Friday, May 13, 2011

The silly season

In golf, there is a time of the year from November to December in which the golf tour essentially shuts down. To give golfers something to do -- what are they going to do with their spare time, play golf? -- some special small tournaments are thrown together, in some cases with television in mind. It's called "the silly season," as no one pays attention but the checks are usually still good.

The concept applies to politics too.

Here in Western New York, we are in the midst of a special election. You might have heard of Chris Lee, the Congressman who went trolling for women on the Internet despite his married status, complete with a picture of himself without a shirt. Chris resigned in short order and has been rather, um, secluded since that incident. Can't imagine why.

Lee's district was heavily Republican. It's also a candidate to be eliminated in 2012, when the reapportionment comes along. Still, it's a seat in Congress, and there are only 435 of them are open. The Republicans have nominated Jane Corwin, a former businesswoman who has been in state politics. The Democrats countered with Kathy Hochul, who works for the county. Meanwhile, local businessman Jack Davis, who has run for Congress on various party lines before and lost, decided to try again for this one. When he couldn't get the endorsement of either party -- he's not exactly fussy -- he's collected enough signatures to run with the Tea Party, even though Tea Party leaders (note: possible contradiction in terms there) want nothing to do with him.

This should be an easy win for Corwin, based on registration numbers, but Davis has a populist message that carries well in some circles. That has thrown things into something of a toss-up.

The fun part is that there are several big shots in political circles who usually do their best work in the fall. An open seat to May is found money, to them and to television stations who have been running ads. The experts come in and tell the candidates what to do and say, even though sometimes it has little bearing in reality. Both of them follow the party themes and make pledges on what they'd do, as if the person who is at the absolute bottom end of the seniority system will be able to make a big difference in Medicare reform and the budget deficit.

When it comes to odd moments so far in the campaign, Corwin is pretty clearly in the lead. Corwin has attacked Hochul for being a -- gasp! -- career politician. I never understood what the problem with that was, if that person is good at the job. I'm a career journalist; should I make way so that someone who hates newspapers should take over now? Corwin also put on an ad with sound bites of her former employees saying how they'd vote for her. "Jane Corwin hired me and fed my family for 20 years, but I'm voting for someone else." Yeah, right.

Today some direct literature for Corwin came in the mail. She claims that "hundreds of big labor and downstate liberal special interest workers are being bused in by the Hochul campaign." Really? Remind me to buy Trailways stock, or prove it. And "Millionaire Democrat Jack Davis is paying temps to do his campaign work." Funny how being a Millionaire is bad news, even though Corwin certain qualifies too based on how much she has given to her own campaigns.

The other two aren't much better. Hochul has criticized Corwin for being part of the Albany gang that hasn't done too well with state government, even though Corwin hasn't been there long enough to know where Central Ave. is. Davis keeps supporting tariffs to protect jobs, even though any person who walked through an economics class in a college will remind you that trade restrictions only inhibit economic activity and are thus generally bad.

The funny thing is that Corwin and Hochul probably are pretty good candidates. You'd just like them to be a little less programmed in order so that voters can see what they are getting.

The election is May 24. Makes me wish May 25 was here already.

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