Nov 9, 2011

Saratoga Election Recap

Predictions? So How'd We Do?

We stuck our necks out a few days back with our predicted results of the Saratoga Springs local elections, based strictly on the old gut feel methodology and without any scientific, data-driven science. And? Well, just like that old Meat Loaf tune: "two out of three ain't bad". Let's look at the tallies:

Mayor = Correct. Despite being told by everyone and his brother that Democratic challenger Wilkes was poised to topple incumbent Republican Scott Johnson, we didn't buy it. Johnson prevails, but not nearly by the margin we thought.

Commissioner of Finance = Correct. This was our upset special, where we predicted that Democratic challenger Michele Madigan would surprise sitting Commish Ken Ivins by a more-than-comfortable margin. Yes, indeed: right on the button.

Commissioner of Public Safety = Incorrect. Before we could even start bragging about that last courageous call, our not predicting the upset win by Democrat Chris Mathieson over incumbent GOP'er Richard Wirth acted like a bucket of ice cold water being poured over our heads. But then again; humility is healthy!

Election Analysis

The final numbers (after absentees) will likely show Johnson prevailing by some fig between 200 and 300 votes. The current place sitters that are in control of the city's Democratic party will spin this as being the difference between their having achieved a wholesale sweep, given its impressive wins in the other two council races. Further, they will also spin it as a signal to run hard and run deep with flying the Charter Reform banner into the future, what with Wilkes being the admitted poster boy for that very initiative.

They would be well-advised not to make such conclusions.

Mayor Johnson basically phoned-in this campaign, spending little effort and money on his race. His media buys were near-zip as he let it be known that he wasn't overly concerned about his chances; it was a lock. So, just like a jockey on a speed ball thoroughbred coasting on the front end and then relaxing in the stretch to win by a long neck, Johnson pulled it off with nary a bead of sweat being expended. This despite the full out, all hands on deck assault by his opposition.

But coattails are important, even in local races. Despite Saratoga's commission/council form of government (where the Mayor is just one of five votes), that post is the most high profile of the bunch in the public consciousness. So, Johnson's Missing Man act no doubt harmed the fortunes of his Republican stablemates Ivins and Wirth.

To give credit where credit is due, party chair Thilo Ullman assembled a functional campaign organization. Their initiatives, both admirable (ex: social media and non-traditional advertising) and not-so-admirable (ex: misleading sock puppet attacks)seemed well organized and effective.

Yet, they fell short in the mayor's race, even with that balls to the wall effort. Dead-year elections (those without national action) have low voter turnouts, and for this year's edition this was especially true. In that setting, candidates with a major gripe +/or who are sitting on a hot button local issue are at an advantage because their supporters are the ones that are all wound up and are the more likely to get out and vote. Wilkes was that candidate here; the face of Charter Change. Despite that perfect storm, he was beaten.

Given what Wilkes represented, the Dem's should conclude that they just witnessed the best-case tally for Charter Change -- everyone in town who wants it went out and voted for it yesterday. From there, the blue party should also conclude that this isn't the pony worth taking to the starting gate in the immediate years ahead. But the guess here is that they will.

Further, Mr Ullman's troupe remains weakened -- all these years later -- by the toxic divide dug by the vicious Keehn/Kim takeover a couple of elections cycles ago. Granted, this year's slate of candidates was an important step in unloading that heavy baggage -- with Ms Madigan especially acting as a bridge between the competing camps -- but the fact remains that its leadership (i.e., committee)is still loaded with supporters who somehow wax nostalgic for that nightmare era. Fresh blood is needed, particularly if that blood is not interested in fighting those old wars as well as it being representative of a wider demographic. Committee meetings tend to be absent of both under-40 and innovation class representation. If the Democrats wish to continue their forward momentum, they would be well advised to change those facts.

The Republicans, on the other hand, will lick their wounds and be back for another round in two years, well-armed. One of their obvious moves will be to (like Johnson), do nothing and let the now-governing Democratic newcomers repeat their crash & burn act of incompetence and in-fighting, just like in those old Val Keehn days. All of that is possible, especially given the party's alleged "deals" it made with the city's public sector unions that will turn the upcoming budgeting battles into full-out circus shows.

We can foretell the script already: Mayor Johnson and Accounts commissioner John Franck will play the part of fiscal watchdogs, while incumbent Public Works head Skip Scirocco and the incoming Mathieson are both committed to the empire building of their massive, union-heavy departments. All eyes watching that upcoming drama will be on Ms Madigan, who despite her lover-dovey campaign whispers to those unions, is charged with shaping the fiscal debate with the initial budget suggestions.

Reality can sometimes suck: Ms Madigan will find that out very soon. As a result of that messy process, she will probably be making some enemies out of friends she currently has. Being the bearer of band news is never pleasant.

She can just ask Mr Ivins about that.

(In other races: congrats to the Lake George Citizens Group for their rousing victory. We were glad to have played a small, last minute role in that success.)


Al L said...

Well done. I was not familiar, but I have just made you Bookmark worthy.

Anonymous said...

The new DPS chief sounds like he will take Rom Kim's baton and push for a massive DPS Palace being built on. Taxpayers be damned, full speed ahead.

Now how exactly did we end up with a practicing dentist as head of the police fire and ems in Saratoga?

Good teeth means good health and DPS keeps it that way? Is that the connection?

Am I the only one who thinks this is somewhat, comical?

Anonymous said...

I think I'll be heading down to the mall to get a part time job, selling shoes.

I'll need the extra money to pay my next tax bill after this.

Saratoga's REAL Citizen said...

Someone needs to stand up to these unions . It's CRAZY how much they extort out of our taxpayer repreesentatives.

'Give us more, more , more" they demand, "or we'll make your life miserable and do everything we can to destroy you.

It looks like they have placed two more flunkies onto the council last night. Skippy makes three, which puts them in charge.

Bend over people, it's going to hurt.

This is not about Democrats vs Republicans. It is not about Charter Change vs the traditional form.

It is about UNIONS vs TAXPAYERS.

When do we the taxpayers fight back?

Anonymous said...


Old Skool said...



Nanoburgh? said...

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Who says online Tip Jars don't work?

Anonymous said...

they all blow

West Side Black Guy said...

What I like about this blog is that it has not been infested by that ass clown firebug Kyle York yet.

West Side Black Guy said...

What I like about this blog is that it has not been infested by that ass clown firebug Kyle York yet.

Michael D said...

I agree with you on the charter points, and I join you in predicting that the democrats will take the charge in pushing for it next year. So, to that extent, the issue will be looked at as being a democrat versus republican argument.

Your journal here is a good one. Looking back I see that you do not have a Saratoga focus. Some of the other things you write about frankly are of no interest to me.

I used to read the Thige blog Saratoga Politics but he has gone off the deep end it seems. An alternate source would be good. But I also undertand that there is no income invoved here in doing this and your time is no doubt valuable to whatever you do for a living, if you are in the workforce. I am retired.

Now that I am familiar I will make a habit of checking in once in a while. Thank you.

B said...

Scott Johnson is no bargain but Brent Wilkes exhibited traits of a sociopath. I mean that literally.
I'm not entiuely comfy with a dentist as Public Safety leader, but we'll give him a chance. My fear is that he'll just be bidding on behalf of the unions. I don't have any read on Mrs M. Franck is a stubborn son of a gun. Scirocco is a near imbecile. I'm not even 100% certain of the near part. Niether party represents the values and viewpoints of the majority of people living in Saratoga. The R's are your typcial R's, defending the elites. The D's don't know who or what the hell they represent. How about a new party for the rest of us? I'll join it.