Thursday, May 29, 2008

Democrat enough?

To respect the ground rules that I set for myself, I want to restate them. First, my purpose is to connect state and national issues to a local perspective. Second, I'm not making any specific political endorsements.

State and national campaigns are simmering for St. Lawrence County residents. Currently, the 118th Assembly seat remains vacant. Three candidates have stepped up to the plate seeking the Democratic party line, Macomb Town Counclilwoman Laureen O’Toole, Jefferson County Legislator Addie Russell, and Massena Police Chief Tim Currier.

I don’t know a lot about Councilwoman O’Toole and many Democrats in Jefferson County have come out in support of Legislator Russell, including Tim Kelly and Ted Ford amongst others, because of her strong credentials as an elected official and campaign worker with the Democratic Party.

The most interesting candidate remains to be Chief Tim Currier. This is where I get to look at a national analogy. Most recent national candidates work through party lines, endorsements, and primaries to come out with the nomination. If a candidate is running outside of the two major political parties, then they try to keep their independent status, the way that Ross Perot did or they align themselves with a minor party seeking exposure as Ralph Nader did.

Some people find that declaring their political affiliation would hurt their professional life. Some businessmen feel that the divisions of politics could hurt their desire to have a wide customer base. Other people hold positions where they have to work with politicians and need to be seen as above the influence of party in their professions.

General Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. It was a very public role. The name recognition set him up for a strong political career. Many people mentioned him for high national office, Senate, Vice-Presidency, even the Presidency. But because of his role as Chair of the Joint Staff and his necessity to work with elected officials regardless of political affiliation, Powell had no specific party affiliation himself. He has since declared himself to be a Republican and served as Secretary of State.

There are some similarities between General Powell and Chief Currier. The one glaring difference is in the political party, but the similarities seem most pressing. Both held positions where their career best interests required them to be labeled as apolitical. Powell worked with presidents from both main parties. Currier has worked with mayors from both. Not only did they need to do this for professional relationships, but they needed to do it to appear above any sense of favoritism in enforcement. Both made a transition and declared based on that transition. If I remember correctly, Republicans were happy to have General Powell join their ranks. Because of his moderate views on using military force while being heading the Joint Chiefs, many Democrats hoped he would join their party in the 1990’s.

I don’t remember anyone asking, “Is he Republican enough?” They saw him as well-known, fitting most of their values, able to be elected, and ultimately, a declared Republican. Chief Currier is known in part of the district (as is the case with most candidate), states that he hold the values of the Democratic Party, and has declared himself a Democrat officially. That will become official after the general election, and there’s the rub.

The last word lies with the two county committee chairs. Sean Hennessey has a very good, very viable candidate coming from his county, and allowing her to face a primary opponent who is seen as an outsider could be disastrous.

While seeking office once, I was informed that my opponent may have had a problem with his petitions. It wasn’t anything big like people signing more than once, names of celebrities or names taken from headstones. It had more to do with old forms and an incorrect date on the page. I was told that someone could challenge the petitions. That would effectively keep my opponent off of the Republican line if the challenge were upheld. I stated that I didn’t want to them challenged. I didn’t want to feel that my position was gained through legal semantics or a technicality. Elections gave the most people the best voice.

My advice to all of the democratic candidates, particularly Mr. Currier. Raise your profiles. Get out and speak out. Prove who you are as a person and a candidate. During the petition period, get as many signatures as you can from all across the district. If you can show your appeal to the entire 118th in the next few weeks it will go a long way in legitimizing your candidacy. I wish everyone the best. May we have the best representation we can when all is said and do

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