The primary goal of a chairperson of a political committee is to get their candidates in the best position for success in the general election. A simple concept, but one seemingly not understood in the dysfunction that has become the Bethlehem Democratic Committee; a committee where friends and family come first and where self-serving interests have ascendancy over the success of the party. Besides being just plain weird, the brouhaha between the Albany County Independence Party and the Democratic Party in Bethlehem is a distraction hurting Democratic candidates and the reputation of the town’s Democratic Party.
Joanne Cunningham and Jeffrey Kuhn, the incoming and outgoing Bethlehem Democratic Committee Chairpersons respectively, recently stopped payment on donation checks to the Independence Party. They did this after learning that they did not receive that party’s endorsement for the position of Albany County Legislature. Ms. Cunningham is an incumbent. Mr. Kuhn seeks election for the first time.
The Spotlight article published April 3, 2019 “Revoked checks affect political scene” describes how this mess unfolded:
Kuhn and Cunningham participate in endorsement interviews with the Independence Party;
They each write donation checks to the Independence Party;
They learn that they did not receive the Independence Party endorsement;
They decide to stop payment on their checks.
No legitimate reasons where given for the cancellations.
Cunningham claims that she did not like the tone of her conversation with Albany County Independence Party Chairman Paul Caputo when she called to ask him about the Bethlehem Democrats slate. Ms. Cunningham asserts that this was a “chair-to-chair” discussion. Apparently, she thought it not the least bit awkward that she made that call as a candidate herself who was seeking the endorsement of the chairperson with whom she was talking.
Kuhn claims that the interviews were superficial and unprofessional. Kuhn went on to say, “If my small act of protest can finally turn the rock over and expose what I think is this very problematic system, then fantastic.” That’s rich. At least there was an interview. In 2017, when Kuhn was the Chairman of the BDC, he attempted the now infamous “double swap-out” on the Democratic slate, which featured, among other things, the selection of friend and fellow BDC officer Dan Coffey as Town Board candidate. There was no announcement, neither to the BDC rank-and-file nor to the public, of a short-notice vacancy, no abbreviated recruitment process, no interview. Now that’s a sham.
Kuhn and Cunningham are apparently oblivious or indifferent to the reality that their bickering with the Independence Party negatively impacts on the Bethlehem Democrat candidates who sought and secured the endorsement of the Independence Party. It is particularly unhelpful to the four Democratic candidates that will face Republican candidates in the fall general election. Those candidates are Town Board member Joyce Becker, and for county Legislature, George Harder, Matt Miller and Sean Raleigh. Let’s support candidates who are interested in representing the people of Bethlehem, not the politics.