By now everybody knows irrepressible challenger Sue Zimet plans to continue her primary quest against assemblyman Kevin Cahill, despite suffering a near two-to-one thrashing by the incumbent at last week’s unofficial Democratic nominating convention in Kingston.
For the record, Cahill collected 10,252 weighted votes (64%) to Zimet’s 5800 (36%). Rejection by her peers did not seem to discourage Zimet in the least. “I got almost 40 percent of the vote,” she explained in announcing she would challenge Cahill in the Sept. 9 party primary.
Under the weighted voting system employed by major parties, committee members are rewarded for turning out the vote in their districts in gubernatorial elections. The more Democrats who vote (in this instance), the more the weighted vote at nominating conventions. Candidates still have to secure signatures of party members on nominating petitions. That comes to about 500 unchallenged signers.
Zimet’s persistence might seem admirable in some quarters. I recently read a book on General Custer’s last campaign. Custer marched out with about 650 soldiers and scouts under his command. About 400 survived the Battle of Little Bighorn. Custer might have replied, hey, I only lost about a third of my guys. But he didn’t because he was in the category of the lost third.
Custer at least got a nice military funeral. Zimet awaits her fate with the sure knowledge, if she has any sense of reality, that there’s but a slim chance of results on the Sept. 9 primary bringing markedly different results from the June 5 convention.
Fighting the good fight
I can’t get inside Susan’s head — I can barely follow her when she talks to me — but I think she enjoys a good fight, truly believes she’s right on the issues, and feels she’s performing a public service in exposing what she sees as Kevin Cahill’s darker side.
In that, of course, she is not alone. County executive Mike Hein, who has made a cottage industry out of denigrating the assemblyman, was one of the driving forces behind Zimet’s candidacy. And what better vehicle to continue pummeling the incumbent than a party primary feeding hungry media for the next 17 weeks?
Hein’s more active support wouldn’t have made much of a difference at the convention, and he knew it. But he can probably be counted on for logistical if not financial support as the primary grinds on.
Zimet explained the county executive’s hors de combat position, sort of, in a weekend e-mail. “Kevin was framing the campaign to the committee people as a fight between him and Hein,” she wrote. “That is why Mike started to stay in the background. He would have nominated me but it was decided that was not the right choice. It would allow Cahill to say, ‘see, I told you’.”
Cahill was still saying he told them so after Chris White, a former aide to Maurice Hinchey and a staffer in the Hein administration, seconded Zimet’s nomination at the convention. Detailing his connections to Hinchey, who has endorsed Cahill, White said nonetheless he “felt compelled to speak tonight” on behalf of Zimet.
To which a Cahill gagster standing behind me muttered, “Or else he wouldn’t have a job tomorrow morning.”
Is Zimet allergic to bees?
Absent Hein, present at the convention only to vote and schmooze, the inspired choice for Zimet, in terms of a nominating speech, was the electrifying, in-your-face, up-against-the-wall effort of Gioia (pronounced Joya) Shebar of Gardiner. Shebar, a consumer advocate and close ally of Zimet, runs a widely read “tax nightmare” blog.
Tossing off scintillating anti-Cahill punch lines like “Albany is the groping capital of the world,” “legislative seats have turned into recliners,” and “Susan puts progress back into the word progressive,” Shebar had Zimet supporters high-fiving each other, Cahill’s shifting in their seats.