Here is my prediction — there will a new supervisor in the Town of Colonie on Jan. 1, 2022, and it won’t be Paula Mahan.
At the time of this writing, Monday, Nov. 1, early voting had concluded and the polls had not yet opened for Election Day proper so there are no results yet. By the time you read this, on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at the earliest, the polls will have been closed since 9 p.m. the day before so there is no chance of any bias that could persuade voters one way or another. It’s just a column based on observations over the past few months.
Speaking of the past few month, at that time, a few months ago I mean, I would have said it was going to be Republican Peter Crummey in a walk over Democrat Kelly Mateja but now I’m not so sure.
If I were betting I would put my money on it being the former judge who will have his hand on the Bible in a little less than two months from now, but not before the absentee ballots are counted and I do think it will be close enough on Election Day to warrant a careful count of all those paper ballots. Since I’m not betting, though, I will say at 11 p.m. Tuesday, and 7 a.m. today, it was still too close to call.
The election was Crummey’s to lose — he has been around for a long time, is a proven commodity in that he has been elected a number of times and people know and like him. When he first announced, and more importantly when the Democrats announce Mateja, I thought Crummy might take things for granted and not really work all that hard. As far as I can tell, I was wrong about that. I saw him at different community events and he raised a ton of money, never an easy task and impossible to do if you are just going through the motions.
I think his campaign could have worked a little harder, though, at defining Mateja rather than allowing her to do it. Nobody really knew who she was, and I would say most still don’t, but she was allowed to claim the title “professional planner” and that she is just what an overdeveloped chaos that has become Colonie needs at this point in time.
I’m not 100 percent sure what a “professional planner” is or what one actually does. I do know she hasn’t worked in any sort of planning job for years and now makes a pretty good paycheck in communications — sending press releases out for the state Office of the Aging — rather than crunching census numbers or examining land use laws. I’m guessing those are a couple things a “professional planner” does rather than disseminating canned information on senior citizens. Let’s not forget she was hired by the administration of the now disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo and also let’s not forget how the governor treated seniors living in nursing homes during COVID.
The Republicans didn’t do or say anything about those nuances, at least publicly. I’ve heard there was a whisper campaign going on, spreading rumors about her unfounded and untrue desire to defund the police but that’s about it. Such tactics are fun, I guess, in a voyeuristic kind of way but they only go so far and are only so effective. The GOP let Crummey run on his name alone and that may or may not be good enough.
That said, Mateja is a very smart, very energetic candidate who comes to the table with probably more on-paper qualifications than the current supervisor, Paula Mahan, who entered politics after a career as a special education teacher in the North Colonie School District.
Negative campaigning does work. It’s tried and true and inarguable. Yes, campaigns can go too negative and hurt themselves but one technique that does work is to define the opposition rather than letting them do it. In hindsight, should Crummey come up on the short end of the tally, you can bet the judge will lose some sleep wondering why that wasn’t done. And it would not have been just negative hit piece.
Also, Colonie is decidedly purple rather than red or blue and it would have been easy to tie Mateja to the more radical of the SAVE Colonie people. One of her largest contributors was Susan Weber, a “core” member of SAVE who is also heavily involved in the Working Families Party. Safe to say Weber doesn’t like Crummey, and also safe to say her way left of center views are not shared by the majority of Colonie residents. Should Mateja prevail, she would be wise to keep most of the SAVE people at arm’s length.
Crummey, though, instead sat back and “wished” Mateja would stop picking on him. Her campaign, was much more aggressive and much more negative, which is expected given her lack of name recognition, the fact she raised a fraction of the money Crummey did and, well, not being a working “planner.”
Rather than be straight up and up front by holding a press conference or even issuing a press release the Dems were sneaky, and instead issued their critical campaign messages via anonymous posts on Facebook. The one time someone from the party did call, it was through a public relations firm. We at this paper didn’t think the “news” they were pitching warranted a story, and since it wasn’t picked up by any other outlet either we are confident our judgement was sound. That may have been different, though, if it was released via a press conference in front of cameras with a face and name attached.
Amazingly, there was only one press conference held by either side and it wasn’t about an issue or issues, or even to announce a candidacy for supervisor. The one press event through the entire season was a rally featuring Gov. Kathy Hochul stumping on behalf of the Democrats.
It was pretty cool and all, having the newly elevated governor show up in town to support the local candidates but it was more self-serving on her part than a resounding endorsement of any candidate’s ideas or ideals. Hochul didn’t even stay for the entire rally, presumably rushed off to the next town and the next contested election. And she is going to need all the help she can get stopping the downstaters from steamrolling her in what is going to be a rough and tumble primary for governor. Sorry to say, because I would love to see an upstater living in the governor’s mansion, I don’t think Colonie Dems reciprocating the favor will be enough.
Crummey didn’t hold any press conferences at all and the few press releases he issued were about getting an endorsement from this group or that union. He should have, even if were to say “I will not raise taxes” or “I will pave more roads.” Or hold one early saying she “doesn’t even work as a planner” and then another closer to Election Day pledging to do one or both of the above.
Bottom line is Crummey has been around a long time and knows the town and the people. Mateja is equally qualified, if not in different ways, in that she does have experience in planning and the schools and working with seniors.
Either will do a fine job as super if they remember the town is ticking along pretty well right now. Being prudent and patient Mahan closed a multi-million deficit and began investing back into the town’s workforce and infrastructure. She and her administration have taken a common sense, practical stance on most other things too, including development and public safety.
Whoever is sworn in on Jan. 1, would be well served remembering the Town of Colonie is decidedly an even shade of purple.
Jim Franco has covered news in the Capital District for more than 20 years. He can be reached at [email protected] or 518-878-1000