Since the early days of 2013 there has been a persistent but quiet question circulating in the Democratic Party of New York, especially in the 22nd Congressional District. The question, which went unanswered for the 2014 election cycle, has continued to the earliest days of the 2016 election cycle. But with an announcement from Oneida County, the answer may have just be presented to the public.
The announcement on March 2, 2015 by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi may well be the on-switch for the Democrat election machine. It focuses on a traditionally not Democrat issue, and opens a door to Congress. Previously Democrats had been faced with the dreaded prospect of lacking a candidate for the new congressional district created in 2012 due to redistricting to combat gerrymandering, and the departure of Rep. Maurice Hinchey. The only two real prospects lay in incumbent members of the State Assembly – Donna Lupardo in the south and Anthony Brindisi in the north.
The problem for both prospective candidates was a distinct lack of visibility. While each was well known and reasonably well liked in their surrounding areas (Binghamton/Broome County for Lupardo, Utica/Oneida County for Brindisi) that name recognition failed to stretch beyond the confines of their respective districts. Compounding that problem was the fact that the NY-22 is a strongly Republican stronghold in the middle of ultra-blue New York State. That emphasis towards Republicans also meant that funding a challenge would be considerably harder, with far shallower pockets to tap.
Democrats learned first-hand how intense the situation was in 2012 when Dan Lamb, a key member of former Representative Maurice Hinchey’s congressional team, was the handpicked successor who ran against Rep. Richard Hanna in his first re-election bid. While Rep. Hanna was (and to a significant extent still is) unknown to the majority of people south of Utica, the sheer number of Republicans, the volume of donations, and the personal wealth of Hanna combined to lead to a rout of Mr. Lamb – and effectively eliminating his political career in the process.
Fearing a similar result in 2014, with the Democratic National Committee having publicly stated that due to the unpopularity of positions promoted by President Obama at the time the focus (and funding dollars) would be isolated to an attempt to retain the Senate (which failed), Democrats abandoned their supporters to allow Rep. Hanna an unchallenged victory. The only consolation being that Rep. Hanna, discarded by Conservatives and considered by many Republicans to be a RINO (Republican In Name Only), was a highly moderate candidate that supported Democrats in Congress on late-term abortion, H1b visas, and unfettered spending.
Even with the “politically schizophrenic” voting of Rep. Hanna, Democrats felt the pressure to replace the red patch in the middle of blue New York. The biggest problem seemed to be, aside from the recapturing of both Houses of Congress by Republicans, exposure. Both Assembly members had nothing to offer as meat for the Republican majority, let alone to gain name recognition for Democrats across the very large congressional district.
Which brings us back to the recent announcement. The Safe Act was an overnight gut-punch fueled on the back of a nation reeling from the sad deaths of children in Sandy Hook, CT. Enacted in January of 2013, it has been the focus of outrage for 2nd Amendment supporters and the Tea Party movement. The repeal of the Safe Act, or modification that would appease the vocal Left while gaining attention of the Right and far-Right, was the best and possibly only vehicle that could open a door for any real attempt at gaining name recognition across the district.
Assemblyman Brindisi has offered a series of Bills: to resume the gifting of guns; to repeal the already defunct (by court order) ban on magazines; an end to ammunition dealers conducting background check and redirecting State funds to schools instead of this program; and prevention of additional restrictions on those seeking pistol and gun permits. This foray into the repeal of the Safe Act is the first time Assemblyman Brindisi has dealt with the issue since his vote against the law in 2013. Aside from this sudden and unprecedented action, a Google search of the top 10 pages on “Assemblyman Brindisi Safe Act” & “Brindisi Safe Act” result in 0 hits older than 3 days.
On February 27, 2015, Michael “Vass” Vasquez stated in a speech in Bainbridge, NY
“We are about to hit the 2016 election season… you’ll see someone come up in April… like an Assemblyman or woman from say the north of the NY-22. They’ll suddenly be coming down to the south of the district and suddenly talking about some issue their working on that so great everybody should hear about it… talking to people they have never been talking to before about an issue that has never existed before. That’s a person who is running for Congress.”
If that hypothesis is correct, then Assemblyman Brindisi has signaled his intent to run for Congress. But the question is what does he have to offer? Besides the ‘Hail Mary’ repeal being offered to catch the eye of Republicans, the Tea Party, and 2nd Amendment supporters, what does he have to offer the overwhelmingly conservative NY-22? In fact, besides the instant media attention on this one action, what else has Assemblyman Brindisi done worthy of the attention of all 770,000 resident of the NY-22?
Politics has long been a game relegated to politicians that are deep-pocketed and can afford a media blitz to obscure scrutiny on their intentions. In New York State that is further complicated by the tendency of politicians counting on name recognition above substance. The result can be summed up in the name Sheldon Silver.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi may be better than that. Then again, he may not. But the fact that Assemblyman Brindisi is apparently using an obvious and superficial ploy to garner attention and spark the ignition on a run for Congress only highlights a desperation in a Democratic party that is desperate to maintain power, and a belief that the New York voter is too dumb to notice they are being played.
In the coming months Assemblyman Brindisi will confirm or deny a potential run for Congress. Several other candidates will emerge as well. The people of the NY-22 can only hope that among these candidates a real choice emerges that is focused on substance and motives that go beyond maintaining political power for their Party.