Brothers riots. The Supreme Court may be standing by to deliver another Republican victory if it gets to their desks.

Let’s hope for democracy’s sake that everyone gets this right, whatever the result.

The same for Georgia. That one will be tougher because of the ways that the Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, rigged the election process in his role as Secretary of State. Kris Kobach tried the same thing in Kansas, but the good people of that state saw through it. It’s what’s right about Kansas.

The results for Democrats across the nation were generally pretty positive. Governorships and state legislative seats were won. The United States Senate was always going to be a challenge given that there were ten Democratic seats in states won by Donald Trump by double digits in 2016.  In Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema just last evening flipped Jeff Flake’s Senate seat, meaning that at best the Republicans will make a net gain of two seats in the Senate. In California another House seat or two may fall to the Democrats before Election 2018 wraps up.

Locally, despite a major push for Democrat Nate McMurray, final results after all the votes are counted may result in a paper-thin one per cent margin of victory for future felon Chris Collins. Just enough Republicans held their noses to vote for him. Despite his defiant victory declaration in the lobby of a small downtown apartment building previously occupied by the Spaghetti Warehouse, Collins will, in the words of convicted Republican felon-congressman Michael Grimm, return to Washington as a pariah. In the minority for the first time, with no committee assignments and few friends left, Collins will serve no useful purpose. Caucuses of various House members relating to certain issues are always in vogue, and now we will have a new one, as Collins joins Duncan Hunter of California as members of the Federal Indictees Caucus.

After years of backtracking, gains in state races mean that Democrats will have an opportunity to play a bigger role in the legislative redistricting that will occur after the 2020 census. Of course there will be some work to do in 2020.

Democratic control of the House will set the tone for the next two years. Gridlock will continue, as it has for many years. At this point in time in America’s history there is nothing wrong with gridlock.

Congress is broken. Even with control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the Republicans could only manage to pass one major piece of legislation, their beloved tax cut. That bill has already driven up the federal deficit by almost fifty per cent in 2018, with annual deficits of more than one trillion dollars likely for the next eight to ten years. The tax cuts were put on the national credit card by so-called conservative Republicans. Please explain that to your children and grandchildren.

After orchestrating the shenanigans of committee chairmen Trey Gowdy, Devin Nunes and Bob Goodlatte, among others, where truth and proper legal process disappeared, the Republicans in Congress and the White House are already complaining about what will come from Democratic leadership in the House. Poor snowflakes.

From constitutional issues involving the emolument clause to the seemingly endless string of scandals emanating from cabinet department after cabinet department, a whole lot of fact finding will occur. Facts, as in real, objectively determined evidence. Someday those facts might lead to something good.

Trump says he will bring war to Congress if the Democrats begin their promised oversight. Political war, after all that has occurred over the past two years, will hardly be a new thing. The difference is that the balance of power in that on-going war will be different.

The election of 2018 did not settle a whole lot of things. Both parties have leadership and faction issues to deal with and a lot of that will not be pleasant. So be it.

There is a slight glimmer of hope for cooperation in the likelihood that both parties will want to have at least a few accomplishments to tout in 2020. Some compromise will be required to achieve that.

The New York State elections

As called here at Politics and Other Stuff last January, Andrew Cuomo cruised to an easy victory in the governor’s race.   Voter turnout in the state was up 48 percent over 2014, and the results were non-competitive statewide races, the padding of the already huge Democratic majority in the State Assembly, and the decisive capture of the State Senate.

The Senate flip was somewhat anticipated, but the margin of victory was not. With at least 39 Democrats winning, that body not only will change control, but will operate with a majority big enough to do pretty much what it pleases. That may be turn out to be a big problem unless the leadership in the house can really do what it says and remain observant of the plan they say they will follow, to remember that the state is a whole lot more than the geography that ends at the Westchester County line.

There will only be three Democratic senators in upstate New York, including Tim Kennedy in Buffalo. The burden will be on him to somehow compensate for the fact that Western New York will lose the clout that having five senators in the majority party provided. Kennedy’s district is mostly in the City of Buffalo, and he is probably eyeing a race for mayor someday, so the temptation will be for him to concentrate whatever power he has to assist the City. But he really carries the weight of all of Western New York on his shoulders.

It should also be noted that former Amherst Town Supervisor Susan Grelick has worked for the past ten years as counsel for Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will become the new majority leader of the Senate. That may help out too.

The Democratic delegation to the State Assembly from Western New York got larger with the wins by Karen McMahon in the 146th District and Pat Burke in the 142nd. The local Assembly delegation has in the past played a big role in helping this area. The role of assisting and protecting this end of the state is even more critical now.

The local politics of the state election results demonstrated the benefit of having Kathy Hochul on the state ticket. The Cuomo-Hochul margin in Erie County, a little more than 19,000, can be attributed to Hochul.

For those keeping score at home, we have a new line-up of state political parties for the next four years. The Women’s Equality Party and the Reform Party, alas, will be no more. Joining the ranks will be the Libertarian and Serve America Movement parties. Will the Libertarians line up with Republicans, or will they, as they do in others states, run their own candidates for office? The latter option would do harm to the Republicans.

Here is how the ballot will now line up:

  • A – Democrat
  • B – Republican
  • C – Conservative
  • D – Working Families
  • E – Green
  • F – Libertarian
  • G – Independence
  • H – Serve America Movement

It would nice to see state legislation that would raise the required vote margin for political parties to something like 100,000 votes for the party’s candidate for governor rather than the current 50,000. That would have knocked out the Green, Libertarian, Independence and Serve America Movement parties this year.

Erie County elections

Except for a couple judgeships that were not really contested, the race for Erie County Clerk was the only county office on the ballot. Michael Kearns defeated Angela Marinucci by a small margin, giving him a full four year term.

Following losses for sheriff, comptroller and clerk in 2017, this is the fourth consecutive election that the Democrats have lost in the county, despite a large plurality of registered Democrats. I give due recognition to the ability of the Republican Party to win those seats. Those victories would not have been possible without the support of the Conservative Party, which endorsed the winning Republicans.

It should be noted that once again the Democratic vote in the City of Buffalo lagged badly in the countywide elections and that fact contributed significantly to the countywide loss.   Turnout in Buffalo this year was just 41 percent, while it was 72 percent in the remainder of the county. Democratic leaders in the City again dropped the ball.

The offices of Erie County Executive and all eleven legislators will be up in 2019. It appears that County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is focusing on whatever expiration date is stamped on Chris Collins. The Republicans will need to look elsewhere for a county executive candidate. In the discussion are State Senator Chris Jacobs, soon to be former State Assemblyman Ray Walter and County Legislator Ed Rath. There may be others. Stay tuned.

The mid-term election day edition of facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

Today is Election Day – the mid-term of all mid-terms. This one feels a lot different. Sort of like Super Bowl Sunday, especially when your team was playing that day. Come on, you can remember how that felt.

I’m not offering any specific predictions here. After all that has been said, written and done, you can draw your own conclusions about what is about to happen. Try to be objective, because like it or not we are all about to come face-to-face with political reality.

Be sure to vote! Vote in honor of the people in states like Georgia and Kansas where voting is restricted. Hope that someday New York will enter the 21st century and offer early voting and a more rational process for voter registration.

There are going to be a whole lot of very close races. More than ever, voter turnouts for the Republicans and the Democrats are critical this year.

Vote today with a purpose, not a vendetta. There are a lot of important issues facing the nation and our state, and clear thinking is better than reacting to silly conspiracy theories. As Melania Trump says, “Be Best.”

Here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets:

  • The local election night focus will be on offices currently held by Republicans: Congressmen Chris Collins and Tom Reed; Assemblymen Ray Walter, Eric Bohen, and David DiPietro; and County Clerk Michael Kearns. There are no local Democratic officeholders who are being seriously challenged.
  • The viciousness of the Republican TV ads shows certain candidates have concluded that talking positive won’t work for them. This is particularly true when the candidate is under indictment. Collins’ ads have been radically off-base. Reed shifted from positive to negative advertising, which indicates that that race is closer than many people might imagine.
  • Emails from candidates of both parties continued to pour in a day or two before the election, asking for donations. What would they do with a donation that arrived yesterday except pay for things that they have already produced, aired and mailed?
  • The September Democratic primaries signal increased turnout today. Will Democratic State Chairman Byron Brown produce enough votes in Buffalo to allow Andrew Cuomo to carry Erie County? What will Republican State Chairman-in-waiting Nick Langworthy’s Erie County turnout do to show his party’s strength?
  • An interesting development in Amherst. After Amherst Town Board Member Francina Spoth was tossed from the Democratic line for Town Clerk by the courts because of a failure to follow legal procedures, Amherst Democrats were forced to try to elect Spoth on the Conservative Party line — something many Erie County Democrats have been avoiding in recent elections. Campaign postcards for Spoth indicate the ballot position but played down her Conservative Party endorsement.
  • Just wondering, does this have anything to do with Democratic Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa attending the Conservatives’ weekly Saturday breakfast recently?
  • And how about the robocall going to Amherst voters saying that Spoth is on the Conservative line while berating Conservative Party positions on issues like guns, abortion and Donald Trump? The Republicans are usually allies with the Conservatives, but these calls that are trying to torpedo the Conservative candidate for Clerk, which would benefit the Republican candidate for town clerk, Jeffery Zeplowitz.
  • In a related matter, the same Democratic transaction that had the Party place Spoth on the line for Amherst Clerk also certified Democratic candidates for the Town Board of Cheektowaga and the Eden Town Clerk positions. Evidently the Republicans did not challenge those certifications, even though the Democrats for the offices, holding no minor party lines on the ballot, could have been tossed from the election under the same law. The Cheektowaga Republicans lost the chance to elect one of their own by default. Somebody was sleeping at the switch.
  • It sure sounds like the Democrats may take the State Senate. There are only three Democratic senators north of Westchester County, including Tim Kennedy in Buffalo. Where will that leave upstate? What might it cost us?
  • Some folks are concerned that Democratic control of Governor’s office, the Assembly, and the Senate could jeopardize fusion voting, forcing minor parties to run their own affiliated voters rather than endorse a Democrat or a Republican. That could significantly affect future elections in the state.
  • Speaking of the minor parties, which of the six that currently exist will survive today’s election? Will they all get the required 50,000 votes to remain on the ballot for the next four years? The Cuomo inspired Women’s Equality Party and the Rob Astorino created Reform Party are the most likely casualties today. The Conservatives will likely continue to hold the third line on the ballot.
  • Will the City of Lockport elect Michelle Roman as the first Democratic mayor in about twenty years?
  • Some other stuff: Vic Carucci is right —the Bills season is effectively over, even with seven games yet to play. My pre-season prognostication about 5 wins seems optimistic now. It’s really hard to watch the defense guys play their hearts out while witnessing the total collapse of the offense.
  • I don’t follow hockey much, but the Sabres seem to be doing something right. It’s still a little early, however, to order playoff tickets.

Tune to WBFO 88.7 FM tonight where I will be joining Warren Galloway to discuss election results with News Director Dave Debo.

Collins’ seedy congressional campaign; final pre-election financial reports

Where, oh where, was Congressman Chris Collins when Steve Bannon flew into town last week to rally Trumpkins on behalf of the Congressman most likely to be in jail a year and a half from now? Bannon’s track record on congressional rescue missions for legally challenged candidates is not what you would call great, including as it does the defeat of accused pedophile Roy Moore in last year’s Alabama Senate race and the defeat of convicted felon Michael Grimm in his Republican House primary in New York City this past June. Continue reading

County issues in the forefront

It’s budget time in Erie County. Town budgets for 2019 are quietly moving along. Not a lot of media focus on them, which is not a good thing. The focus, such as it is, is on Mark Poloncarz’s proposed $1.53 billion 2019 county budget.

While there will be another budget revealed a year from now, just prior to the 2019 election for Erie County Executive, the 2019 budget that the County Legislature will act on by early December is for all intents and purposes the budget that will play a role in the 2019 election concerning spending and tax issues. Continue reading

Pigeongate comes to a conclusion; pre-election campaign financials

It’s all over but the sentencing. Former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon has pled guilty to a bribery charge in State Supreme Court and to a charge of an illegal campaign donation to Governor Cuomo in federal court. State sentencing is scheduled for December. Federal sentencing will occur in January. The two guilty pleas each carry sentences of approximately one year. How those sentences will be coordinated and finally resolved remains to be seen.   I speculated in a previous post about where Pigeon might prefer to serve his time, if he has any say in the question. Continue reading

A judge, the president, some bishops and a priest

When I was a freshman at Canisius College many moons ago (it was 1966), I was a political science major. I was drawn to the subject by President Kennedy. The world of politics seemed fascinating.

In the fall of that year, as the College has done for many years, a major figure in government came to speak at the school, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Justice Brennan was a Democrat, but he had been named to the Court by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. He was appointed in October of that year, a month before the presidential election. It was a recess appointment (the Senate was not in session) and he was confirmed in 1957. My, how things have changed. Continue reading