Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Smoky rooms and related metaphors

It’s hard to recall a time when the term ‘unity’ was used in the same sentence as the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee. For more than three years now, the party has forged divides that make the chasms of the Grand Canyon look relatively insignificant. But believe it or not, there was once a time when city Democrats regarded themselves as birds of a feather. And believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago.

The year was 2000 and the mules had just finished a take-over of the City Council majority. As their leader, they selected a feisty young Saratoga Lake resident heading the gubernatorial campaign of then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall. The selection completed what was nothing short of a remarkable ascension through the state and city parties. In less than a decade, he went from being a recent UAlbany graduate running smear campaigns for the state Assembly democrats to being the lead fundraiser for the party’s choice for governor. In the Spa City, he proffered a message of unity among Democrats, after the party unanimously selected him to replace then-Mayor Ken Klotz as their chairman.

“Ken Klotz and [Public Works Commissioner Tom] McTygue and [Accounts Commissioner Ben] Mirling, they embody what Saratogians want," Shawn Thompson told the Daily Gazette at the time. “There’s a lot of Democratic support out there and a lot of independent thinker…One thing I learned during the campaign - the voters of Saratoga Springs are going to vote for the best person.”

Then things started to change. McCall’s campaign was an abject failure after he spent all his energy warding off a primary challenge by Andrew Cuomo. Short a job, Thompson sought refuge working for the state Senate minority. Meanwhile, he brought his brand of rough-and-tumble politics to city politics.

First on his hit-list was long-time Republican Supervisor Skip Scriocco, who he unsuccessfully tried to torpedo by claiming the then-animal control officer was conducting county politicking while on the clock with the city. In the meantime, city Republicans were maneuvering around Thompson to reclaim the mayor’s seat in a tight 2003 election. The majority squandered, he cried foul and claimed the GOP was intimidating college voters casting ballots at Skidmore; another Thompson campaign that produced no results.

By 2005, Thompson became affiliated with the Democracy For America message that was sweeping through the party in wake of the failed presidential run by Vermont Governor Howard Dean. To this end, he recruited a quasi-Manchurian candidate in the form of special education teacher Valerie Keehn, who he vehemently tried to foist as the party’s mayoral candidate. Party centrists, however, found themselves backing Hank Kuczynski against Thompson’s wishes. The end result was a bitter battle between the emerging new school DFA democrats and the old guard, headed by the Brothers’ McTygue and Klotz loyalists.

Still, the party managed to pull off what many termed an election coup, sweeping democratic and democratic-leaning candidates into all five council seats. But despite the outward appearance of victory, the party was anything but victorious. Two of the newly elected candidates –the Thompson-supported Ron Kim and the McTygue-supported John Franck –were card-carrying Republicans just several years before their Democratic endorsement. And the feuding between Keehn and McTygue had only just begun.

Less than a year later, the dispute boiled over into the city court system, when a Keehn supporter and vice-chairman of the committee alleged intimidation at the hands of a McTygue supporter. Thompson refused to quell the fracas, insisting it was “a criminal matter that has spilled out of a political debate” and was better solved by a city court judge. The divide was deepened when Thompson –working through Keehn –launched a failed campaign to revise the charter and do away with the commissioner-form of government. The two-fold motive was fairly clear from the get-go: Oust McTygue from office and then win Keehn a four-year term as mayor. Of course, we all know how that panned out.

Today, Thompson is back in the news as he seeks reappointment to his spot on the influential state committee. He’s being challenged by Pat Southworth, the chairman of the Ballston Town Democrats and husband of recently elected Supervisor Patricia Southworth. Thompson’s supporters claim Southworth is bankrolled by the McTygue faction of the party, which is fueling the ongoing implosion.

“I am hearing that some on the committee carried petitions for Pat Southworth,” wrote Planning Board Chairwoman Nancy Goldberg in a leaked memo addressed to party leader Lou Schnieder. “And you say that you want to bury divisive business.”

The missive drew fire from Phil Diamond, a former McTygue backer and the man involved in the aforementioned fracas, who accused Goldberg and the Thompsonian (i.e. the Keehniac) faction of conducting secret organizational meetings behind closed doors and outside of the committee’s purview; in essence doing the very things Keehn once accused McTygue of doing. Of course, he was referring to the decision to pull Keehn’s name from the hat for Joe Bruno’s senate seat and swing support behind two-term county Supervisor Joanne Yepsen instead of Gillibrand operative Mike Russo.

“Who anointed the little group that recently met in a metaphorically smoke-filled room to select a candidate to run for Bruno’s seat,” he wrote. “Some of those who were present are not even on the Committee. Most of us who are on the Committee were not asked to attend. Why? Is this the way to reduce divisiveness?”

Diamond’s letter was broadly castigated by other Thompson supporters who claimed it wasn’t their backroom dickering that is ravaging the committee. Instead, they claimed it was the committee that was clearly endorsing Southworth for the seat behind the former city chairman’s back. Committee member Al Ormsby claimed the city Dems attempted to endorse Southworth without having a quorum and without allowing Thompson to present his case. Brucie Rosch, who just a month earlier circulated petitions to stack the committee’s leadership with Thompson supporters, claimed Southworth’s push for the state seat was “deceptive” because he never mentioned his opponent’s name when asking for an endorsement.

“We should begin to care how this sort of behavior would appear to other Democrats, whether a voter or elected officials at the State and Federal level, or members of the party structure” she wrote in the July missive. “It makes us look like childish fools, and completely untrustworthy.”

Childish fools? Untrustworthy? These are uncanny descriptors for the crew of operatives Thompson has seemingly led since his falling out with the committee in 2005. Granted, he’s probably in a better position to affect change, given his ties to the state party. But Thompson’s ties can’t seem to obscure the damage he’s caused by his ongoing attempts at a power grab.

In eight short years, Thompson has taken a formerly united party and given rise to a venomous faction of the party that has frightened all but a small minority of Democratic voters away from their slate of candidates. Perhaps Southworth isn’t the best candidate for the job. But he’s a candidate that isn’t Thompson, who has guided the party down a steep precipice seemingly for his own gain.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is really quite clear to all except the most unrepentant Keehnac that Thompson is just the local Democratic version of Republican Karl Rove. Although one could argue that Rove is brighter.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An observer gets the feeling that the last thing the local dems care about is governing honestly. Why to hell don't they just get out the rulers, whine some more, go behind closed doors and settle it.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with Thompson is although he is ruthless he's incompetent and arrogant.
Skip Scriocco is a good example first he launches a campaign to discredit him then two years later he endorses him in his campaign against McTygue.

Ruthless yes, smart no. That was shown when Scriocco supporters never went over to Thompson’s toad Keehn while McTygue supporters also ran away from Keehn in record numbers there by handing the Mayor’s position to Johnson. Well done Shawn you really are a political Guru who really understands the foundation of good strategy. I have no doubt in years to come Political Science majors will study your tactics in how not to run a campaign.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check the IP address’s logging onto your site HORATIO I have no doubt when Thompson reads this he’ll be spending a lot a time at a State owned computer sending you love notes.

PS Horiatio I hear he put a bounty on your head tell me who you are and will split it.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brucie Rosch, who could ever forget that beauty waving copies of Roberts rules of order like Mao’s “LITTLE RED BOOK” at a Committee meeting. Then stomping out of the room head down vein’s popping out her neck. Oh those were the days.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Ballston(R) said...

Southworth is a smuck who cares about no one. He is trying to ride on Mctygue's criminal coat tails!

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick Southworth is an honest and loyal Democrat. You can't say that about Shawn Thompson. What you can say is: the only Democrat shawn Thompson Looks out for is Shawn Thompson with politically appointed $104,288 year job at the NYS Senate! Just what do you do for that kind of money? You do know that is taxpayers money don't you Shawn?

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. ballston(r) you never did grow up did you? Lets deal with facts not your fiction. If you are a raal man then identify yourself. What do you have to hide from? I know Mr. Southworth and he is running to make the Democratic Party better unlike your "close personal friend" Shawn Thompson who only wants to further his own seedy carrear of stabbing other dems in the back. That is what Shawn is best known for in Albany!!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ballston(R) 5:41 PM Wrote
“Southworth is a smuck who cares about no one. He is trying to ride on Mctygue's criminal coat tails!”

What a profound statement. So bold, so bash!! I see you Keehn folks have some deep thinkers and philosophers. Perhaps when you finish your PH’D you’ll be able to string enough words together to write a whole paragraph.

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Mamie said...

Yeah! That's what this city needs. A Ballstonian to decide what's best for Saratoga. He would be a disaster! McTygue will be steering him around like a puppet! We finally got people like McTYgue and Lew Benton out of our hair. Let's keep it that way.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Mamie,

FYI, Benton is anything but "out of our hair" so to speak. He's got a wonderful patronage job with the city that pays him a rather large paycheck for doing essentially nothing.

Ballston(R),

Out of curiosity, I haven't seen or heard from Tom McTygue in quite some time, despite persisting insistences that he continues to exert influence. Is there any evidence he's still this deeply involved in politics? I'm well aware of his brothers' and former supporters' involvement. But where is Tom himself? I was under the impression he was out of the game.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Crazy Lady said...

"Yeah! That's what this city needs. A Ballstonian to decide what's best for Saratoga. He would be a disaster!..."

So I guess that recent transplants from NJ, LI and CT are the better route to take, right?

Moron.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shawn Thompson suffers from an acute case of narcissism.

nar·cis·sism

nar·cis·sism [nrssə sìzzəm]
n
1. self-admiration: excessive self-admiration and self-centeredness
2. personality disorder: in psychiatry, a personality disorder characterized by the patient's overestimation of his or her own appearance and abilities and an excessive need for admiration.
In psychoanalytic theory, emphasis is placed on the element of self-directed sexual desire in the condition.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don’t need to track IP address’s to know when Thompson is up to his tricks and posting from State owned computers. Just look for the humorless and most vile comments to know Shawn's at it again.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Horatio-

You could not be more correct about the political inactivity of ex-Commissioner McTygue. For all the simpletons' sinister scenarios, he is not wielding an iron fist from his rolling farm. His hands are busy doing the work he loves passionately (opponents insert "Picking Pockets!" witticism here).

As for ANYONE who thinks Pat Southworth would be ANYBODY's puppet... your drugs are clearly of uncommon potency. Pat and Patricia Southworth are passionate Public Servants, accessible people who are the beginning of the new face of County politics. But hey, why take the time to know them when it's so much easier to hurl unsubstantiated nonsense.

But back to Tom McTygue. I had the honor of heading up the July 4-6 events in Saratoga Springs. From what I hear (mostly), a good time was had by all. I had set the schedule for Friday's events in Congress Park. I walked the entire grounds for a thorough check the night before. I was prepared to inventory all damage...as I had been asked last year by then-Commissioner McTygue. I tell you this- The Man loved that Park. And as the Glorious Fourth unfolded in a postcard-perfect day for families and picnics and public reverence...I could not help but want to remind the crowd of how the Park came to be so incredible.

How it was an unseemly swamp in the early 70's...until a brilliant and massive underground water storage system was built. How all the pavilions and fountains were restored. How the landmark glimmering Carousel sings from the most perfect place on earth. How the A/C unit atop the Casino was replaced last year for the comfort of Brides, Socialites, and Kitchen staff. How the Italian Gardens were meticulously restored. How the new Veterans' Memorial brought dignity and recognition to so many ignored for so long. And I thought of the debt owed to Senator Bruno for so much financial support. But I could not speak of politics to the crowd, not on that day intentionally kept free of partisan pandering. That was my choice and the unanimous choice of our Volunteer Committee.

But that brief history of the Park dating back to the 70's, it is a story of constant attention and improvement. It came not from a Urban Renewal Grant. It came not from a burst of Civic Pride. It came not from a tireless Citizens' Committee. The Park was and is a passion for Commissioner McTygue. And as a man who gave so much, his tireless focus deserved at least some kind acknowledgement from the Stage.

Such is the state of today's world where I had to silence myself on a Day celebrating Independence. And the next day, I walked the Park again...every square inch. The morning's DPW shift had cleaned it. But it was clear that the crowd had respected it. I only hope the day comes when it will be safe to celebrate the dedication of the one man so tirelessly committed to preserving it-- Our free-to-all Congress Park.

For those who'd like to say what I did not, forget the visions of smoky backrooms and shadowy corners. You'll find Tom McTygue in the bright sunlight of his farm, out with the horses he's always enjoyed. It's never too late for a simple "Thank You." Even if you villify him in the scathing blog you simply can't wait to post.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Looks out for is Shawn Thompson with politically appointed $104,288 year job”

That’s a lot of money for the governor’s valet and chief dick washer.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara Lombardo continues bullshit at Saratogian.

The Saratogian reluctantly printed a letter to the editor that exposed Thompson for the piece of shit he is.

But old Barb is still refusing to put the letter on their web site.

What did you promise Barb, a little cushy job for the State when she gets shit canned at the paper.


Is that it Shawn making promises you can’t keep again?

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shawn how’s it going. Petitions due tomorrow chump. Busy working the local cemeteries, ICU’s and county morgue.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How's the petition thing going?

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Kyle York. truer words have never been spoken of the man, by someone he gave a cushy patronage job to.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

demroc said: didn't tom mctygue get involved with the whole eddy hotdogs. he called izzo and put politcal pressure on him to get the hotdog king back in the park. tmac can't loose that revenue stream. when the park was denied the loopholed their way onto broadway. i've never seen such a tacky thing in my life. you guys are fools to think that that guy isn't trying to exert pressure on people. now of course the other side of that coin is are people going to go jumping for that guy, i don't think so.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

5:23

"Someone he (McTygue) gave a cushy patronage job to."

With all respect due to someone so ashamed by their words that you cower behind anonymity...
I beg to differ.

A successful career on Madison Avenue left me free to do the work I CHOOSE to do. Much like you (maybe), I love our city's colorful floral display. Having learned the work and the rewards of gardening from my Dad, I ASKED Commissioner McTygue if I could do the Spring planting with the Flower Crew. I can't survive summer heat... but 60,000 flowers don't plant themselves.

So I got up at 6:00 to work 7 or six days a week until 3:00. I drove our Special BOCES workers to meet their 2:00 bus pick-ups. I shoveled compost into 100-pound cans and brought it to the Broadway flower beds. Did you know that our abundant horse manure mixes with soil to make excellent compost? Fragrant as a Fabric Softener aisle!!! But first, the hard dirt had to be broken up with a spade, work gloves, and endlessly repeated stabs into hard ground.

I got to plant beautiful flowers in the unrelenting sun on the South Broadway median with heavy trucks thundering well over the speed limit barreling past my back as I planted on my knees, my toes on the curb. Same goes for Union Avenue.

And for the sheer joy of it, I wrestled with a heavy wobbling 10-foot heavy copper pipe to water the hanging baskets on Broadway.

I'll tell you what Brother, now THAT is "CUSHY" living. But my reward came through as promised- $10.50 an hour with no benefits... unless you count the passing thanks from pedestrians and passing cars. I took them in greedily like the selfish blowhard I am.

My friends on the Flower Crew do it EVERY single year... and they're STILL going during these stifling and insufferably muggy days.

You my friend, YOU deserve such a cushy gig. Stop in at City Hall and ask for Commissioner Scirocco or Pat Design.

Tell 'em York sent you.
Or tell 'em you love your City.

Or better yet--
Stay in the cool darkened corner under your cozy rock.

Cushy indeed.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shawn Thompson did not set foot outside of Saratoga to get his petitions. Patrick Southworth went to Milton, Greenfield, Galway, Charlton, Ballston and Saratoga. Just goes to show that Patrick will represent all of 110th district in Saratoga County for the NYS Democratic Committee.
Patrick has done an outstanding job organizing the Town of Ballston Democrats and wants to continue the process at the NYS Democratic Committee level.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a Hero! Pat Southworth we're not worthy! Why did you Trespass on the Cappiello Farm?

4:53 AM  

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