For the progressive, forward-looking and (mostly) non-native types we like to neatly wrap up with the handy label “new Kingston,” the mayoral primaries couldn’t have come out worse. Both their candidates — Hayes Clement and Andi Turco-Levin — went from being the presumptive nominees (and their parties’ hierarchies’ anointed choices, by the way) to out of it, as in totally. (To be fair, the Democratic primary is still not fully decided, as there are about two-dozen disputed absentee ballots, the status of which will be decided by a judge next week. Unless the parties agree to drop their challenges and have them counted sooner, like the Republicans did.) Making things even worse, neither Clement nor Turco-Levin will return to the Common Council, removing them from government completely.
So, from a movement on the cusp of getting someone embracing of their vision of working toward a greener and cooler Kingston into the city’s Big Chair, “new Kingston” faces a 2012 without any clear bearer of their standard. Kind of like that Giants game last year against Philly when everything looked so good, then went to poop at the very end, or like a beautiful garden wrecked by woodchucks the day before harvest. Disappointment, turned up to 11.
Lessons? Is the progressive message just the wrong one at this point in K-town history? Hard to say — after all, they were elections as close as elections can be, so “new Kingston” must be resonating with a lot of people. Maybe the down-the-middle division of the electorates mirrors the down-the-middle split of the country as a whole. (I thought the Clement-Gallo race in particular echoed the Obama-Clinton struggle in 2008; a choice between a fresh face who would end the old way of doing things versus and established old hand who knows how the power-levers work.)
Could also be that for just enough voters, greener and cooler is less of a priority than safer and gainfully employed. While the police say they have stats that prove, dammit, that crime is down, nobody feels that way; in politics, and life in general, perception is reality. There might have been a gut feeling that Gallo and Polacco would be tougher on crime, and better at getting jobs into Kingston. Certainly, any campaign that pushes those buttons and makes those issues its emphasis is going to have a lot of success in this city.
While you could predict Clement vs. Gallo was going to be close, Polacco’s win was unexpected, to put it mildly. The Ward 6 alderman put his abundant free time to good use, reportedly going all over the city soliciting votes, especially absentee ones. I’m reminded (and maybe Giants’ fan Polacco is too) of Super Bowl XXV, where no one expected the gritty, old-school Giants to have much of a chance against the flashy, supercharged Bills. But Giants’ defensive coordinator Bill Belichick (before he became King Tool of the NFL) drew up a defensive plan that emphasized hard work and — with a little help from “wide right” — the underdog scored a stunning upset.
So, new Kingston is seemingly back to square one. But its message is still important, and truly, those who participate in the system sooner or later get their chance to call the shots. As our friend and colleague Brian Hollander says, “there’s always another election.”