On August 6, 2016, I had the opportunity to go to the annual Spiedie Fest at Otsiningo Park in Binghamton, New York. My goal was to attend the event just like the majority of the public – to see the vendors, walk in the park on a beautiful summer day, and enjoy the event. But as a well known political commentator, politics filled my time at the event (which as a political junkie is not a bad thing either). Here is a slice of the life of a political commentator trying to have a day off at a local event.
Right as I walked into Otsiningo Park, I met with Libertarian Rich Purtell. I have spoken with Mr. Purtell several times over the years, and recently interviewed him about his run for the NY 52nd State Senate race. He was busy getting signatures and a sun tan.
Once I got into the Spiedie Fest proper, I ran into the tent for the Republican and Conservative Party NY 22nd congressional race candidate Claudia Tenney. I was told she was at the Spiedie Fest yesterday, and will arrive at the event a little later today. The campaign was very positive about the success in the Primary and the outlook in November.
From there I continued to check out the many vendors, like the Cheese Filled Company. They had great samples of Cheese Filled Pepperoni, with Extra Sharp Cheddar and Habanero to name a few. Close to that vendor was the TEA Party tent. I learned that signs for Donald Trump for President had so quickly on Friday that none were left. Backorders had piled up. Confirming the strength of the results, and my prediction (that turnout among Republicans and Conservatives will be higher than Democrats by a margin of 3 to 2), from the Presidential Primary in April.
From there I ran into Libertarian Alex Merced. He is running in the NY Senate race. He too will challenge 30 year incumbent Sen. Charles Schumer, along with Republican Wendy Long. I found out that Mr. Merced will be on WNBF on Monday, and tentatively arranged to have an interview for my Tuesday episode of the NO Soundbites Allowed podcast.
Immediately after that Binghamton City Councilman Conrad Taylor said hello at the LUMA tent. The now annual National Projection Arts Festival, scheduled for September 2, 2016, expects some 25,000 attendees. Excitement is running high, as several new projection techniques are planned for this year. As Councilman Taylor explained, the buildings will be interactive with the projections, raising the bar on what the public will receive from the event.
But Councilman Taylor was not the only Democrat politician busy at the event. Councilwoman Dani Cronce was at Spiedie Fest with her son as well. Either as a poke of fun, or as part of her work supporting Kim Myers, she handed me a flyer for the Myers Campaign. Kim Myers herself was not at Spiedie Fest to my knowledge, but there is another day to go. We are now waiting some 148 days for the opportunity to interview Mrs. Myers as Briam Lenzmier prommised us on March 4, 2016.
Of course Kim Myers was not the only NY-22 candidate that has avoided answering questions of the public and media. Martin Babinec was also on hand at Spiedie Fest. With a crew of 5 staff members, one filming Babinec speaking with his staff (but no interactions with the public that I saw), I jumped at the chance to get a response from the 3rd Party candidate that has declined to answer our questions since April 14, 2016.
Babinec (who immediately stated he was aware of who I was and what I have written about the NY-22 race just by mention of my name) declined to accept our invitation to interview, deferring to his staff to determine if he should answer the questions of the public and media. When reminded that as the candidate, if he said yes his staff could arrange a time and place, Babinec deferred to his campaign manager Jim Baker. Mr. Baker, who appeared a bit agitated at someone asking Mr. Babinec to answer questions outside of the planned messaging of Facebook and ads the campaign has relied on since being removed from the Independence Party line for failure to abide by the requirement to have registered voters collect signatures.
Mr. Babinec too stated that he felt coverage of his run was incomplete. While he did not dispute the facts presented about his campaign, he felt that the questions asked of all candidates in the race by VASS Political Commentary were too harsh. He made no comment about the failure of his campaign to inform us of any response or challenge to any commentary made to date. Ultimately, Mr. Baker assured us that he will personally consider if the campaign will respond to the questions of constituents as we present them.
It is unclear if Mr. Babinec will release the complete unedited video that his staff filmed of our discussion, but then again he might not have a need. Vendors and public observing the discussion noted that a member of the DNC, from Washington DC, was present and also taped the entire discussion. It is possible that the DNC, on behalf of Kim Myers, may well publicize the aversion to answer constituents.
In all, the Spiedie Fest is a great on-going event. It is an example of a community celebrating the deep culture in the region, while at the same time displaying how important and intertwined politics are to the everyday lives of residents. Even if many went without taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about, and potentially shape, how these politics will affect their lives in the future.