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.

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