Gubernatorial candidate Marcus Molinaro’s enlistment of former congressman Chris Gibson as his campaign manager may have come as a surprise to some, given Gibson’s retirement from politics for family reasons two years ago. But Gibson, a visiting professor at Williams College in western Massachusetts, was specific on that particular subject. He wanted to be around, he said, for his son’s last two years in high school. And he has done that.
Gibson, a three-term Republican congressman, remains a popular figure in these parts. How that resonates around the rest of the state speaks to chicken soup. It can’t hurt. Gibson, who briefly flirted with a run for governor toward the end of his congressional stint, made the rounds and may have established some beachheads for Molinaro.
I have to wonder whether the born-again Gibson may have picked the wrong horse this year. Not that Molinaro doesn’t have legs. It just seems that Congressman John Faso, whom Gibson strongly endorsed two years ago, will need more help in what will be a close campaign than Molinaro, who by any fair assessment is a long shot to unseat Andrew Cuomo.
Meanwhile, this week’s Siena College poll shows Cynthia Nixon cutting Andrew Cuomo’s lead by some 16 points. This is hardly surprising. Nixon announced her candidacy only a day before the last poll was taken. Since then, she’s toured the state, to massive anti-Cuomo media coverage.
Cuomo, as usual, played rope-a-dope in refusing to directly address his Democratic primary opponent. Cuomo beat Zephyr Teachout by 30 points four years ago, which is where Nixon is at present. Teachout is Nixon’s campaign treasurer.
Should those poll numbers close, look for a change in tactics from the governor.
The Siena poll on Cuomo versus Dutchess County exec Molinaro shows Molinaro headed upwards. But 30 points, what it is now, is a huge lead for the incumbent.
Just plain Ed
Called “the hottest ticket in town” by emcee Paul O’Neill, the celebration of Ed Ford’s 100th birthday was attended by about 125 invited family and friends who crowded White Eagle Hall in Kingston last Sunday afternoon. Ford, intimately involved in the proceedings organized by his family, was as usual considerate of his guest. “I was thinking as I walked up here [with the aid of a walker], but what if I fall down? What an ending!”
There was laughter.
“I’ve been very careful these last few weeks,” continued Ford. “I didn’t want to disappoint anybody.”
Sitting at a table with family, Ford greeted every well-wisher by name. “There’s a great deal of turmoil in the world [Ford was born at the end of World War I],” he said, “but there’s still a lot of goodness. Still, it’s a wonderful world.”
Properly cued, the audience, from printed copies, sang Louis Armstrong’s classic of that name.
Ever the optimist, Ford concluded with, “I don’t know if I should make an appointment for my 110th. Maybe I’m cutting it a little short.”
Lots of 1918 memorabilia and factoids were on display. Bread and gasoline cost a dime back then, for instance, but the life expectancy of a male born that year was just 54.4 years.
This I found remarkable: Ford’s grandfather, who died at 93 — his grandchildren knew him — voted for Abe Lincoln.
It’s relatively rare that public officials die in office. Two officials passing on the same day is almost unheard of.
Last Sunday, Assemblyman Frank Skartados, 62, died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. The same day, Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, 73, succumbed after a two-year struggle with ovarian cancer.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein was among the first to offer condolences to the assemblyman’s family. And no wonder. Skartados was Hein’s go-to guy for sales-tax extensions in the Assembly even if he represented only two Ulster County towns, Marlborough and Lloyd. A Milton gentleman farmer, Skartados was a county resident. Kevin Cahill, the county’s most prominent Assembly member, refused to carry the legislation. But why rehash all that?
Skartados’ district was created specifically for a Democrat after the 1980 census. It includes Democratic strongholds of Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Beacon and the Town of Newburgh.
Democrat Larry Bennett ruled supreme for years before retiring to make way for Republican Tom Kirwan of Newburgh. Skartados defeated Kirwan in the 2008 Obama landslide, but lost his seat to the ailing challenger in 2010 by some 20 votes. Kirwan died in 2011 and Skartados won in a special election the following March.
The sudden death of Skartados set political wheels in motion. The governor, according to Cahill, can either call a special election or leave the seat vacant until after the general election in November. With nominating conventions only weeks away, the latter course of action is more likely. If the seat is left vacant, whoever wins the general will take office immediately.
Republicans, there being no more Kirwans, are not yet lining up. “Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Beacon, are you kidding?” one told me.
Skartados was one of those peripheral state legislators (Ulster has eight in all) who didn’t draw much coverage except around election time. But Skartados was fiercely outspoken on social issues and he sure could bring home the bacon, as demonstrated by his near 80 percent of the vote two years ago. Those in his hometown are especially grateful to him for helping to get some special state school aid appropriations, which cushioned the property tax blow to locals after the Roseton power plants dropped in assessed value to about nothing.
Our condolences to his family and many supporters.
One political dodge I have always despised is the non-apology apology, as in “if what I said offended you, I am sorry.” What?
Two weeks ago I filed a column item tagged “Everyone Loves Nina,” a send-up in my mind on the long-running TV comedy, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Therein, tongue-in-cheek, I then described county legislature Democratic Minority Leader Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz as “an Hispanic terrier named Hector.”
Rodriguez took umbrage and I can’t blame him. Actually intended as a compliment, the reference required more context, as follows:
Rodriguez is proud of his heritage and rightly so. As a six-term legislator from New Paltz and Democratic minority leader, he is by definition one of our more prominent public officials. He is also a tenacious advocate for those causes he believes in, thus the terrier analogy.
In recent months, he has spoken directly to one of those causes. Late last year, a Republican legislator inadvertently referred to Rodriguez as “Lopez” (Craig Lopez, their Republican colleague from Pine Bush). “Some people think we all look alike,” Rodriguez soft-voiced into his microphone. He did not smile. The offending legislator apologized profusely.
Last month, in his annual minority party report to the legislature, Rodriguez spoke to diversity in the lawmaking body, referring to “three people of color” — himself, Lopez and newly-elected Democrat the Rev. Julius Collins, an African-American from Ellenville.
Rodriguez and I have gotten along well enough over the years, the occasional conflicts between reporters and subjects notwithstanding. Lately, we’ve been at odds over economic development issues. These things tend to pass.
The bottom line is the “Hispanic terrier” reference in the article, however intended, was ill-considered and hurtful.