Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

We are now just seven weeks away from one of the most momentous elections in the history of the United States. I know that might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not.

All midterm elections are, to some degree, a referendum on the occupant of the White House. Donald Trump’s words and deeds make that even more likely in 2018.

That’s not to say, however, that there are not local issues. In fact, for different reasons both Democrats and Republicans are working hard to emphasize local issues. The Democrats know that Trump’s low standing does not require them to talk about him; instead they are emphasizing local matters in their various districts. The Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to talk about local issues in order to get voters to forget about or to ignore Trump. That is difficult when Trump steps in doo-doo every single day.

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

  • Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser will have their turn in the barrel next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh has interestingly simplified the subject at hand. Since he has categorically denied Ms. Ford’s accusations it will be up to the Committee, the whole Senate and the American people to simply decide who is telling the truth and who has lied under oath. Perhaps the Judge would be willing to take a lie detector test, as Ms. Ford did.
  • Western New York Republicans have been working hard to sweep a major political liability under the rug. It isn’t working so well, and they seem to be pretty unhappy. Their effort to drop Chris Collins into a race for Clarence town councilman to remove him from the congressional ballot was hardly an example of political strategizing at its best. But now Collins has basically sent a “screw you” message to Republican Headquarters.
  • So for the Republican establishment the campaign will essentially come down to this: “if you support Trump, vote for the [alleged] crook.”
  • Erie County Chairman Nick Langworthy wants Collins to spend his whole $1.3 million campaign account on the election. On what? Ah, maybe TV ads that will say that Nate McMurray is a radical liberal, followed by – “this is Chris Collins and I approve this message.” That should work wonders.
  • Langworthy seems to have forgotten that Collins is the guy who, knowing that he was going to lose the county executive race in 2011, hit up his appointees for money at a fundraiser the day before the election so that his committee could repay his personal loan of funds. He might have some legal bills at this time that he will want to spend that $1.3 million on.
  • For my non-Twitter followers who have not already seem this suggestion, I think it would be really interesting to see some enterprising Democrats come up with some creative lawn signs to highlight the mess the Republicans find themselves in. I’m thinking about some old-fashioned candidate combination signs that have fallen out of favor, like: Molinaro/Collins; Collins/Ranzenhofer; Collins/Walter; Collins/Kearns, etc.
  • It’s still a stretch to see Nate McMurray winning in the face of the gerrymandered district which voted overwhelmingly for Trump. But then I think about a campaign buried in my memory from 1964, when Democrat Max McCarthy defeated right-wing Republican John R. Pillion in the 39th congressional district, which was also a very strong Republican district. That district is the linear predecessor of the current 27th district.
  • The turnout in last week’s Democratic primary in Erie County was amazing, but then again, it was also very good and far better than the rest of the state in 2014.
  • I’m still having trouble understanding how the state Democratic Chairman can publicly endorse the Republican candidate for Erie County Court Judge.
  • Just wondering: why were Senator Tim Kennedy’s robocalls going into the Town of Amherst, which is not in his Senate district?
  • The financial and enrollment issues at Erie Community College that this blog outlined in three posts in August have not been resolved. In fact, the problem is growing bigger. A policy change has created additional problems. I’ll have more to say in a subsequent post.
  • The ECC Board of Trustees and county officials seem content to accept whatever they are being told by school President Dr. Dan Hocoy – maybe at lunch or dinner. When was the last time that the Buffalo News wrote a story about ECC?
  • Sort of like the big brew-ha-ha about county officials saying they wanted to do something to reform the Erie County Water Authority.
  • Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder last spring detailed very serious financial issues about the city’s finances. This blog published a post about the issue, pointing out the credibility of Schroeder’s numbers. The first quarter of the city’s 2018-19 fiscal year is almost done. Has anything been done to address Schroeder’s concerns? From what I haven’t read in the Buffalo News, I think the answer is no.
  • These head-in-the-sand approaches to important public issues remind me of a musical I’m fond of, 1776. Part of the story line is that George Washington kept sending letters to the Continental Congress about his needs in organizing and managing his army and they mostly ignored him. That led to a song with the opening lines, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

Unions in 21st century politics

I began my active involvement in politics when I was in college in the late 1960’s. A lot has changed since then. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • From what I hear from some party leaders, it is harder than it used to be to recruit members for their committees
  • In Buffalo and other places we paid attention to the local news cycle, which meant that in major campaigns in days gone by we had to have separate press releases each day for the News and the Courier
  • And last, but not least, we checked nearly everything that was going on for reaction or comment from leaders of organized labor

Things are different now. Continue reading

The Supreme Court’s new term; a look into the future of confirmation hearings

The Supreme Court’s 2015-16 term began this past Monday. There are several major cases pending that will probably have a major impact on federal law and policy on affirmative action, public employee unions, Obamacare and other matters.

We currently have a Court that includes one justice who is 82 and three others in their late seventies. We had a pope resign, so it would not be so startling to see one or more justices resign. Lifetime appointments, however, sometimes encourage people to hang on to something long after it would make sense to most people to leave. Continue reading