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.

Eight weeks to go

So the national primary election season, which stretched from March through yesterday, is finally over. New York brought up the rear. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not that is a pun.)

Andrew Cuomo’s campaign went through more than $21.4 million so far in 2018 (as of August 31st) to make sure that things came out okay for him. And they did. His 31 percent margin of victory would probably have been a little bigger if he didn’t get greedy by staging a grand opening for the new $3 billion plus Mario Cuomo Tappen Zee Bridge, only to have the bridge shut down the next day for safety reasons. Continue reading

Schroeder’s analysis points to a return to a hard control board for Buffalo

Over many years, going back nearly 50, the finances of the City of Buffalo have had a whole lot of ups and downs. Years with major deficits, years with comfortable surpluses. Sometimes, though, years of surpluses can lull a municipal government into a sense of complacency.

In the most recent version of financial roller coastering, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, aka the Control Board, was created by the state in 2003 following budget difficulties magnified by the financial turmoil that followed the terrorist attacks on the country in 2001. The board was put in place in a “control” or “hard board” status right from the get-go, and immediately set about imposing serious budget controls on the City government as well as the Buffalo Board of Education, including a wage freeze that extended for several years. Continue reading

Emails from Elizabeth and Devin; some observations and heard-on-the-streets

We all get on a variety of email listservs over time. We might sign up for some of them, but many are just a waste of time.

If you’re in to following politics the emails can turn into a flood. From the various media outlets there are dozens of newsletters. Very few of them write original content. Most are aggregators of news and opinion pieces from other sources, and they generally overlap with one another. If you read one of the sites you can probably pass on reading 90 percent of the others available daily. Continue reading

The collateral damage of Wilson’s withdrawal from the gubernatorial race; if you’re explaining, you’re losing; a chance to have a say about Buffalo’s next budget

Farewell, Harry, we hardly knew ‘ya

Last week’s news that Republican businessman Harry Wilson will pass on the opportunity to run for governor certainly has serious consequences for the Republican Party. State Chairman Ed Cox convened a meeting of party leaders on Monday in Albany to interview the remaining potential GOP nominees: former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra; Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb; and State Senator John DeFrancisco. Aside from the interviews, the party is trying to figure out where it is going. The New York Daily News story about the meeting made use of such words as “panic,” “desperate,” and “depressing.” Continue reading