One of the events he may try to forget is how his party shunned former state Senate candidate Brian Premo, allowing the heavyweight incumbent Joe Bruno to run unopposed. Premo, who was initially an enrolled Democrat, played musical chairs between parties and landed on a GOP chair when the tunes clipped off. He missed the filing deadline to switch back to the Dems and thus needed permission from both the Saratoga and Rensselaer branches of the party to run in the badly gerrymandered district.
Not only did the Bulman-lead Democrats unanimously vote against endorsing Premo, they also colluded with Bruno’s attorneys to ensure their no-confidence tally wouldn’t be overshadowed by the Rensselaer Dems. But a lot has changed in two and a half years; more specifically, a lot has changed in the last two and a half months.
Initially, word from on high was that the Saratoga Dems were mustering a sort of one-two punch with the recently re-elected Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Yepsen and ousted Mayor Valerie Keehn. The rumor came from “Democratic insiders” who suggested the one of the two might pull off a Gillibrand-esque victory by going up against the last vestiges of the powerful Republican machine that kept a choke hold on upstate for so many years. And theoretically speaking, their candidacy –Keehn’s in particular –might have been the olive branch Bulman was searching for to rally both factions of the badly fragmented party to make another go at things.
Less than three months after this rumor was hatched, the winds of politics have shift. Bulman told the Times Union last week neither Yepsen nor Keehn will run against Bruno, leaving Premo as the sole candidate for taking on Hollywood Joe. It’s an about-face for state and county Democrats alike, especially seeing as though all they seemed to talk about during the winter months was taking back the state Senate. Now, they’ll have Premo as their candidate; a fellow the Saratoga mules stubbornly kicked at two years earlier.
What is most interesting about this development is the timing of it. In January, rumors of the Yepsen-Keehn tandem were being tossed up on all the so-called progressive sites, even though both candidates had faced brutal elections just two months earlier. Then when the roiling of Saratoga politics seemed to reduce to a simmer, Bulman announces that both candidates are no longer considering a run for the crown jewel of senatorial seats. Could it have to do with a certain gubernatorial development in March?
There is no question the politics of Saratoga’s so-called progressive movement closely mimicked those of the recently failed governor. Namely, they copied Eliot Spitzer’s philosophy of gunning for the big game straight from the get-go, instead of dickering with the small guys. The only difference was Spitzer gunned for the opposition party leader, where as Keehn’s progressives selected fellow party leader Tom McTygue –who they argued was no less corrupt than the Republican senator.
While Spitzer was in power, Keehn’s backers frequently alluded to her “close ties” with the governor; a claim that’s a bit specious but somewhat plausible considering her marriage ties with a state litigator. So when Spitzer was replaced by a member of the old guard –and more specifically a good friend of Bruno’s –it’s quite possible the tide in Albany suddenly changed, thereby washing the progressives’ bellowing yawp for change out to sea. Without a mighty strong set of lungs to inflate a pair of political neophytes, Bruno would have redefined the term ‘having a field day’ at the polls against the likes of Keehn or Yepsen.
The alternative is to offer a sacrificial lamb like Premo. He’s not a bad candidate; just not the type to make a serious run at Bruno, even after a number of the majority leader’s misdoings were exposed during Spitzer’s colossal fall from the sky. The most pathetic thing about the whole affair is that the Saratoga Democrats can’t find a compelling candidate to make a run at Bruno. Despite the inroads Democrats have made in Saratoga County over the past two and half years, their failure to offer a challenger to Bruno shows the shallowness of their candidate pool.