Monday, April 06, 2009

Beating Back Barack

Grassroots Republicans in the 20th Congressional District in Rensselaer County must be feeling pretty good, having won a special election despite every big gun in the Democratic political arsenal being rolled out against them.

In the week leading up to the March 31 special congressional election, Democrats from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Chuck Schumer and new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand attempted to tip the scales in favor of Democrat Scott Murphy. Given the fact that Obama won the 20th, along with Gillibrand's victories in 2006 and 2008, things were going in Murphy's favor.

Add that to the fact that Tedisco ran a troubled campaign with a muddled message, a point admitted to by the Tedisco team; the fact that President Obama is still in his first 100 days and supposedly still popular; and the lack of any national GOP superstars stumping for Tedisco except for Rudy Giuliani and Democrats were anticipating a victory. But in Rensselaer County, a grassroots team of Republican activists managed to post a major victory, winning the county for Tedisco.

While out-gunned, Republicans were able to parlay the stunning ethical lapse by the Obama team on the AIG bonus issue, in which millions of bailout bucks went into the pocket of well-connected Wall Street executives, and the disastrous Three Democrats in a Room state budget into a victory. AIG gave taxpayers a reason to distrust the new president and the higher-spending-big-tax-increases-money-for-downstate state budget gave the GOP a crucial boost in the homestretch.

With a better message, the GOP could have won by a bigger margin, even with the persistent push by the top Democrats in the nation. The March 31 special election shows Republicans have an edge heading into the county and local elections this fall. If Republicans in Rensselaer County, outgunned and out-messaged, are still able to score a crucial victory in a special election with the president and vice president campaigning hard against them, then Republicans look to be in very good shape this November.

Rogers Makes His Move

Democrat At-Large City Council candidate Keith Rogers gave himself distance from his probable primary opponents, announcing his support for a reduction of the size of the Council. That's the same proposal supported and introduced by Republicans, but defeated in a referendum vote thanks to the efforts of At-Large Councilman John Brown and Fifth District Councilman Ken Zalewski.

Council President Clem Campana also rallied against Rogers' proposal, saying residents need more representation. But Rogers has this one right, recognizing that saving taxpayer money is smart politics, and could look especially good to voters in a primary being held during a damaging recession.

Are Rogers, Campana and Brown on a collision course? The better question may be whether the Rogers Council reduction move is more muscle-flexing from City Democratic Chairman Frank LaPosta, who gained big-time clout by backing down County Democrat Boss Tom Wade from an attempt to hijack the party nomination process. Close watchers of the Troy political scene will remember that Rogers bypassed Wade and only consulted with LaPosta before announcing his run for Council.