Labor Day has come and gone and with its passing so goes another summer, at least symbolically. There are still a couple of good months left to do outdoors stuff without too much bundling up involved.
Fall, of course, is one of the best times of year to live in the Northeast. It’s harvest time, and there is nothing like fresh vegetables right from the garden or the many stands you come across. And who doesn’t like picking an apple right off the tree and taking a bite?
With fall too, comes what some call the silly season, or the elections begin to heat up, more money is spent and more people start to pay attention. I guess it is silly in a lot of ways, but I kind of like watching our political process unfold, how the candidates conduct themselves, where and how they spend their money and the issues they bring up.
Election Day — or “days” now that the state initiated early voting — is the bedrock of our democracy, because we are not really a true democracy. We are a democratic republic. If we were a true, unadulterated democracy we would probably save a ton of money by not having to pay elected representatives at any level of government to go to Washington D.C. or Albany or even Colonie Town Hall to cast a vote in our stead. We would be casting the votes. Politicians are easy to criticize, and there are some who think everything should come to a referendum but it’s just not practical. The country would grind to a halt.
Last year, we would just have had a primary this past week and the election season would have started off with a bang just like it has for decades. But this year, as you know, New York state, opted to follow the federal election calendar and hold the primary in June. Next year, the primary will be in April, following the presidential and Congressional primaries.
I don’t have any strong feelings one way or another about when we hold the primary. Turnout is abysmally low, and more often than not, particularly at the local level, a primary is more about interparty personality clashes or members of the same party going for an open seat — like a judgeship — than any ideological disparities.
I guess it’s good to have all the elections at one time to save money and reduce confusion among the electorate. The worst part about moving the primary up is we have to look at the god awful campaign signs for three or four months longer.
This year is a “local election” in that there are no federal or consequential state positions like the governor up and in Colonie the focus is on the town supervisor’s race and the three seats up for grabs on the Town Board.
Paula Mahan is going for her seventh two-year term in office and by all accounts considered the front runner since the town does seem to be ticking along pretty well.
Her opponent, though, is no slouch. If anyone knows the political game and what it takes to win an election its George Scaringe. He has been involved for some five decades, mostly behind the scenes — as chairman of the Albany County and town Republican Party committees — and has some astonishing wins to his credit.
This is, though, his first run at public office and it’s not going to be an easy go for him. He did outraise Mahan, according to the first filing, but the two head into the final stretch with about the same amount of money to spend.
Development will be an issue, without a doubt, and the tired topics of paving more roads was brought up this week. Traffic is always an issue but most people don’t blame the politicians for that. That’s just a fact of life. Yes, there was a tax increase last year, but it boiled down to a few bucks a year and by and large the finances are in pretty good order.
It will take more than any of that, I think, to knock out a former special ed school teacher without even a hint of scandal to her name while things are going not so bad in Colonie.
Who knows, though, the groundswell anti-development movement has grown nothing but louder and stronger and they clearly do not like Mahan or her administration. That’s why we have elections and Scaringe will, in the very least, make it interesting.
Mahan has to be at least a little concerned. She did solicit — and make a $1,000 donation — the Independence Party and will run on that line too. She didn’t worry about that two years ago.
The real battles to watch in Colonie are for the three Town Board races.
The Democrats are running incumbent Paul Rosano, Brian Austin, a member of the Planning Board making his second run at the Town Board and Jill Penn an educator in the South Colonie School District. The Republicans are running incumbent Chris Carey, a retired cop, Rick Field, the owner of a real estate company whose father, Fred Field, served as Colonie supervisor for 18 years, and Danielle Futia, the director of hospitality at Carondelet Hospitality Center located in the St. Joseph’s Provincial House.
All fine people with enough individual accomplishments and name recognition to make any three chosen come as no surprise.
Local elections like a Town Board race are more about a popularity contest and getting out and meeting voters than any ideological differences.
Town Board members don’t deal with the global issues that are dividing the country like immigration, gun control, trade or abortion. Instead, a Town Board member’s job is to pave and plow roads, keep the neighborhoods safe, make sure the pools and parks are open and clean and keep taxes in check. How they go about that may vary some, but there is no Democrat or Republican way to pave a road.
There are minor party lines, of course, but most of them are a sham. The ability of major party candidates to have a minor party line is one of the biggest flaws in New York state Election Law.
That, though, is best left for another column. Until then, start paying attention to the candidates and how they come across and if they are worthy of casting a vote in your stead.
Jim Franco can be reached at 518-878-1000 or by email at