I recall, years ago, doing some research about politics here in the Southern Tier. It didn’t seem like a place where a Democrat could ever be elected. At the time, the last Democratic President who had carried the area in an election had been Andrew Jackson in 1828. It was pretty obvious then, as it is today, that the Republican Party is the default choice of voters in the Southern Tier.
The region’s reputation as a Republican bastion is so great that when Stan Lundine in 1976, in his first campaign for Congress, carried Steuben County–he received a call from Jim Farley, then still living and former campaign chief for Franklin D. Roosevelt. Farley said that it was the first time he had ever seen a Democrat carry Steuben County.
Fast forward to this year, when the Republicans smartly challenged a Democratic redistricting plan in a Court in Bath, Steuben County. The judge threw out the plan (probably for good reasons,) redrew the lines and guess what? The Republicans in New York State picked up an extra four seats in Congress this past election day. The Southern Tier still is, and will likely continue to be a Republican stronghold for years to come.
Having said that and knowing the politics of where I live, I still tend to support Democrats here when I can. We need and indeed benefit when there is a strong two-party system in the country.
With that in mind, I believe that the Democrats made great strides forward when they replaced Andrew Cuomo with Kathy Hochul. Cuomo was a top-down, micro-manager who ruled Albany largely through fear and trepidation. Hochul has brought back the idea that the Governor serves in concert and cooperation with the legislature. She also allows the agencies and departments of state government to function without almost everything they do having to be cleared by the Governor’s office on the second floor of the State Capitol… as was the case under Cuomo.
Hochul made some missteps in naming her first Lieutenant Governor but she got that corrected and moved on. She also addressed the “cashless bail” legislation that had been passed under Cuomo. Though more still needs to be done, she got changes made in the state budget to address at least some of the problems with it. Of course, in the election, she got no credit for that. The cry went out: “Crime, Crime, Crime!” (It reminded me a bit of “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!”) You would have thought the former Town Councilwoman, County Clerk, Member of Congress, Lieutenant Governor and now Governor had become the Queen of Crime.
Crazy — but that’s the politics of divide and conquer which in our day has become quite standard in elections.
I don’t agree with our governor on everything … especially, the push within her party to move so quickly to an all-electric world. They seem to have forgotten that the primary fuel for the state’s own electrical production and for heating our homes is and will continue to be, by necessity, for many years — natural gas. But, that aside, we should give her credit for surviving a vicious, well-funded campaign by her opponent, and becoming the first woman to hold the office of Governor and the first since Grover Cleveland to come from the far reaches of Western New York.
And, if you are a Buffalo Bills fan, she got the deal done to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Her opponent would have messed that up and was “lukewarm” at best on keeping the team here.
So, congratulations Governor on your election. You got “shellacked” and trounced in the Southern Tier. But, don’t feel too badly — Democrats never do very well down here. We still though are New Yorkers, and we wish you success in the next four years as you confront the challenges of leading this very diverse and unruly state!
Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident and a former New York state Assemblyman.