Dumb and Dumber
If the answer is members of a cultish splinter-cell of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee that helped doom the reelection hopes of the least-successful city mayor in recent memory, then he's scored a hole in one. And if this is the case, he’s probably better off packing in his campaign now instead of drawing it out until November. At this rate, it’s not likely to go much farther than the trash receptacles that will soon be lined with the mailers his election committee sent out this week to registered Democrats.
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most perplexing campaign moves in the city’s political history, Montagnino decided to print a campaign mailer featuring the praise and profile of failed former mayor Valerie Keehn. The bizarre, three-paragraph missive attributed to Keehn waxes on about how Montagnino –a referee and court attorney in Rensselaer County’s state Supreme Court –will dispense justice across the city like vittles from a drop-in pantry.
“He is beholden to no one,” Keehn states in the mailer. “[H]e is not connected with the ‘old boy network’ and owes no political favors to anybody. There is only one kind of justice he will dispense, and that’s even handed justice, whether Jim is working with attorneys or with self-represented litigants.”
The mailer also alludes to Montagnino as one of the so-called Democrats For Change –the aforementioned splinter – just in case anyone needed any clarification on the issue. But instead of being a ‘democrat for change,’ he’s “experience for a change,” a quizzical phrasing that at face value seems to suggest that the soon-to-be retired Judge Douglas Mills doesn’t have much of a track record behind the bench. Cue the laugh track.
More glaringly peculiar is that Montagnino would bother to associate himself Keehn, who is the reigning poster-child for the city’s politics of failure. In just one short term, she managed to turn a sweeping democratic mandate in city government to bitter, back-biting defeat.
For many politically active democrats not associated with her splinter, Keehn’s mere visage is emblematic of politics at its absolute worse. For many other independent-minded voters her image is a reminder how some politicians care more about the game than the people they proclaim to serve.
Even from an apolitical and pragmatic stance, it makes no sense for Montagnino to align himself with the failed mayor. Most candidates seeking any political office try to distance themselves from any former politician with a recent electoral loss hovering over their head. It’s just common sense: Voters don’t want to elect a loser; they want to elect a winner. This is especially the case in Saratoga Springs, where the visceral feelings evoked during the 2007 election are not yet forgotten.
You would think these concepts would be readily apparent for a fellow virtually flaunting his experience and legal acumen. You would also expect a fellow of Montagnino’s ilk –a fellow with his own political storm cloud –would be trying to attract as many voters as possible in the general election instead of casting his allegiances early on in a primary.
But this is the politics of Keehn. Throw everything in the wind in September, and then bank on the fact that any victory will carry into November. This foolish and specious reasoning came about when Keehn was the underdog in 2005 and came back to defeat and relatively unpopular Republican incumbent during a year when voters were quite disgruntled with the GOP. Keehn’s bewilderingly ignorant campaign applied this same logic with their ‘burn all bridges’ tactics in the 2007 election, which proved once and for all that the people’s mayor really didn’t have many people behind her in the first place.
Perhaps these are things Montagnino can contemplate over the next decade after his inevitable loss to either primary challenger Jeffrey Wait or the Republican-endorsed Matt Dorsey in the general election. For his sake, it’s a shame his campaign can’t print a retraction. Maybe he should publicly decry the mailer as a fabrication by his opponents. Either that or start praying the voters are as blind as lady Justice.