Get to know your candidates
For instance, I shook hands and listened to speeches from both Governor Eliot Spitzer and Congressman Chris Lee just weeks before the spectacular sex scandal flame-outs that ended their political careers.
In the past month, I’ve been in the room with every state or national legislator who represents Livingston County with the exception of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Our reporter Howard Appell and I have interviewed all the contenders who have announced their intent to run for either the New York State Assembly or U.S. Congress.
We do our best to faithfully and positively represent their life story and point of views in election profiles — but I wish you and I could change places some time. Every voter in Livingston County deserves to have the same face time with office-holders and candidates that we have.
What we’ve learned is that people who can make a credible run for public office are exceptional communicators prepared to speak on dozens of possible subjects. Our interviews have made clear to us that when you see political gaffes on television — either slips of the tongue or blatant contradictions — it is an isolated, hand-selected moment out of thousands the candidate got right.
We’ve learned that it’s a lot harder to pigeon-hole a candidate into a neat partisan narrative when you’ve sat across the table from that person.
David Bellavia, a Republican and decorated veteran, aims to forge a bi-partisan coalition of former armed service men and women who can demonstrate that military experience is at least as valuable as business or political know-how.
Chris Collins, the corporate executive, doesn’t neatly fit the privileged mold of Mitt Romney. Collins sold shoes to put himself through college and maxed out his credit cards to buy his first factory. What Collins didn’t mention — a far right conservative platform on social issues — was as telling as the interview itself. Our story about him will be printed next week.
We were pleased to see former Avon mayor Richard Burke throw his lot into the race for Assembly in the new 133rd district. Now that Assemblyman Sean Hanna has his sights set on James Alesi’s Monroe County state senate seat, conservative talk show host Bill Nojay has decided to run as well.
Both Burke and Nojay are principled conservatives who would fairly represent a rural point-of-view to a downstate-controlled Assembly — but are campaigning from very different sets of experiences. Burke is a small town businessman and party leader who has been at the helm of a vibrant Livingston County village. Nojay is a volunteer in the international pro-democracy movement who, through his radio show, deeply understands state-level issues. It’ll be a hard choice!
We haven’t done our election profile on Kathy Hochul yet, but we’ve observed that she is as hard-working as any politician we’ve ever seen. She seems to have internalized Tip O’Neill’s old mantra “All politics is local.” She is a master of the one-on-one conversation that leaves you with the impression that she remembers and cares about you individually.
You’re not going to get these kinds of impressions from this newspaper or from 15 second sound bites on TV. You need to turn out for any “meet the candidate” night you can make time for and approach the candidates at this summer’s fairs and festivals.
I guarantee you that the feeling you get 10 minutes after you shake their hands will determine your vote in November.