Thursday, January 22, 2015

Race for County Executive: The Democrats

Cheryl DiNolfo's announcement today got us thinking about the potential field of Democratic candidates for Monroe County Executive.

Vincent Esposito has been a protege of former Democratic County Chairman, and Sheldon Silver apologistJoe Morelle.  Esposito would have Morelle behind him if he ran.  In 2012 Governor Cuomo appointed Esposito, then a Morelle staffer and County Legislator, as Regional Director of Empire State Development.  Esposito holds that position still.  Therein lies at least one of the problems making a race for County Exec problematic for him.  It's a six-figure job, with substantial autonomy, that he conceivably could hold as long as Cuomo holds office, which could be another eight years or more.   If he won, he'd have to leave it, taking a big pay cut. Esposito has a young family and might well be disinclined to spend every morning, evening and every weekend away from them for much of a year.

Electability is a big question.  Esposito has run for and held but one political office, County Legislator for Irondequoit, a race for which Morelle pulled out all the stops for him, even cutting a deal to get him the Conservative nomination.  Esposito served loyally as Morelle's proxy in the County legislature. Otherwise, his resume is completely that of  a political staff appointee.  To ordinary voters it likely won't impart the kind of gravitas they often find important.

Sticking with Morelle proteges for a moment, Adam Bello is another person whose name comes up in discussing Democratic contenders for the County Office Building.   Bello is a year into his first term as Irondequoit Town Supervisor -- a race for which Morelle, as he did for Esposito, went to the wall to get his proxy into Town Hall.

For Bello, the County Exec's office would mean a large increase in pay. Much of the local Democratic talent has had little or no private sector, for-profit, experience beyond student jobs. Whatever political job they can land is going to be the best-paying gig they can expect in this life, until the next better-paying political slot opens up.  If Bello is in that category, the pay could be a big motivator.

On the down side, going for County Exec this year would force Bello to forgo running for re-election as Town Supervisor.  He'd be promised a Governor's appointment to some lucrative State sinecure, like Esposito's, if he ran for Exec and lost, but that might prove small consolation if he likes being Supervisor.  As for electability, Bello presents a profile like Esposito's, with even briefer experience in one elected office.  Bello's career has been spent mainly as a political staffer at, or for, Democratic Party headquarters.  Further handicapping his entry in the gravitas sweepstakes is his relative youth.  There may not be available enough Grecian Formula "Distinguished Grey" to get Bello into the Executive's chair.

One name that percolated for a while was former District Attorney Michael Green.  However, the faction of the County Democratic Party loyal to David Gantt has no time for Green and won't support him. Green has never been a favorite of Joe Morelle, for many reasons, some of which we've recounted before.  That eliminates the Party's other faction as a source of support.

Other relevant factors may dissuade Green.  First, he should scarcely wish to place himself under close public scrutiny, lest the public learn the reasons why his own party refused to renominate him for the federal judgship he abused his office to try to obtain.  The Democrat and Chronicle will cover up for him as it does for its favorites and did for Green, but we have local television journalists, such as Sean Carroll,  Berkeley Breen and Rachel Barnhart, for example, whose game these days seems better than ever and who pursue questions that get to the core of things.  Green can't be sure  he'd slip past scrutiny as in the old days.

Second, Green's state appointment pays substantially more than the County Exec's job.  He'd take a big pay cut.  He must be thinking that a better bet would be for him to run for a judgeship.  Fourteen years at a high six-figure income.  Less scrutiny than a race for County Executive.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Green's current State job gives him a reason to be out of town most weeks.  As those will know, who are familiar with the reasons why the U.S. Senate Democrats cut Green loose, that's how Mikey likes it.

We've also heard County Legislature Minority Leader Carrie Andrews mentioned, as well as current Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle, but not frequently enough to cause us to think at this point that either has interest substantial enough to have stepped into contention.

That brings us to the most credible potential Democratic candidate: former Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel. Personable, smart, tested as a candidate in numerous elections, including one statewide and one county-wide, Ms. Frankel brings to the table years of experience successfully administering a large Town.  She had a bad result running against Maggie Brooks in 2011, not because she was a bad candidate, but because her core message -- that the County government is corrupt and it's Maggie's fault -- just didn't sell.  To an extent her campaign was reminiscent of Bob Dole plaintively asking during his 1996 presidential run, "Where's the outrage?"  She has the benefit of having tried it that way once and seeing that it didn't work. She has stated publicly her interest in running again and is working to secure the necessary support.

Ms. Frankel comes across as a person of substance and wisdom and would bring to the campaign a good track record running a municipal government and enormous personal likability.  She's the one Republicans need to worry about.  Monroe County Democrats could do much worse, and based on the names in play to date, if they nominate someone else, they almost certainly will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You must be deliberately humorous to suggest Sandra Frankel is the best the Democrats have to offer. In her run in 1998, she couldn't break 35%. In her run for County Exec, she couldn't break 45%. I had the opportunity to observe her up close in both her runs. She is absolutely NOT the strongest candidate the Democrats could run; she's one of the weaker.
My best bet is on one of Morelle's protégés, either Vinny or more likely Bello. They're suburban, well-groomed, with attractive young families and Morelle would ensure that Garretson funds them well. In 2011, Frankel barely raised $30,000; she was in an affluent liberal suburb than could have easily raised ten times that. Morelle wanted to give the Republicans the idea that the county executive race was serious; instead the Republicans used warfare based on deception and forced Morelle to spend what they had defending a D.A.'s race they didn't need to spend on.