Friday, February 19, 2010

A Morelle Run for County Executive? Its Impact on His Party

Assemblyman and County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle may be gearing up to run for County Executive in 2011.   Apparently for more than a year, including discussions with campaign advisers.

And no, it's not Mayor Duffy who wants to take on Maggie Brooks next year, or who is going to.   Duffy's reportedly looking at succeeding Louise Slaughter in Congress; you don't hire Global Strategy Group for an upstate County Executive race.   And why trade the powerful post of Mayor for the weaker -- because the state mandates 80% of your budget -- post of County Executive?   Especially when you're Mayor in a one-party system and the party is yours.

For Morelle, a run for County Executive makes complete sense.   He's been in the Assembly since January 1991.

Two minutes as Shelly Silver's bum boy, metaphorically speaking, would be unimaginable to us mere mortals.   Morelle's done it for most of two decades.   Anyone would want out.   Eventually, as someone else wrote recently, servility always turns to rage.   Or, at least, to heading for the exit.


But what's the immediate impact on his own party of the local Democratic Chairman's ambition?

If Morelle wants the nomination, it's very much in his interest to remain as Chairman, where he has much more control over things.   This saddles Monroe Democrats with a Chairman who's turned in a lousy performance in elections for two years straight now, capped off by their disaster last November and the recent conversion of a Democratic County Legislator to the Republican side.

It also keeps in place a Chairman about whom very many rank-and-file Democrats are expressing displeasure, especially the party's activists and most motivated volunteers.   Never a good thing in a political organization.

In order to be a credible candidate for County Executive, Morelle's already started trying to position himself favorably with suburban voters; for example, his free pass from Shelly Silver on voting for the disastrous 2009 state budget, and his siding with the popular Mayor on the popular (in the suburbs) move for Mayoral control of the failed City schools.

But just in the last week we can see how the latter can harm the County party.   The teachers' union shut down a County Democratic fundraiser, by threatening to picket outside the event.   And apparently a union picket line to a certain kind of Democrat is like a crucifix to a vampire:   they just can't go past it.   Result:   Morelle was forced to cancel the fundraiser.

Now the biggest Democratic fundraiser of the year is coming up, the Mayor's Ball.   Can we really expect from the public employee unions any different performance?   They'd still be upset with the Mayor, but a Party Chairman who hadn't committed to mayoral school control would be in a far better position to work out a truce with the unions, in order for the Mayor's Ball to proceed.  Only this Party Chairman has publicly sided with the Mayor's proposal (with which we agree, by the way) and can't now play the peacemaker's role.

That union animosity is a major problem for County Democrats.   The teachers' and public employee unions and their satellites are major funders of Monroe County Democrats.   It's the Party that's the dependent of the unions, not the other way around.   The unions can cut off the Monroe County Party for an election cycle or longer without harming themselves in the least.   It's different than the state level, where the public employee unions and state-level Democrats (and State Senate Republicans) exist in a symbiotic and collusive relationship of mutual dependence.

It's more than money, of course.   When Jim Bertolone of the local AFL-CIO blasts Morelle and Monroe Democrats at a press conference, that means more than money.   That's the Democrats' manpower on the street at campaign season, and their phone center on election day.

Morelle's going to smooth this over, though maybe not in time for the Mayor's Ball.   The point is that here's an example of a problem caused by Morelle's remaining as Chairman while pursuing Maggie Brooks's job.

Bottom line:   Joe needs to stay as Party Chair to improve his chances for County Exec, if that's what he wants, but doing so creates problems for his Party, and within it.


Anonymous said...

Duffy paid Global Strategies (a company based out of New York City) $22,500 last year alone with no opponent for the mayoral campaign. Since they weren't needed for that campaign, it's pretty obvious he's getting help planning his exit strategy for higher office.

Rottenchester said...

Two more things to add to the list:

1. Katie's law. Morelle's support of that (probably unconstitutional) measure is designed to butch him up in the eyes of suburban voters.

2. The 2007 County Exec debacle, where MCDC didn't even have a candidate. If you're planning a run sometime in the future, it's good to keep that seat open.

I agree with you here:

repoman said...


If Morelle really did give Brooks a pass so that he would ensure no Democrat in the office blocking his ambition, you would think his party would go into open revolt against him.

Is it possible he's that cynical and the rank and file in the Democrat party are that naive (or forgiving)?

Rottenchester said...

Repoman - Memories are short and there's a lot of misplaced loyalty in any partisan organization.

But the unions are in open revolt, which might get the job done by itself.