On civility, politicians, and owning up to what you do or say; gubernatorial candidates and other such things

First, a brief Alabama limerick from Politics and Other Stuff editor Paul Fisk:

                Twice kicked from the bench he did sit on

                Roy Moore chose the Senate to bid on

                Now they showed him the door

                And so much for Roy Moore

                And the same to the horse he rode in on

WOW! 

                        Decency wins (Senator Jeff Flake)

The Buffalo News ran an interesting interview this past Saturday with former members of Congress John LaFalce and Tom Reynolds. It was just as I would have expected from these two old friends – staking out their respective political positions but nonetheless remaining civil and respectful of the other’s positions. I would say how welcoming, except that these fellows are not in Congress anymore.

Political discourse in the United States has been trending down a long and slippery slope for quite a while now. Cable news and the internet have had a lot to do with these developments and there is no good way to put the genie back into the bottle. The vitriolic climate encouraged by Donald Trump over the past two and a half years has pushed negative things at warp speed.

On Sunday Bob McCarthy’s column in the News featured a discussion about how two prominent local Trump supporters, Nick Langworthy and Michael Caputo, are holding fast to their support of Trump in the face of strong political headwinds. They say that Trump is being Trump, and they seem to feel that he should be credited with disrupting the political atmosphere, pretty much just for the sake of disrupting. But Langworthy, Caputo and others in the Trump camp seem to prefer generalities while mostly ignoring or accepting what Trump does or says. My religion and philosophy professors at Canisius used to frown on transactional morality.

Trump personally takes no responsibility for anything. Everything is someone else’s fault. Everything that does not get reported the way he would prefer is “fake news.” His minions, such as Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and most everyone else who works for him, buy into that line, except maybe for Rex Tillerson (“moron”) and Nikki Haley (“the women are credible.”)

Most active Republicans, including the two local gentlemen, have had no problem over the years repeatedly attaching Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi to every Democratic candidate who ever took a breath. So here’s some news for my Republican friends: it works both ways.

Donald Trump is now the leader of the Republican Party. While he takes no responsibility for what he does or says, he is responsible. And so are his followers, who overwhelmingly support the lies and personal attacks that come out of his mouth and from his phone every day.

The McCarthy column reports Langworthy’s view that the Alabama election is of no real concern in New York State. Wrong, Nick. You promote him and support him and so, by affiliation, you have adopted what the leader of your party is selling. And no, Nick, the tax bill is not going to make everything great. Support or acceptance of the Trump-Moore axis means not only accepting the sexual harassment and assault issues, but also the other Moore stances that neither Trump nor anyone nationally or locally in the Republican Party have renounced, such as the Moore statement suggesting death for gay men and women; opposition to women or Muslims holding public office; ignorance of the Constitution; and stating that the last time America was great was when slavery was practiced in this country.

When the leader of the Republican Party goes in hook-line-and-sinker for an ignorant pedophile in a race for the United States Senate in Alabama, it does have consequences here in Western New York. In analyzing the most recent local elections it is popular, particularly among Republicans, to attribute the small but nonetheless larger than expected voter turnout, and the close results and Democratic victories in many races, to union interest in defeating the proposed constitutional convention issue. That played some part, but it is just as likely that negative Trump feelings in the suburbs had as much or more to do with the Democratic success.

Roy Moore is attached to Trump and they are in turn attached to local Republicans as much as Clinton and Pelosi are attached to Democrats. Live with it, guys. You bought into this new Republican Party and all that comes with it.

The race for governor and other things

As Andrew Cuomo fends off an investigation into his office, a difficult budget preparation and a pending corruption trial of associates, the Republicans cheer on their potential candidate, businessman Harry Wilson. Apparently seeing an opportunity, former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is now mulling joining the race.

Giambra has little name recognition outside of Western New York, and in Western New York, where his name recognition is greater, it may not be a positive benefit. Giambra’s work as County Executive led to the financial collapse of the county in 2005 and the creation of a State Control Board to oversee the county’s budget. Giambra works for Cuomo-pal Al D’Amato. Just wondering: is there some level of intrigue playing out among those characters?

There has also been some internet chatter about former Republican Congressman Chris Gibson entering the race. Gibson voluntarily left Congress in 2017 after serving three terms. Excuse the yawn.

As for the FBI investigation into Cuomo’s office, there are not, of course, any details about what’s going on. On the surface it is hard to understand what the big deal is about moving departmental staff to the Executive Chamber, or what, for that matter, is the federal issue involved.

Whether there turns out to be a real contest for governor or not will likely be determined by January when Wilson announces his decision. After that, it’s either “game on” or “wait until next time.”

That, in turn, might have some effect on the leadership of the State Republican Party. Ed Cox has accomplished nothing as chairman, so he could be out next fall. There were Republican losses from Nassau to Erie County last month, so someone emerging as an alternative to Cox might also have some explaining to do. Don’t be surprised to see Nick Langworthy in the state chairmanship mix next September.

Campaign 2018 is right around the corner

In the next few days we will see the final documents of Election 2017, the post-election financial reports. Next up – federal and state elections, with a couple Erie County campaigns thrown in too.

The statewide campaigns will be the main focus, with the race for governor featured – or maybe not. Heading into his third gubernatorial campaign, Andrew Cuomo has lost the luster of a newcomer and has morphed into the role of defender of the administration record. Reports are that the 2019 state budget that Cuomo will file in January has billions of dollars of holes to fill. There are complaints about how the state manages the subway system in New York City.

Upstate’s economy is still anemic despite all the money that has been handed out. The $750 million Riverbend/Solar City project in Buffalo is, at the moment, a major sore thumb. That and other Cuomo economic development initiatives such as the college-related START-UP NY program, have been and will continue to be criticized in a bi-partisan manner by Assemblymen Robin Schimminger, Ray Walter and others.

And then there will be the corruption trials in 2018 related to Solar City and other economic development projects. Particular focus will be directed to the trial of close Cuomo associate Joe Percoco.

It seems likely that outgoing Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner or some other Democrat will challenge Cuomo in a primary. Cuomo has been very successful in stockpiling a gazillion dollars, or actually $25.7 million in his most recent financial report last July. The odds will be stacked in Cuomo’s favor, but it should be remembered that Zypher Teachout, a totally unknown law professor, received 33 percent of the vote in her 2014 challenge of the incumbent. There will be more issues to explore in 2018 than there were four years ago.

The real question here, however, is whether the Republicans will offer a credible opponent. The heavy emphasis will be on businessman Harry Wilson, who narrowly lost the race for state comptroller in 2010 against Tom DiNapoli. The year 2018 looks to be a good year for Democrats and New York is one of the bluest states in the nation. If Wilson passes on the race, the others contenders – State Senator John DeFrancisco, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro – are all “B” level candidates at best and a Cuomo primary win would probably unofficially wrap up the election.

As for the other statewide officials on the ballot next year, it would not be surprising to see a primary challenger for current Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who also had a primary opponent in 2014. The incumbent Attorney General Eric Schniederman and incumbent Comptroller Tom DiNapoli should cruise to victory. It will not be surprising to see one or more of the “B” list Republican gubernatorial candidates running for Attorney General or Comptroller.

 

Congress

The local congressional districts are pretty stacked to favor the incumbents. Brian Higgins represents one of the most heavily Democratic districts in the state and Chris Collins holds the most Republican-affiliated district. Higgins has a Republican challenger or two checking things out but he is in no danger of losing. Neither is Collins at the moment, unless his stock-brokering-related ethics investigation turns into something serious in the next several months.

State Legislature

Members of the Legislature are generally as secure as an elected official can be. Twelve months before the next election, the only local legislative seat in question is the one held by Mickey Kearns. Kearns will resign on December 31st to become County Clerk.

The names most prominently mentioned for the Kearns seat are Buffalo Councilman Chris Scanlon, County Legislator Pat Burke and Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanaki. Scanlon is the early favorite, but don’t be surprised if Burke emerges as the Democratic candidate. The Republicans went with Kearns for that seat, so maybe they would try the same thing with another registered Democrat in 2018. We will have to wait to see if and when Governor Cuomo calls a special election for the seat. There are several vacant state legislative seats at the moment.

County Clerk

Clerk-elect Mickey Kearns has to do it all over again in 2018. He will run for a full four year term in November. Democratic turnout will be much better next year than in 2017 with the statewide and congressional offices on the ballot. State Democratic Chair and Mayor, Byron Brown, will be expected to turn out a large vote in Buffalo for the governor, and that should have spillover value for other offices.

The 2017 candidate for Clerk, Steve Cichon, ran a professional and spirited race and might have a decent shot in 2018. He seemed to say on Election night that he wasn’t interested, but there is time to think about that. No other names have been mentioned thus far.

Judicial Offices

There will be two State Supreme Court seats on the ballot next November, along with a County Court Judge seat. The Supreme Court seats are held by incumbents Paula Feroleto and John Curran, so cross endorsements are a possibility. There are some rumblings among party-types about both candidates, but there’s plenty of time to work that out.

The County Court seat is presently held by Michael Pietruszka, who will retire. Susan Barnes is mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate. Interestingly, there have been three other County Court seats on the ballot in the past two years and there were no primary or general election challenges for any of them. It’s personally expensive to run for judge, and perhaps that is what has been keeping the interest down.

Call Chris Collins

There have been some robo calls flying around the Buffalo suburbs telling people how great the Republican tax bill is and asking folks to call Chris Collins to thank him. The calls are sponsored by something called the American Action Network, whose Board include former Congressman Tom Reynolds. If you are so inclined, Collins’ local district office phone number is 634-2324. He loves to speak with his constituents.

You can, if you choose, thank him for making it harder to go to graduate school or to be a teacher; or for sticking you for higher taxes by cutting back or eliminating the deduction for property and state income taxes; or for making your new tax rates temporary while corporate cuts will be permanent. Remember, be polite. And remember, he works for you.

The question of a constitutional convention; democracy in action

There are some “givens” when a citizen, elected official or journalist thinks about the government of New York State. The governing process is messed up. Special interests dominate legislation and budgets. The opportunities for average Joes or Janes to have some say in things is limited, or maybe non-existent.

The State Legislature has been labeled the most dysfunctional in the nation. Statewide elected officials and legislators have been run out of office. Many have gone to prison. Continue reading

How Pigeongate may end

This blog, Alan Bedenko’s extensive work in The Public, and Buffalo News reporting have certainly detailed the rise and fall of Steve Pigeon over a very long period of time. Things are starting to move at a quicker pace now.

The infamous raids on the homes of Pigeon, Steve Casey and Chris Grant occurred nearly 23 months ago. Except for Pigeon’s situation, we don’t yet know what purposes those events served. Continue reading

The State doesn’t need to spend $25 million for a train station

As the state’s 2017-18 budget finally fell into place we found that among the financial decisions is a pile of goodies from the state. Governor Cuomo provided the Buffalo Billion II, which is actually one half billion dollars – a lot of money. There is also $385 million more stuffed in the budget for projects in Western New York and statewide that the governor and the Legislature will separately award. Continue reading

Betting on the Trump administration; Cuomo at the ECDC fundraiser; Niagara County politics; free tuition

The Trump regime

Today, February 15th, is the 27th day of the Trump regime. Why does it seem like an eternity already?

All new administrations have a honeymoon period; a break-in period; and a denouement period. The first two usually stretch one hundred days or more; the latter, if lucky does not happen until years three, four, or five of an administration. For the Trump team the honeymoon period was over almost before it began. The break-in period will probably last four years, assuming the administration lasts that long. The denouement has started already. Continue reading