Valerie Keehn looked like she had accidentally taken a mouthful of fermented grapefruit rind Tuesday. As her fragment of the Democratic Party gleefully cheered on the crushing defeat of nemesis Tom McTygue, the incumbent mayor watched as one district after the next supported her becoming the second consecutive mayor to be voted out of office after just one term.
Despite her sour look and caustic remarks, Keehn claimed wasn’t bitter about the loss, nor did she point fingers. That is, except for the middle one she waved at McTygue the whole night. It almost seemed as though Keehn was amazed by her loss, which she directly linked to her bouts with the Public Works fixture. She seemed unable to grasp how the people could so abruptly turn on the self-proclaimed people’s mayor. And when she reached deep for these reasons, all she managed to come up with was the same middle finger.
“Not only did I have an opponent, I had three opponents and one of those opponents was the biggest political machine this city has ever seen,” she said in her concession speech.
Not that her loss had anything to do with fracturing the city Democrats, or by her supporters waging a slash-and-burn campaign against her primary challenger; or that she just lacked any accomplishments in office other than her pestilent needling McTygue. No, these weren’t reasons for defeat; these were reasons for victory, she explained to her cronies.
“While I won’t be the mayor, the person sitting to the left of the mayor is going to be far better for this city because of something I have done and that is something that no other mayor in this city has done and that is to have the courage to take on the machine of this city and make this city a better place,” she said in her trademark less-than-enthusiastic tone.
While this may sound like the mayor being a sore loser, she did make one extremely valid point in claim to have done “something no other mayor in the city has done.” Aside from uttering the longest mayoral run-on sentences ever recorded, she managed to nuke the city’s Democratic Committee AND deliver the city council to the Republicans on a platinum platter, complete with some hand-wrapped Cubans and a decanter of single malt scotch for effect. No other Democrat in city history has so thoroughly sabotaged their own party for the simple sake of handing the government over to their opponents.
And then came the scary part of Keehn’s speech.
“If you think I am going to go away, I can tell you I’m not going to go away,” she said to drowning applause.
Yes, another unfortunate truth about Keehn’s loss is that there was no binding agreement or section in the city charter mandating that she be catapulted from the city once and for all, which means her bickering and dickering could one day crop back up in city politics like crabgrass in the spring time. Note to Scott Johnson: your first mayoral directive should be issuing an edict to catapult the former mayor and her husband back to Wyoming or any other state where their politics won’t infect the government like a herpes sore at a junior high game of spin the bottle.
Amazingly, some seemed shocked by Keehn’s so-called upset, when the writing was on the wall as early as her February state of the city address. It was the first time the compound fracture between the Keehniacs and the city’s yellow dog Democrats was publically evident. Whatever wasn’t etched in stone then was certainly chiseled after her gloating during the primary, which she mistakenly perceived as a Democratic mandate instead of the freak power vote it was. Still, WNYT’s John Allen
seemed to blow a gasket over the Keehn loss.
“This could only be considered an upset,” he said, a very concerned and perplexed look deeply entrenched on his face. “Retired lawyer, relative newcomer to the political scene Scott Johnson will be the next mayor of Saratoga Springs.”
Allen went on to explain how is almost seemed Johnson was “lying low” during the first days of the campaign, which technically kicked off in January and got into full swing in April. While this is nowhere near an astute observation –Johnson’s lay-low technique has be roundly discussed on this blog –it’s a poignant one nonetheless.
Like many, Johnson accurately read the kamikaze trajectory Keehn set herself on and simply waited for her collision into the S.S. McTygue. Keehn and her supporters, on the other hand, wrongly figured she could win over Republican voters by simply supporting Scirocco in his quest to sink the stalwart McTygue. Some even sympathized for the Keehniacs and their dreadfully miscalculated run at politics.
“I was up on Broadway with a Scirocco sign and Keehn people high-fived me,” Scirocco's brother, Frank told the Saratogian
. “You kind of felt bad.”
The Keehniacs even broadly boasted how their candidate had enough bi-partisan support to take a 20 point lead against Johnson. Of course, even Tom Qualtere’s toddler cousin could have identified the flaw in this thinking: Republicans simply don’t vote for candidates even remotely affiliated with Democracy for America and especially not those defining themselves as “tax and spend” leftist
But the MENSA folk at Kamp Keehn couldn’t figure this out. While Johnson made quiet strides in August and September, Keehn drank the Kool-aid her supporters so readily stirred for her each day. Rather than help her own party, she dumped her efforts into helping Skip Scirocco, who secured a nearly 30 point lead over McTygue; well more than he needed considering the utter flogging in print the incumbent DPW commissioner got at the hands of two less than reputable news sources. Needless to say, there weren’t any Scirocco supporters high-fiving the Keehniacs Tuesday.
Had Keehn made amends with her party after the primaries, she would have been all but assured re-election. She nailed down endorsements from one major newspaper
, the local fish wrap
and a semi-legible neo-fascist liberal gossip column
, as well as support from many high-ranking Democrats in state and federal office. In the end, she lost by more than 500 votes, which was ironically about the same number of votes accrued by Gordon Boyd; strange how that worked out.
“Anyone can speculate on what effect I had,” Boyd told the Daily Gazette. “I did what I thought was the right thing.”
So what does this all mean? Good question. Despite Keehn’s assertions, he defeat likely does mean a relative exodus of her supporters from politics. They lack the gall to merge with the Republicans and the humility to rejoin the Democrats. Most likely, the same group of “disenfranchised” folks stumping for the soon-to-be former mayor will go back to whining about being disenfranchised. And when the Republican machine cranks up in City Hall this winter, many of them will be sorry they used C4 instead of matches to burn their party bridges.
For the city, it will be a return to the status quo for the most part. The Republicans don’t have a supermajority and the voting predilections of both Johnson and Ivins are less than know commodities. The most drastic change will be the abandonment of the city plan to tap Saratoga Lake. With the county plan still barely plugging along, the council will undoubtedly vote to buy water from the pipeline to secure its future needs; look for the Volkswagen to speed this legislation through as his first order of business. He’s got some bills to pay at the county level.
The rest will have to wait until next month, as Johnson selects his deputy and decides whether he wants to guide the city or be guided by his party. History would suggest the later, but Johnson’s campaign talk seems to suggest something different. As for everyone else, there’s something to be learned from the vitriolic bickering on the council and its effect on the electorate. There’s no question why the two most frequent offenders are now on the outside looking in.