The scramble continued all week, as candidates ebbed and flowed into the race. Mike Richter, the most obvious candidate, pulled his name from contention by mid-week, claiming he wanted to spend more time with his young family and environmental business enterprise in Manhattan. Then on Friday, party leaders announced they had whittled the 30-something names down to a mere half-dozen. Or at least that’s what they’re telling the media.
Democratic insiders say union organizer Suzy Ballantyne will be the candidate to challenge state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a Republican juggernaut in his own rite. In choosing the director of governmental affairs for the New York State AFL-CIO, the party will have a candidate they hope will be able to tap the district’s strong labor union contingent. Officially, the party won’t announce their choice until Sunday afternoon, right before the Super Bowl.
But to choose anyone aside from Ballantyne would stand against all political logic. First and foremost, she’s the top pick of Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman –a union man himself –even if he won’t outwardly admit it. Second, she’s not Tracy Egan, who isn’t exactly in the best graces with the 20th District’s state committee representative. Mind you, the former network anchor’s father was a major proponent of Patti Southworth, the wife of the fellow who tried to oust Shawn Thompson last fall. And let’s not go into the myriad reasons city Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim won’t get the nod.
True, Ballantyne doesn’t have nearly the name recognition as Tedisco. Yet she’s anything but a political neophyte. She’s a grass-roots organizer with an extraordinary network of supporters that may have the ability to raise the kind of dough needed to win the district. She’ll be going up against the GOP’s last great hope in New York, who also happens to hold the key to the Republican Assembly Committee’s war chest.
There’s more behind the choice of Ballantyne than simply her ability generate cash for the party. First and foremost, it’s her appeal to woman voters that makes her an ideal choice for the seat. Don’t think Camp Tedisco hasn’t taken note of this either. The minority leader appeared on the Saratoga Springs Public Library stairs with about two dozen ‘Women for Tedisco’ Saturday afternoon, amid the cold and throngs of masticating chowderheads.
Tedisco’s message wasn’t much different than his normal spiel. Cut taxes...blah..blah…blah…create jobs…jobs…jobs…’I stood up to the steam roller’...yadada… yadada... Really, he said nothing outside of what he normally says, and certainly nothing to convince anyone that woman voters will come out for him in droves. Perhaps that’s because they won’t, especially with a candidate like Ballantyne on the ballot.
In short, Ballantyne is the party’s only hope to defeat the immensely popular Tedisco, who ran unopposed in his Assembly district just a few months ago. So why did they wait so long to make a choice? Well Richter for one. The goaltender that helped the New York Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in more than four decades was clearly the first choice, thanks to his name recognition. But when he quashed all the rumors of a congressional run, the party decided to pick another hockey player.
That’s right. Ballantyne, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, can play hockey. She was leading Clifton Park’s Arctic Foxes several years ago and was even featured with the team on the nationally syndicated Today Show. Not that this matters for voters. Ballantyne will still be viewed as an underdog to Tedisco, regardless of her acumen on the ice or otherwise.
But stranger things have happened. After all, not too many pundits predicted a low-profile attorney from Hudson would have a chance against Congressman Kickass. So who knows? With a name like Ballantyne, she may even garner a few votes from the malt liquor contingent. And they’ve got the tallies that no one can predict.