Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Green Machine

The badly fractured Rensselaer County Democrat Party is now facing a leadership crisis. The battle pits one of the winners in the September 9 primary against one of the big losers of the contest.

The winner would be Steve Green, a union leader who was a major supporter of Mike Russo, who bashed Brian Premo in the Democrat contest for the 43rd Senate District seat. Premo was backed by current Dem Chairman Tom Wade, who had very little to cheer about on September 9. Wade not only got creamed in the Russo-Premo primary, but saw Tracey Brooks beat Wade's choice Paul Tonko in the 21st Congressional District and watched Premo get whacked by Working Families undefeated champ Chris Consuello.

Green is making a strong case for chairman. Russo is from Saratoga County and almost unknown in Rensselaer County, but the Green machine helped Russo win 14 out of 16 municipalities in Rensselaer County. The showing by Premo was beyond poor, to the point that Democrats have openly been questioning whether Wade has the ability to continue as chairman. Observers of the always interesting Rensselaer County scene can't remember the last time a party chairman got pounded in three major primaries, all on the same day.

But at the same time, observers can't remember the last time a party chair made as many enemies in as short a time as Wade has. Wade has employed a my way or the highway approach to chairman, which led to Premo getting run over in the September 9 primary. Wade bizarrely backed the Dan Ashley-CB Smith faction in North Greenbush, infuriating many longtime Democrats. His alleged shakedown of Democrat employees at the County Board of Elections is notorious, and new District Attorney Richard McNally saw his reputation take a tumble when he dumped a several months-old grand jury case against Wade. Wade went after the architect of the Troy City Council Democrat victories, Frank LaPosta, only to see the Democrat Council majority become a political punch line. And while Democrats captured the DA's seat, they lost crucial local elections in Brunswick, North Greenbush, East Greenbush, Nassau, Sand Lake and a County Legislature race in Schodack in 2007.

Green was hardly alone in backing Russo. Lynne Mahoney, who saw Wade snatch the chairmanship from behind her back in 2006, backed Russo. So did many other party regulars who saw the Russo-Premo primary a chance to send Terrible Tom a message. Which leads to the conclusion that it may not be that Russo is so popular but that Wade is so unpopular.

Either way, Green is securing some early endorsements from some key players in the badly divided Democrat organization.