If Giambra follows through with a Reform party candidacy he could rearrange the ballot in New York State; some observations on Trump and Salvatore

As elections go, the 2018 campaign for governor of New York is not off to what you might call a rip roaring start. Governor Andrew Cuomo has seen a drop in his poll ratings, and some are attributing that to the corruption trial of Joseph Percoco and others that has for the past several weeks put the seamier side of government and politics in Albany on display. Whether a trial with no conclusion will do additional political damage to Cuomo remains to be seen.

While acknowledging the down side of the trial on Cuomo’s standing, it may just be that Albany political scandals have been so commonplace that much of the general public may be sort of numb to such things. It may be that the Percoco issue might be already baked into the 2018 election, without much more of an effect on things.

Cuomo, of course, has substantial political advantages including the powers of the purse controlled by an incumbent, the ability to make news at will, a party organization that is mostly supportive of him, and a campaign treasury of more than $30 million that no rival could hope to come close to. There has been talk about a left wing attack on Cuomo in a Democratic primary, with several names mentioned, but so far it’s mostly talk. Cuomo has in the past three years moved to the left on a variety of issues, making a challenge even more formidable.

The problem for Republicans looking to develop a statewide ticket is that potential candidates who might have some real creditability have passed on the election, leaving the challenge to lesser lights. By process of elimination, up until last week, State Senator John DeFrancisco of Syracuse seemed headed for the nomination. But then a white knight appeared at a gathering of the Republican State Committee, Marcus Molinaro.

State Senator DeFrancisco, 71, has been an elected official for the past 36 years, the past 25 of which having been in the State Senate. Molinaro has only been in public office for the past 23 years, but then again he is only 42, and has been an elected politician since he was 18 years old. Molinaro’s elective career includes several years as a member of the State Assembly as well as time as village trustee and mayor, county legislator and county executive.

So the choice for the party gubernatorial nomination will come down to whether the party wants someone who has spent a little more than half his life in political office (DeFrancisco) versus someone who has also been an elected official more than half his life (Molinaro).

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra served a total of 26 years in elective office, including stints as member of the Buffalo Common Council, Buffalo comptroller and county executive. He recently dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for governor in the face of much opposition.

Giambra is now focused on becoming the Reform Party candidate for governor. The Reform group was born in the 2014 election for governor as the Stop Common Core Party, a creation of the then candidate for governor, Rob Astorino. The leaders of the party, such as they were, changed the name of the party to Reform on the assumption that “Reform” has more marketability. Many Republicans have had the Reform Party line in elections since 2015.

Currently the Reform Party has a statewide enrollment of 1,628. There are 93 affiliated Reform voters in Erie County. Nonetheless the party is entitled by law to automatically enter a candidate for governor on the 2018 ballot.

The party is led at the moment by Curtis Sliwa, a community activist who in the 1980’s founded the “Guardian Angels,” a self-styled vigilante group that tried to combat crime. More recently Sliwa has been a talk show host in New York City.

While a Giambra candidacy on the Reform Party line offers limited possibilities of success in the race for governor, his race for governor, played right (for him), might generate enough interest to continue the existence of the Party for the next four years while pushing the party up on the ballot line. They currently appear as the eighth in a list of eight parties that have the automatic right to field candidates.

The political scuttlebutt about Giambra Is that his campaign might be promoted by folks interested in legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug in New York. Maybe a slogan for the campaign could be, “the state is not too damned high.” Where is Jimmy McMillan when you need him?

Giambra will also highlight some issues that, while not sellable to a majority of New York voters, could nonetheless be hot issues for certain blocks of voters.

Party rankings on the ballot are determined by the number of votes a party candidate receives when running for governor, provided they collect at least 50,000 votes. The current lineup, based on the 2014 election, is as follows:

  • Democrat
  • Republican
  • Conservative
  • Green
  • Working Families
  • Independence
  • Women’s Equality
  • Reform

The Conservatives generally align themselves with the Republicans in statewide elections. Party leaders don’t seem very impressed by Senator DeFrancisco. Marcus Molinaro is the flavor of the month, but would he, on the Conservative line, help them hold on to the third spot on the ballot if a Giambra candidacy, unburdened by party loyalties and stances on issues, got a toehold on being the “anti” candidate in New York State in 2018? Signing on with the Republicans for Molinaro, it seems, provides some risk to the Conservative’s standing.

On the other hand, if the Conservatives ran their own candidate for governor, while the Republicans ran Molinaro and the Reform Party backs Giambra, would that offer the Conservatives the possibility of actually moving into the number two party position from 2019 through 2022, with all the political perks that being number two would offer them?

The race for governor appears to be Cuomo’s to lose, like his father’s campaign for a third term in 1990, when the Republicans and Conservatives went their own ways and Conservative Herbert London nearly took the second line on the ballot. An added feature in 2018 will be the Democratic wave and the Republican-Trump depression, both of which will have a big impact on voter turnout.

If the race for governor turns out to be the dud that many expect it to be, then the only intrigue will involve watching the Reps and the minor parties fight it out for ballot spots.

Donald Trump and Russell Salvatore

A short vacation in South Florida got me thinking about some comparisons between Donald Trump and our local restauranteur, Russell Salvatore.

Consider the fact that they both own steak houses – but Russell probably wouldn’t be caught dead serving a steak with ketchup.

Both like the limelight and public acclaim.

They are both wealthy, one more so than the other. But Salvatore has been incredibly generous in his charitable donations, while Trump only likes giving away other people’s money.

Both have sons involved in the family business.

But there is something I noticed on my trip to Florida that shows a distinction. It involves proper respect for the American flag.

Anyone who pays attention to proper protocol (and that clearly excludes Trump) knows that when displaying an American flag that is flown at night, the flag must be illuminated. Here is the standard, per the American Legion:

The Flag Code states it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The American Legion interprets “proper illumination” as a light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

Anyone who has driven past Russell Salvatore’s “Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More” on Transit Road in Clarence knows that his large flag is flown at all times, but at night it is “properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

If you drive by Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort on South Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach at night, however, you will see a large flag on the property, but without proper illumination. I guess rules are only for some people.

Someone concerned about American greatness might start with proper respect for the flag.

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