Well, I did not bad with this year’s predictions, but I am somewhat surprised at the Colonie Town Board race. Not so much with the final outcome, but with the decisive spread.
I’ll get into that one later, but first we have to discuss the supervisor’s race.
There were (are) many in incumbent Supervisor Paula Mahan’s camp who were (are) shocked by having only a slim 62-vote lead with at least 726 absentee ballots to be counted.
Since columnists are just awesome at hindsight and armchair quarterbacking, I’ll say the reason why it’s so close is the pension/double dipping thing, released at the perfect time with just enough indignation.
Yes, there is development and traffic and roads that need paving but by and large things are ticking along pretty well in Colonie.
Unless it’s in a persons’ yard, they may have some empathy for those directly impacted by development, but it won’t translate into votes because they see the logical flip side of development: tax revenue and it’s being done according to existing land use and zoning laws.
Double dipping, though, carries with it connotations of pure evil and unbridled greed. I know, Mahan’s decision to collect the $81,000-plus pension in addition to her $121,000 supervisor’s salary is perfectly within her right but it still doesn’t sit right with many. The fact others in her administration did the same thing sat even worse.
Like I mentioned, not many people pay attention to development unless they can see it out their back window. Everyone, though, can relate to having enough money to retire. That kind of stuff resonates across the board, and is the kind of stuff that swings elections.
Mahan, too, really didn’t seem as fired up as she did two years ago or, from what I’ve heard, the five election cycles before that. I don’t know if she took George Scaringe for granted, if she took her record for granted or miscalculated the unavoidable voter fatigue.
I look at voter fatigue this way: for 12 years Mahan and her administration, of course, made decisions, and some of those were not easy. With every tough decision — be it right, wrong or indifferent — you upset someone. And all those “someones” add up.
Until a couple weeks out the Republicans ran a predictable campaign. They bashed Mahan for exceeding the tax cap — which sounds way worse than it really was because it only added up to a few dollars — bad roads, too much development and term limits.
Boring and benign at best. But double dipping was unexpected, and played perfectly by the GOP.
Mahan handled it by being honest and unapologetic and, while sincere, I don’t think that played well with the electorate either.
Scaringe came with his own baggage, a no-show job from which he collects a $51,000 pension. If it were another candidate, we would not be talking about absentees, we would be talking about a Republican supervisor.
What is painfully apparent is nobody read my column on the evils of fusion voting because the three candidates who won all had more than one line next to the letter designating their major party affiliation and the three who lost only had their major party line.
It’s impossible to say where voters would have cast their ballots if the minor parties were not allowed to endorse major party candidates, but straight up Democrat to Republican Chris Carey (R) got the most votes with 9,468, Brian Austin (D) came in second with 9,086 and Paul Rosano (D) came in third with 8,827. They only had those lines and did not get elected.
Instead, on the Independence and Conservative party lines, Town Board members-elect Rick Field (R) got 1,823 votes, Jill Penn (D) got 1,612 and Danielle Futia (R) got 1,825. They got elected.
What is more impossible to know is how many voters just went into the booth not knowing too much about the candidates — not unusual for local elections — and casting a vote based on the catchy minor party line names.
“Hey, I’m conservative, and this guy has a ‘C’ next to his name so I’m gonna vote for him.”
Everyone I’ve talked to, on both sides of the aisle, say if Mahan wins this is her last two years. She didn’t come out and say it on Election Day, but she certainly gave a few hints towards that end.
Obviously, such talk is followed by trial balloons on who will run for what would be an open seat in two years.
On the Democratic side there is Matt Cannon, who works for County Executive Dan McCoy, is a Mahan ally and who is on the North Colonie School board. He is set up perfectly for a run should he opt to enter the fray.
There is also Melissa Jeffers Von Dollen, who won a seat to the Town Board two years ago. She is young, has a deep political pedigree and does harbor political ambition.
And there is David Green too. The attorney recently changed his enrollment from Republican to Democrat to angle for a judgeship in the heavily Democratic Albany County but that may suit him well for a supervisor run too. He would, though, have to give up a successful law practice.
On the Republican side, one name that has been bantered about before is Judge Peter Crummey. If he ran, he would win. The question is if he wants to.
There is also Frank Mauriello, who ran a solid race two years ago, has a decent amount of name recognition and has political ambitions.
Paul Burdorf too could make a run at supervisor. Nobody likes the game more, and I truly believe he likes representing the people of his county legislative district.
Since I am right about half the time, I can safely guarantee at least three of the names mentioned above will get mentioned again. Maybe no place else but this column, but they will get mentioned again.
Jim Franco can be reached at 518-878-1000 or by email at [email protected]