How bad is the state of the New York Republican Party? Fairly close to complete disarray.
A conservative State party Chairman, Steve Minarik, is looking to a moderate former governor of another state, Bill Weld (who conservatives hate), to try and replace outgoing moderate Governor George Pataki who dreams of running for President. Others in the state are looking to billionaire novelty candidate Tom Golisano (who Pataki hates) to be the standard bearer of the state party. And now reports are coming out that State Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno is looking to another billionaire, Donald Trump, to save the day. This would be the same Donald Trump that gives heavily to Democratic candidates and lightly to Republicans. At the state level (including leading Democratic candidate for Governor Eliot Spitzer) as well as federal.
While all this crazy courtship is going on the state Republican party appears to be completely ignoring the highest ranking African American in their party, ex-Secretary of State Randy Daniels and one of the few apparently competent and once highly thought of members, former State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso. All of this may just open up the door to Conservative Party darling, State Assemblyman Patrick Manning. There has been speculation that all this may end up dropping the Republican Party to third party status in New York.
But that's just the Governors race, right? Aaah... but wait... there's more!
This is the same Republican Party that failed to run a serious candidate against Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2004 (Schumer won a record 72% of the vote against... who?). The same party that recently forced Westchester County D.A. Jeanine Pirro to drop out of her disastrous bid (apparently destroyed her website too) to oppose Sen. Hillary Clinton and run for State Attorney General instead. Now severely damaged goods we'll see how well that works out (and that leaves who exactly to run for Senate this time around?).
Aaah... but it doesn't stop there. The primary reason "Uncle" Joe Bruno pushed Pirro over the cliff was to get her into the Attorney General race. Why? Because "poor Joe" is hanging by a thread in his role as number 2 Republican in the state. Only 5 state senate seats keep him in his role as one of "three men in a room" ruling New York state government. Republican State Senator Michael Balboni who is, according to what a highly placed democratic colleague of his told me, very capable and someone that democrats can work with to get things done for the state despite policy differences, was considered the leading Republican candidate to run for State Attorney General. Balboni's Senate district is a very Democratic friendly district. Usually when you want a politician to do something you give him something. Bruno took something away, something very precious to politicians... opportunity. We'll see how that works out. There are other Senate Republicans that would love to retire Joe Bruno. Lord knows, I would too. Will the very capable Mr. Balboni, like the capable Mr. Faso, be looking to new leadership of the state party in the near future? hmmmm....
Senate Minority leader David Paterson talks about picking up 2 or 3 Senate seats in 2006 and another 2 or 3 in 2008 in his goal of becoming Majority leader. Meanwhile plans are quietly being laid to challenge 8-12 Republican Senate seats across the state in a bid to take the Senate in 2006 rather than waiting 'til 2008.
Not so quietly serious challenges are being waged against the nine Republican Congressmen from New York. Six have the most serious challenges of their careers on their hands already and a seventh may join them soon. Moderate Rep. Sherwood Boehlert is rumored to be considering retirement. First termer Randy Kuhl faces returning Iraq War Vet Eric Massa. Former "rising star" John Sweeney is trying to figure out how to portray himself as something other than the Bush-Delay lackey he has been his entire career in a bid to salvage his endangered political life which is being challenged by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and rumor has it a primary challenge from former State Republican Chair Sandy Treadwell. While Sue Kelly is so vulnerable there are 5 quality candidates lining up to replace her.
The state Assembly is already in Democratic control by more than a 2 to 1 margin. It is hardly even worth mentioning Assembly Republicans.
Signs of Republican weakness were seen all across the state on election day this past November. Ulster County, a long Republican bastion, saw control of it's County Legislature won by Democrats. "Old Money" Republican resort Saratoga Springs saw it's first full Democratic slate of candidates for the first time since my recently deceased brother-in-law ran in the 80's. Funny thing happened... Democrats swept Saratoga Springs city government this year.
In Joe Bruno's backyard he couldn't even get his hand-picked crony, Trish DeAngelis, elected to a position he created specifically for her and instead watched her lose to a fantastic Democratic candidate Bob Jacon.
Across Bruno's private backyard of Rensselaer County Democrats picked up seats in the County Legislature despite one of their incumbents retiring and another losing narrowly on contested absentee ballots. Democrats and disaffected Republicans running together on the Democratic ticket ousted one towns government over mining issues. Democrats virtually swept the city of Rensselaer, the towns of North and East Greenbush, and Democrats won town council seats in a town that didn't even have a party structure a little over a year ago. This same scenario was played out across many towns and counties in the state.
The only good news for Republicans was Democrat turned Republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg personally buying re-election as Mayor of New York City again.
Perhaps that speculation about the Republican Party sinking to third party status in New York isn't so far fetched after all.