Two minute drills in football and politics

Super Bowl LIII is set. The Saints got robbed. The Chiefs came up short. Go Rams. Sorry, but it’s too hard to add an exclamation point to that cheer.

There was tons of drama in the two conference championship games last Sunday. Two minute drills were critical. I didn’t like the results but those were definitely two of the best championship games ever played.

So back to politics. This one is not a two minute drill, but it could sure use one. Donald Trump and the Republican Party are fine with not paying 800,000 federal employees, more than half of whom are being forced to work – including tens of thousands of first responders. Why aren’t there laws against forcing people to work without paying them? And be careful about the food you buy. The inspectors are sitting at home.

Before my Republican friends suggest that since Trump made an offer the Democrats should negotiate on his proposals, my response is you cannot negotiate with an irrational man whose stock-in-trade is lying. The Trump offer was only for a temporary fix, and it would be dependent on being able to trust that whatever is agreed upon would be lived up to. Re-read that last sentence and think about it. Why in the world would anyone ever trust Donald Trump? Trump lackey Stephen Miller probably already has one of his famous executive orders ready to go, cancelling any “deal” that Trump would sign in order to get his wall funded.

And then there is the real world of politics, New York State style. The state’s political leadership has really set up a serious two minute drill scenario.

With new Democratic control in the State Senate, along with an agreeable governor and State Assembly, there are some changes coming to the Election Law. Most are designed to make it easier to vote, which Democrats like and Republicans don’t. But the change that is attracting the most immediate attention of party leaders is the one that will change the date of state and local primaries from September to the fourth Tuesday in June (June 25 this year), to put the state and local primary date in sync with the next round of congressional primaries in 2020. Petitions will be filed for this year’s elections in early April.

This raises concerns because the speeded up political calendar for 2019 means that petitioning for local offices will begin on February 26th, a mere five weeks from now. There may still be snow on the ground on that date. It will still be getting dark early in the evening in late February, cutting down on petitioning time. So we have the equivalent of a political two minute drill. We’ll soon see who is organized and who is not. We’ll see who is efficient, and who is not. We’ll see who is prepared for what is coming.

Odd year elections in New York State include hundreds of local offices on the ballot. In Erie County more than 150 county, city, town and villages public offices will be contested. That being said, a large number of those offices will not see serious election races. Many candidates for offices from town councilmembers to members of the County Legislature will go unchallenged. But even uncontested offices will require petitions to be filed to qualify candidates.

The scrambling that will go on, as Republican County Chairman Nick Langworthy has noted, compresses a schedule that, under previous arrangements, would have occurred over the next several months to one limited to a period of the next several weeks. He makes a valid point about when the new primary date is being implemented. Waiting until 2020 would have allowed Boards of Election, parties and candidates time to get ready for the new schedule.

The County Republicans’ major challenge in navigating that timetable is to settle on a candidate for Erie County Executive to take on incumbent Mark Poloncarz. Up until last August the party had pretty much decided that County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw would be their candidate. But following Congressman Chris Collins’ indictment on security transaction violations Mychajliw switched gears and decided he would pass on the County Executive race and instead wait for Collins to be convicted and then resign or be removed from Congress, opening up the congressional seat.

That move required Langworthy and company to consider other candidates. Names mentioned included State Senators Pat Gallivan and Chris Jacobs, who have both previously won countywide elections. They have declined, and the focus has now shifted to County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

Dixon and party leaders are now in the process of considering their options. Polling is likely underway. Questions about fundraising prospects need to be considered. Poloncarz’s January 15th campaign financial report showed $445,074 in his campaign account; Dixon, who up until now has been focusing on a Legislature re-election effort, has just $17,797 available.

With petitions hitting the streets in less than five weeks, the Republican two minute drill requires them to settle on their candidate, figure out a strategy for the campaign, start fundraising, and also conduct the mechanics of the petitioning process. It’s also possible that Dixon might decide not to run, forcing the party to draft another candidate.

The same compact calendar will apply to anyone seriously thinking about a campaign for county legislature, the Buffalo Common Council, Buffalo Comptroller, or other city and town offices. The City Comptroller spot, with several potential candidates eyeing the office, is a key post and will also require many quick decisions.

The changes in the Election Law also move up the calendar for the selection of candidates for State Supreme Court. A process than had previously occurred near the end of September will now occur in early August (between August 8 and 14 this year).

Two minute drills in football occur when a team that is trailing by a little or a lot late in the game has to run a series of quick plays to try to move the ball down field to score. At the moment Mark Poloncarz is holding a substantial lead in the game. It’s still a long way to November, but a challenger’s chances will at first depend on how well they run their two minute drill.