Following politics these days is a lot like following professional sports, especially if you happen to be among the many that could care less about off-year elections. These folks are like the casual baseball fan; the one that couldn’t be bothered to watch any one of the 162 regular season games, but becomes a slavering fanatic the minute his or her team pulls into the playoffs; or better yet, the World Series.
There are also the bookies; the guys that need to watch all 162 games from each of the 30 teams. Given that each game lasts about four hours, they quickly find themselves in a pinch when they’re choosing the over-under for any given day. That’s why the world of professional sports likes to give out the so-called power-rankings. They feed every statistic imaginable into a complex algorithm of sorts and then add in a liberal helping of subjectivity to come up with their figures.
Well, off-year election voters should be offered the same service. Sweet Jesus, how can someone be expected to keep up with much less follow all the intricate machinations of local politics? One would need to read the paper, or attend city council meetings or participate in their participatory democracy. And we all know there isn’t time enough in the day to do laundry, much less devote three hours every other week to hear a gaggle of grumpy commissioners prattle on about city affairs.
In response, iSaratoga has decided to spend the weekend crunching numbers and pounding 12 oz. cans of subjectivity, so that voters will at least know where they stand in the booth Tuesday afternoon and evening. Keep in mind, these aren’t endorsements; rather they’re an illustration of where the candidates stand in the grand scheme of things, so voters have a clear idea of the fighting underdog versus the smug first-place champion.
1. Scott Johnson; incumbent mayor; Republican.
Comments: Johnson had an unremarkable first term, but that seems fairly remarkable considering the devastation he faced with the failing state and national economy. The fiscal bumbling of the Keehn administration set him up to sink, but somehow Johnson remained afloat. Meanwhile, he advanced a recreation center project that stalled for nearly a decade and has managed stave off his resulting critics –many of whom openly supported the project the previous year. Johnson’s term garnered him endorsements from both the Saratogian and the Albany Times Union, both of which supported his foe in 2007. He also won an extremely rare endorsement from the Skidmore News. The incumbent mayor is a powerhouse, and not one to bet against.
2. John Franck, incumbent Accounts commissioner, Democrat.
Comments: Teddy Roosevelt would have liked Franck. He tends to fit the former New York governor’s slogan, ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ Franck realized he couldn’t go head-to-head with the Democrats for Change and knew the GOP was having a tough time finding candidates. In contrast, the DFC was throwing endorsements to just about any corpse they could find in the hope of getting a council majority. In a wry move, Franck spoke softly to the party leaders about gaining unity and then waited. Once July passed without a primary challenge, Franck picked up his big stick and promptly beat the tar out of his so-called running mates. Like others that aren’t exactly keen on the DFC’s motives, Franck has distanced himself from the party message and even attended GOP events. And they can’t do anything about it now. If they do, their bull shit message of ‘party unity’ will seem all the more hollow.
3. Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, incumbent DPW commissioner, not sure.
Comments: Scirocco made some mighty strange bedfellows in his last election and has thus distanced himself from the GOP machine. Word on the street was that he wasn’t even attending –or not invited –to Republican functions. Ordinarily, that would be the death knell for any candidate running for office in Saratoga County. But that’s simply not the case of the Spa City GOP. In fact, Scirocco’s distancing from his registered party has placed him in the good graces of the city Democrats –or at least the Democrats for Change overlords that have hijacked the party. After maintaining a candidate in DPW for nearly a quarter-century, the Democrats decided against challenging Scirocco –a decision that was assuredly a quid-pro-quo for his work to oust Tom McTygue in 2007. Scirocco also gained favor with the unions by fervently objecting to staff layoffs both in 2008 and this fall. If there’s a guy who is in command in the DPW race, it’s the Skipper.
4. Matt Veitch/Joanne Yepsen, incumbent city supervisors, who cares.
Comments: The fourth ranking isn’t exactly something to brag about, but it shows these cats have pretty much fulfilled their end of the bargain. Yepsen had her spats with the DFC, specifically when they shunned her as a candidate for state Sen. Joe Bruno’s seat. Well, that’s ancient history now, and like Franck, Yepsen has ridden the DFC message of unity into an uncontested election. Likewise, Veitch hasn’t done anything to draw ire from his party bosses. They’re a lock for office, but so would a semi-literate troglodyte.
5. Peter Martin, DFC Finance commissioner candidate, Kool-aid drinker.
Comments: Martin has two things going for him. He has the unpopularity of incumbent Ken Ivins Jr. among the city’s unions and he has the fact that a lot of voters will simply pull the lever for a candidate that happens to be in their party. The confluence of these two streams among the electorate often means a win. Still, Martin is anything but a lock. If city Democrats don’t come out in force, he’s going to have a tough time getting to the finish line. If he does win, it will be a small coup for the DFC, which will then have control over the city’s purse strings come budget time in 2010. However, absent another win in city races, Martin will be chiefly ineffective on the council and somewhat akin to a recently beheaded chicken. Look for Eileen Finneran to scamper into his office as deputy if the DFC doesn’t win another race.
6. Ken Ivins, incumbent Finance commissioner, Republican.
Comments: Ivins carried a pair of brass balls into office this year. He didn’t dwell on the loss of the VLT-aid, which was smart, seeing as though no one in Albany would have listened. He also didn’t even hesitate to call for sweeping job layoffs to both reduce the burden on taxpayers and bring the greedy city unions back to the negotiating tables. So why the low ranking? Well, Ivins’ pragmatism in office has been spun six ways sideways by the rabid DFC hacks. He’s been roundly castigated for doing the right thing and will likely suffer at the polls as a result. It’s a shame too, because what Ivins has brought to the table is much more reasonable than what his potential successor has suggested.
7. Ed Miller, candidate for DPW commissioner, Independence.
Comments: Ed Miller is an intriguing candidate because of who he has in tow. There’s no mystery about his closeness with McTygue, or that he’s being supported by the losing side in the battled for control of the city Democrats. If he pulls off an upset, he could very well become a link between this disjointed faction and the city Republicans, a group that’s having struggles of its own in the post-Bruno era. But with this said, there’s a very slim probability that Miller unseats Scirocco. He tried to shoot the moon by touting the Regatta View water connection debacle, but the issue never gelled. He would have been better off taking a page from the DFC by paying off a few disgruntled DPW workers to spread rumors to Metroland about Scirrocco being embroiled in an FBI investigation one month before the election. That tactic seems to work well.
8. Ron Kim, DFC candidate for Mayor, Republocrat or Democan; you choose.
Comments: If there was ever a poor choice for mayor, it was Ron Kim. He might have had a chance, had he simply not done or said anything over his last two years in office. Instead, he became the mouthpiece for the lingering remnants of the Keehn Administration. He lacks the ability to think for himself. And when he does, he ends up storming out of an important council meeting. His ‘failureometer’ made him the laughing stock of the city. His cries about needing to “layoff” up to 17 public safety workers in 2008 showed his inability to act rationally and with civility. His choice of Eileen Finneran as a deputy showed just how beholden he was to the Keehn Administration. And the list goes on for what seems like an eternity. Voters, if there was a weaker candidate for mayor, he would have lost the Democratic nomination to a pile of bricks from the City Center’s façade.
9. Richard Wirth, candidate for Public Safety. Republican.
Comments: Republicans figure two’s the charm with Wirth. He got beaten like a gong by Ron Kim in 2007, but they figure that was because he was going up against an incumbent. This time, they figure something will change in the minds of voters. Either that, or that the city Democrats will forget everyone needs to vote on Tuesday. Wirth isn’t a bad candidate per se. But once the voting public makes you a loser, it’s tough to change that image barring cataclysmic failure on the part of the opposition candidate(See: Richard Nixon, circa 1968).
10. Kevin Connolly, DFC candidate for Public Safety, first in line for Kool-aid.
Comments: Even in Jonestown, someone needed to drink the punch first. That someone in the DFC is Connolly, who basically adopted their crazy platform as his own, shirking any sort of reasonable issue to base his run for office. Saying exactly what Ron Kim is saying is not a platform; at least, not one that’s likely to get you elected. He should hope that voters are equally dismayed by Wirth, never bothered to listen to him blather during the debates, close their eyes and reach for a lever. That way, at least he has a one-in-two chance of being elected. His other chance to win will come if the city’s Police Benevolent Association mandates that all members living in the city vote for this guy so they can get their 7 percent raise in January. But if the electorate sees him for what he is –a card-carrying union hack beholden to the DFC –they’ll steer mighty clear from him at the polls.
There you have it, folks. Get out there and vote. Regardless of the outcome, hopefully we awake to find candidates in office that can rise about the rhetoric and find answers to the problems that have plagued this city for years. Were there ever a time for consensus building, it’s now. The other hopeful outcome of this race is to at last put to rest the McTygue-Keehn battle, because there’s good a chance that both sides will end up yesterday’s news.