Friday, July 23, 2010

SD-46: The Down-Low on the "Uprising"

There's a lot of chitter-chatter regarding this New York Uprising pledge that Ed Koch has tossed together. I'm of the opinion that the whole thing is a dumb stunt meant to benefit Ed Koch more than New York voters.

But it's got people's lips flapping, alright. Candidates of all stripes are coming out with their reasons why they did or did not -sign their names- point and click to get one the list, and of course jumping at the chance to explain why their opponents did or not do the same. Political theater, if you ask me, and today all the state's a stage.

Below the fold, the Democratic primary for State Senate in Albany County offers an interesting way to look at how three different candidates are taking three different approaches to this charade:

(Cross-posted on The Albany Project

The manner in which each of the candidates deal with the NY Uprising has them each playing roles surely being filled in your home district.

Sen. Neil Breslin

Incumbent Sen. Neil Breslin has not signed the pledge. He was apparently considering it:

“No one’s asked me to sign it, but it would seem to me to be a good idea, but I want to make sure that pledges are a minor detail. I’m more interested in getting legislation that mandates it and I sponsor that legislation."
- Sen. Neil Breslin to Capitol Confidential, 7/21

Well, the deadline's passed before he could make up his mind. But honestly, and this is coming from a huge critic of the Senator, ignoring this thing completely is correct. Plus, he's got more important things to worry about.

Know your role: If you're an incumbent, or even a challenger, the best thing to do with NY Uprising, is just not worry about it. In this, Senator Breslin plays the role of the experienced politician who knows a campaign ploy when he sees one. Role-playing advice: Get a press release out about how dumb NY Uprising is.

Luke Martland

Primary challenger Luke Martland is probably close to the top of Breslin's worry list. Martland's campaign has grown in strength and visibility in recent weeks, and continues to use every opportunity to expose the Senator's shortcomings. This time is no different. Some excerpts of what Martland has to say about this from a press release yesterday:

“In June,” Martland continued “I was glad to sign NY Uprising’s pledge, which includes many of these same goals. But, I will go beyond the minimum in NY Uprising’s pledge. For example, I will also fight to fix New York’s Swiss-cheese campaign finance laws by lowering contribution limits, banning unlimited donations to “house keeping” accounts, and other reforms.”

“How could anyone,” Martland asked, “who truly believes in fixing our State’s broken and corrupt government be against meaningful ethics reform? How could anyone who cares about New York’s sky high taxes be against balanced budgets and an end to the excessive spending and debt that leads to ever rising taxes and jobs leaving our State? How could anyone (unless you are a 14 year incumbent running for reelection yet again) be against ending the Senate’s ‘life time employment club’?”

“The fact that Neil Breslin has refused to pledge to fight for these basic principles of balanced budgets, an end to corruption and real ethics reform says a lot about Neil,” continued Martland. “The stark differences between me and Neil Breslin get clearer by the day. I will fight for reform. Neil is trying desperately to claim that he is a reformer, but the fact is that he has been in power for 14 long years, represents the status quo, and has refused to commit to the most basic changes necessary to fix our dysfunctional government.”

Even though I support Martland's campaign, I find it hard to support this one. There are so many angles from which to expose Breslin's failure as a legislator, and Martland has consistently pointed these out during times that mattered. When the Senate continues to take long weekends while the budget goes unpassed, Martland called Breslin out for it; when Breslin flip-flopped on education spending, Martland took Breslin to task for it; lather, rinse, and repeat is a common refrain for the Martland campaign, and most of the time rightfully so...

Yet this episode breaks the string of effectiveness. Perhaps voters who don't pay much attention will filed into Martland's camp because of this, but personally I think the points to be scored here are too small as well as too meaningless to bother with.

Know your role: I hate to admit it, but Luke Martland's role here is that of an anti-incumbent politician who got a little over-eager and fell right into NY Uprising's stupid. What's worse is that he was doing just fine. Role-playing advice: Get back to what you were doing.

Tim Carney

Finally, Tim Carney appeared on the blogs for his statements on the matter. His comments over at Capitol Confidential have him brushing aside the pledge entirely. An advisable move...

...but aligning yourself with the Tea Party? And still trying to exploit the NY Uprising Pledge by lying about one of your opponents? Not so much:

From the Friends of Tim Carney for Senate,
July 22, 2010 – Albany, NY – Tim Carney has not sought endorsements or support from any political group except the Independence Party and the TEA Party Movement. The Independence Party went with Neil and many members of the TEA Party movement are passing out palm cards across Albany County for Mr. Carney.
We would like to know if Luke ever advocated for any type of reform in Albany in the past 20 years? Oh, yea he hasn’t lived in Albany for the past 25 years.
Tim Carney does not need to be on this list to be considered a reformer.

What else do we have to expect from a Tea Party Democrat but cheap political exploitation by way of ignoring the facts? Luke Martland was born and raised in Albany. He lives a short walk from the Legislative Office Building for crying out loud. And where Martland has been consistently giving progressives reasons to consider him as a serious option to replace Senator Breslin, Tim Carney has been consistent only in his ability to force us to not take him seriously at all.

Know your role: You know that one guy in your district who's always running about trying to get elected any way he can and only ever making himself look ever more unelectable? Role-playing advice: Get back to where you once belong.

That's the down-low on the "uprising" from where I sit. Who's playing what role in your neighborhood?

One thing's for damn sure: nobody's a "hero" or an "enemy" when it comes to Ed Koch's phony NY Uprising.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SD-46: The Press and the Picnic

Or, The Gubernatorial Candidate Came To Town And All I Got To Talk About Is This Lousy State Senate Primary

It's been two years since I first attended the Albany County Democratic Party picnic. This weekend it was actually back in Albany County, but alas, I was unable to afford a ticket. Nevertheless, I revelled in the memories of having been the only volunteer for the first challenger to State Senator Neil Breslin there, and two years ago I paid close attention to the press coverage of the State Senate primary...which amounted to a single print story published less than a fornight prior to primary day...

But this year, the Albany Times Union made up for my lack of attendance in their prominent print story about the picnic published in this weekends' widely-circulated Sunday edition. And even though Democratic gubernatorial candidate and surefire newsworthy victor-to-be Andrew Cuomo was there, instead the biggest paper in SD-46 lead with this:

You couldn't get into the Albany County Democratic picnic Saturday without passing Tim Carney.

The Albany man pressed laminated palm cards into the hands of his fellow partisans, telling them he has a plan to lower property taxes by raising income taxes. Nearby, blue-shirted volunteers handed out stickers touting Luke Martland, a former prosecutor. The men have one thing in common: They believe Sen. Neil Breslin, a Bethlehem lawyer seeking his eighth term, has become part of the problem in a problematic chamber.

"We have some good visibility, and people see that we're a serious campaign who can turn out volunteers and turn out people," Martland said. "I've met a lot of people, and just talking to them about the dysfunction, and how the current Senate can't even pass a budget while their taxes are up as a result and jobs leave the state, and how I'm going to fight to change that. Is it Breslin's fault alone? No. But partly his fault? Absolutely."

Emphasis mine - SP

There's eight weeks to go in this primary cycle, two years later, and if it ain't in print, then it ain't real. This challenge may be controversial, but I've never seen press coverage like this, so it's definitely real.

So for the next eight weeks, get ready for a fit-to-print, real campaign (and for more details below the fold).
The local mainstream media's history of either giving the Breslins a pass when they weren't simply fauning over them, State Senator Neil and County Executive Mike both, make the next bit of the story all the more shocking to me:

Breslin was a few feet away, wearing a plaid shirt and resting between chats with voters beneath a blue tarp. His supporters -- including some Senate staffers wearing white shirts emblazoned with his name -- handed out buttons, but most of the loyal partisans in the group knew Breslin and came over to say hello.

"The picnic is all the hard-working people in Albany County who work for the party or participate in Democratic politics," said Breslin, who was backed by the committee. "I tell voters we'll begin to turn the state around, the economy's picking up, (and) I continue to be a major part of the purge within the Senate."

Aside from the less-than-flattering description, I'd say the quote choice is poor as well. Or perhaps it's the only stock campaign rhetoric Breslin had to offer.

Honestly, if it's been 14 years, then his tense is wrong. He should be talking about how he's already helped turned the state around. He's made earlier statements about running on his record...but this seems off-message and hollow.

I prefer Luke Martland's analysis, as quoted by the TU:

Which is exactly Martland's point: "He's part of the leadership of the Senate that can't pass a budget and now is taking weeks off. They're not even trying to do the job. Is that partly his fault? Yes. When they do come up with ideas to balance the budget, it involves raising taxes. Is that partly his fault? Yes."

All opinions aside, the main thing here is that the local mainstream press is actually giving the race the attention any race deserves. Openng up with a candiate who raised less than $1,000 but is still getting himself out there (and giving Breslin's best funded challenger so many inches) is a far cry from the reporting of last go round.

And good newspapers make for good democracy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SD-46: Petitions, Financials Filed; Breslin-Martland Race Is On

The Thursday deadline to get your signatures and balance sheets has come and gone if you're a New York State Senate candidate. In Albany County, three candidates have been at it, asking people for their John Hancocks and Ben Franklins to get them on the ballot and keep them well funded, and we have three very different results.

Defending incumbent Neil Breslin is in the upper echelon's of Senatorial cash hoarders. The Friends of Senator Breslin is reporting a haul of over $200,000. This was added to an opening balance in excess of that amount, for a grand total of over $414,000 cash on hand, one of the largest Senate war chests in the State.

Challengers Tim Carney and Luke Martland both handed in greater than the required amount of signatures to get on the ballot in the September primary. But only Martland has filed a financial report, since Carney's pull of less than a grand puts him in the "don't bother to file" category. It also very likely places him in the "non-competitive" category despite his grassroots tenacity. Luke Martland, on the other hand, has reported over $140,000 in total reciepts and has already outspent Breslin's campaign two to one, leaving him with about $55,000 in the bank.

Speaking of expenditures, I feel these items get a little lost when we all focus on how much people are taking in. I'm curious about what these candidates are doling out. Reports show that Breslin has been spreading the wealth to local Democratic committees and community associations. I'm not sure if this is common practice, but even if it is it sure looks like good old fashioned political patronage to me, and I find it inronic that Breslin is using all that insurance money to buy, well, more insurance.

On the other hand, Martland's spending reads like a virtual shopping list from a step by step how to run a local election instruction manual. These reports show us a candidate building a serious campaign from the ground up, and they prove beyond all doubt that Breslin has a truly serious challenger this year.

The Times Union's Capitol Confidential also lets us know that the Republicans, in Robert Domenici, have just $8,000 under their belt so far, which is, of course, not enough. But Martland's amount might be enough in such an anti-incumbent year and even against such odds when one considers where Breslin's cash comes from. Even CapCon and the other mainstream-media run blogs are running that meme now...

From CapCon:

Breslin’s haul includes tens of thousands in corporate donations from insurance companies and affiliated political action committees, a fact that you can bet Martland — who has already assailed Breslin of being too cozy with the insurance companies he’s supposed to be regulating as chairman of the Senate’s Insurance Committee — will try to hammer home over the course of the summer.

...and that's the fact more significant than any dollar figure or signature count. If Martland's message is able to catch hold, it could very well make up for Breslin's monstrous financial advantage. Either way, this looks like it will be Breslin's toughest re-election fight of his career, his race to lose, and will remain the biggest political news story of Albany County in 2010.