Friday, October 14, 2005

The Runaway Spending Amendment

I haven't written about this at all but I need to in the next month. On the list of Top Ten Bad Ideas for New York State, this is number one with a bullet. Here is a great description of the Runaway Spending Amendment courtesy of Let Upstate Be Upstate or, whichever rolls better off your tongue.

For latecomers to the issue, some background: The Runaway Spending Amendment is a proposed constitutional amendment that will be put before New York's voters on Election Day next month. It is being touted by state legislators as "budget reform," but most fiscal-policy experts, think tanks, past state budget directors, current, past, and wannabe governors, editorial pages, and academic authorities on New York State government are condemning it with a wide range of objections. Our September study on the proposal concluded that it would virtually guarantee late budgets every year, make big budget gaps more frequent, and lead to even higher taxes and debt.

I would link to the whole write-up, they don't quite support permalinks yet. Write them and tell them they should.

The RSA is a BIG mistake. I hope that voters realize it.

Looking Back on the Democratic Primary

I've been putting off touching on Krestia Degeorge's City paper article concerning the Democratic Mayoral primary for a while, mostly because I couldn't hammer down what I wanted to say about. The reason I had trouble is that Degorge manages to do some pretty thorough reporting and there isn't much left to say about it.

The political reporting in the The City is usually pretty good. Reading it is a good way to come by some information that you may not get through mainstream sources. This article is no exception and is a must read if you want to get a feel for how the local Democratic party is doing.

I heard about the Norwood t-shirts with the cautionary "Don't Sell Out", but the article comes with other details:

Speaking to the Democrat and Chronicle in the aftermath of his protage Wade Norwood's defeat, Assemblymember David Gantt cited race as the deciding factor. And that's true --- to a point. The districts Norwood took are majority black districts, just as those Duffy carried tend to be mainly white. But a closer look at the numbers shows that Duffy made inroads into predominantly minority communities; Norwood's margin of victory in the three districts he carried was less the Duffy's in many of his districts.

And race wouldn't be as huge an issue for the recuperating party if it hadn't been actively used in the campaign.

City Councilman Adam McFadden drew heavy criticism for creating Norwood shirts bearing the slogan "Don't sell out." They were widely viewed as being targeted at African Americans considering voting for Duffy. The comments section of WHAM radio talk-show host Bob Lonsberry's website sprouted racist attacks on Norwood. That in turn prompted the Norwood campaign to criticize Duffy for not distancing himself from Lonsberry. And Norwood received the last-minute blessing of civil-rights activist Al Sharpton. (Whether this helped or hurt is unclear; in New York City, which is big enough to have regular polls on this kind of thing, Sharpton's eleventh-hour endorsement of Fernando Ferrer appears to have hurt him more among whites than it helped him among blacks.)

We want race problems to go away so much that sometimes we put blinders on to it. Maybe we need to talk about it more. However, in this case, I find it hard to think that race was a major factor. Duffy wouldn't have been able to cobble together much of a win without cross-over appeal. I don't care much about color myself. In this case, it has more to do with who is aligned with Gannt and McFadden. I support Mayor Johnson, and, last time I checked, he was black. No big deal.

That would look good on a t-shirt: Skin Color? No Big Deal.

Back to the article though. I don't think this will be much of a blow to Morelle. As has been discussed on these pages, the slate of candidates were already in place before Morelle took control of the party. Understandably, he still hails from the faction of Gannt and company, so just because I don't think he'll hang for the primary results, he still could hang for something else.

Regardless of that, Morelle has done a good job with outreach and fund raising. The website is still a mess though, but that'll have to change soon. That party will get through this and will likely be stronger for it. However, I don't foresee the kind of lockstep automation that exists in the GOP.

Speaking of websites and the GOP check out their opening flash animation on their homepage. I won't link to it, for the same reason I don't touch dead rats, because of filth and disease. But go to and check out where they put their emphasis with that animation.

.22 caliber minds living in a .357 world

When Democrats Attack....Poorly

So Tom Golisano has switched parties and is now a registered Republican. He hasn't announced his run for Governor yet, but he hasn't denied it yet either. None of this is shocking.

What I find shocking is the immediate response by the New York State Democratic party. The state party, the their infinite depth and sagely wisdom, attacked Mr. Golisano right out of the gates, pointing out the chasm that has existed in the past between Golisano and the power holders of the state GOP. Here's a few nuggets of political hackery:

· In 2002, the Golisano campaign derided the State Republican Party as a “special interest slush fund” of Pataki. (Golisano Campaign Press Release, 10/26/02)

· During the 1998 Governor’s race, Golisano called Pataki's fiscal policies “insane” and said Pataki was “operating the state government like a compulsive credit card user.” (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/5/98; AP, 10/28/98)

· “I will not stand by and let Pataki, with his irresponsible borrowing, put New York State at financial risk while he tries to buy the election with taxpayer dollars and lays the groundwork for his own future, including a possible presidential run,” said Tom Golisano (Buffalo News, 10/1/98)

· Golisano accused Governor Pataki for increasing the debt, saying, “While the U.S. economy was robust, the Pataki administration increased its spending and increased the State’s debt… Now, with the world financial community nervous about its future and many economies on the downturn, is New York State in a position to weather a possible storm?” (PR Newswire, 10/7/98)

· During the 1998 gubernatorial election, Golisano criticized Pataki for ruining the state’s fiscal situation, saying Pataki’s “financial irresponsibility” was catching up with the state and had given New York “the second-worst bond rating in the nation.” (PR Newswire, 10/22/98)

· Golisano accused Gov. Pataki of opposing medical marijuana “because the governor’s campaign and the state GOP have taken over $220,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, which Golisano said could lose money in the sale of painkilling drugs if marijuana were legalized for medical use.” (Buffalo News, 10/17/02) Golisano said the governor’s opposition was “because he is in the pocket of the big drug companies who stand to lose money if medical marijuana is made available.” (New York Times, 10/17/02)

Talk about a huge miscalculation and a big mistake. First, I agree with most of what Golisano is saying. I understand State Democratic party Chair Herman Farrell is trying to illustrate the differences that Golisano has with his new party, but at the same time, that press release suddenly gives Golisano a lot of cross-over appeal to moderate Democrats, especially western New Yorkers with whom Golisano will be incredibly strong. This press release gave Golisano an opening to claim having political outsider status, outside special interests, and not being beholden to his parties power elite. This kind of thing will resonate given the dissatisfaction that most New Yorkers feel about Albany.

Furthermore, releasing this laundry list aimed at Golisano, before the heat of the Republican primary can even be felt, gives all the other GOP candidates cover to use this stuff during the primary. People keep track of who goes negative and begins throwing the mud. Now, everytime a GOP candidate brings the stuff on this list up, they can say "The New York State Democratic party pointed out...." They can tar and feather Golisano at will and mention the word "Democrat" in every attack. Image counts for a lot, especially concerning how a party handles a primary. By firing first, the Democrats may end up wearing the Black Hat that smore ofhave been worn by one or moreof the GOP contenders.

Additionally this looks absolutely embarrassing and petty. Let me explain more clearly. Going negative first in a campaign is a sign of weakness and lack of vision. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a political romantic, candidates and their organizations should be so busy describing why they're running for office, they don't have time to waste talking about the other people running. To me, this says that the Democrats are scared of Golisano. And by attackinginadvertentlyly, they may have inadvertaaggravateswered him.

What agrivates me even more about this is how the Dems just dumped it out in the media as soon as Golisano switched signed up with the GOP. I understand they wanted to get their stuff in on the same news cycle as the party change. I'm sure someone at Dem Headquarters thought their laundry list of Golisano transgressions would be repeated in the media. Instead what they got for their efforts is a sentence or two concerning Democrats "attacked" Golisano.

Democrats attacked somebody for switching parties? Good job. That's a lovely image. I cringe when I see the words Democrats and attack in the same sentence. Too often it makes me think of fights involving hair-pulling and open-handed slapping.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Golisano Updates Webpage. Important or Just a Slow News Day?

Several local news sources such as this article in the Democrat and Chronicle are indicating that Tom Golisano has updated his webpage from his past run for Governor. Tea leaves are being read right now that indicate this is a signal that he'll be announcing in the coming days that he'll run for Governor as a Republican.

It must be a slow news day. It seems to me that this is practically a sure thing, and to attempt to inject this "edge of your seat" kind of suspense into almost crosses over into melodrama. Writing about whether there are signals out of the Golisano camp about a run is really a "bury the lead" kind of story. I like Mr. Golisano. He's done great things in Rochester. I'm not quite there with him on the whole Down-With-Windmills thing, as the arguments I've heard against it are somewhat short-sighted. But, on the whole, he's a good man who is concerned with the community.

I can write him a love letter later, though. What I want to talk about, and what the D&C should be reporting on is the fact that Golisano is a bit of an upstart to the current NY Republican establishment. To make that story even more interesting, the State GOP chair is our own local Chair Steve Minarik, a man who is always fun at parties. Minarik is one of those politicos that publicly states he doesn't like primaries and has spoken publicly about his enthusiasm for a Weld candidacy.

Furthermore, Tom Golisano did little to ingratiate himself with the state GOP power-elite with is numerous runs for Governor as a third party candidate. I will expect him to draw considerable fire from longtime state Republicans as a "Johnny-Come-Lately". Honestly, if Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox seeks the Governor nomination instead of the Senate nomination, I see no way Golisano can win the primary. Cox will consolidate the Conservative wing of the party, Weld will tap into the power-brokers who enticed him over from Massachusetts, and Golisano will be left with very little support, while I imagine, campaigning on more substance than any of them.

Seems like a like a lot of trouble to go through just to get creamed by Elliot Spitzer.

Regardless, I promise to try my absolute best to refrain from making any Don Quixote jokes when writing about Mr. Golisano and his crusade against the windmills errr.... his quest to win the Republican nomination for Governor.