Saturday, September 10, 2011

What are Troy Republicans afraid of?

On November 8, voters in my hometown of Troy will elect a new Mayor, as the current one, Republican Harry Tutunjian, will step down at the end of his term. Right now, it's a 3-way battle for the office, but the GOP wants to keep it a 2-horse race.

Earlier this week, Republican candidate Carmella Mantello, in her 2nd bid for the Mayor's office, filed suit against 3rd party candidate Jack Cox, Jr., alleging that some, if not all, of the signatures on the petition Cox submitted to be allowed on the ballot were invalid. On Friday, the suit was dismissed, but it is speculated that Mantello and the city GOP will appeal the ruling.

A number of years ago, Mantello made her first bid to become Mayor, but lost to Democrat Mark Pattison. This year, the GOP chose her to be their successor to Tutunjian. The Democrats initially responded with long-time Troy City Council President Clement Campana. Campana stepped down after the GOP raised a stink over a residency issue involving his father, so the Democrats selected Rensselaer County Legislator Lou Rosamilia, who is not a career politician, but was elected to the Legislature 2 years ago in his first bid for office. Rosamilia, a long-tenured educator at Hudson Valley Community College, welcomed Cox into the race, and didn't have a problem with the petition.

Cox and his father have had past run-ins with city officials, mostly over zoning violations in relation to their business in the North Central district. Therein lies the source of the GOP's concerns. Four years ago, another city business person, Elda Abate, made a similar move to enter the Mayor's race, and also had standing issues with city officials. Mrs. Abate was not a difference maker, however. There's no guarantee that Cox will be one, either, but his presence apparently scares the GOP, such that they had to resort to frivolous litigation to remove him from the race, wasting taxpayer money in the process. Their decision to challenge Cox in court over his candidacy, in truth, could cost Mantello the election.

What could be so wrong about 3rd party candidates, creating their own independent parties as they go, being given a fair and equal opportunity to run for public office at city level?  How about a fear of breaking the status quo? The GOP wants to hold on to the Mayor's office in Troy. The Democrats want it back after 8 years of GOP rule. Cox, if his platform is strong enough, could pull votes away from the "incumbent" GOP, and even from the Democrats. The best solution that exists before Election Day would be to have the three candidates meet for a debate. They did that in NYC last year, and it created a short-term cult favorite in Jimmy McMillian. Troy has plenty of venues to host a series of debates between now and November 8, and it allows the voters open access to all three candidates' platforms and issues. Those debates could go a long way toward deciding the election, rather than two months of mudslinging. However, we haven't heard peep one about a debate in any direction-----yet. Again, what could be so wrong?

Regardless of who wins, there will be a fresh voice in City Hall. If Mantello wins, she becomes the first female Mayor in the city's history. If Rosamilia wins, it won't be regarded as an upset, as some might have viewed it when he was elected to the Legislature in 2009. Cox would be the first 3rd party candidate to gain the office anywhere in the region in seemingly forever. Any way you look at it, it'll be the longest two months of the year.

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