Cathy Young comes across in her District as a down-home, one-of-us neighbor who goes to Albany to do good works. I do think she shares most of our values on the Second Amendment and otherwise. Having said that, she has become a fixture in the Albany Establishment and has now transcended being just a senator from the southern tier to being part of the Albany political Establishment. I expect to see her take on additional titles and trappings soon.
The current troubles began after Dean Skelos, the former GOP Leader in the Senate, was indicted this Spring, the Republican Senators had to elect a new Leader. They elected John Flanagan, and that has ignited a problem for them in Upstate.
Flanagan was elected because Cathy Young, Mike Nozzolio, Jim Seward (who represents Ilion, home of Remington, of all places) and 3 other Upstate Republicans voted for him as the Republican leader, and gave him the edge over John DeFrancisco of Syracuse. It was a stunning vote, since Flanagan is a Long Island liberal while DeFrancisco is an Upstate conservative. Put another way, around here Flanagan would be regarded as way to the Left of even a Pataki, and Pataki got pretty liberal in his latter years.
The Upstate 6 voted for Flanagan because of a series of deals made with Flanagan and Cuomo; they accepted trinkets in exchange for their votes. Cuomo made a lot of phone calls to ensure Flanagan’s election as the GOP Leader. We will never know exactly what trinkets Young or the others were promised. Whatever they got, they are now in a pickle because Flanagan has spent his entire life in politics and has voted for literally every tax hike, bloated budget and job killing Bill they’ve passed in Albany. And he voted for the SAFE Act. And full funding for Common Core, which he supports. And he’s Cuomo’s closest political ally in Albany (even more so than the Democrats in the Senate).
On top of all that, the one chance Flanagan had to redeem his reputation came in June, when the NYC Democrats absolutely, positively had to have the extension of NYC’s rent control laws. It would have been Armagedon for them if the rent control laws weren’t extended. For the Republicans, almost none of whom could care less about NYC rent control laws, this is what should have been thought of as having your opponent over the barrel.
What Upstate conservatives wanted was reform of the SAFE Act. They saw an opportunity for a deal — NYC rent control for SAFE Act reforms. The SAFE Act reform Bills were drafted and on the table for the negotiation. Then…nothing happened. Flanagan and the GOP Senate voted for the rent control extension but got nothing back in return. People were not happy — Flanagan snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and showed (a) he really is a Long Island liberal who is not much concerned about Upstate NY, and (b) he considers the 2A community as politically irrelevant. SCOPE and NYS Rifle & Pistol, who had put a lot of effort into supporting the draft Bills to reform the SAFE Act, felt betrayed and abandoned.
In response to the blow back from failure to get anything in return for the NYC rent control vote, Cuomo (wanting to help Flanagan, since he was Flanagan’s backer in the vote to succeed Skelos) and Flanagan concocted the now infamous SAFE Act MOU, which was released at 4pm on a Friday, in July.
The SAFE Act MOU was a fraud, because it has no legal standing and was signed by two guys — a Cuomo staffer and Flanagan — who have no authority to sign anything on behalf of the State of NY. It was a pure public relations move designed to convince us in Upstate that Flanagan was going to get tough on the SAFE Act and help Upstaters. Unfortunately it was so poorly thought through that the press immediately started slicing & dicing it, using quotes from every lawyer who looked at it and declared it meaningless. 2A groups like SCOPE and NYS Rifle & Pistol felt deceived since the initial press releases issued by the GOP Senators declared the MOU a great victory, but within a day everyone had figured out it was a fraud and meaningless and, worse, clearly designed to deceive them.
Now that the MOU has blown up on them, the Republicans are in a corner. The 2A groups and some other conservative groups who are unhappy with the inability or unwillingness of the Upstate GOP Senators to take a tough stand on a range of issues (Common Core, fracking, 2A, state mandates, road/bridge repairs) want to Primary some of the Senators, and the Senators are trying to fight back to nip those efforts in the bud. Hence the Springwater comments by Young. Jim Seward had Flanagan in Cooperstown this week putting their fingers in the dike there. Nozzolio has been chatting up a storm with anyone who will listen to him, although of all the Upstate 6 he is likely the most vulnerable since unhappiness with him has been growing for years.
Somewhat bizarre in all this is that when confronted, the Senators say they passed SAFE Act reforms but the Assembly wouldn’t go along. No one is buying that, though, since everyone knows the Assembly is controlled by the NYC Democrats and the only way to get them to move on something important to Upstate is to trade — something they really need for something the Republicans really need — which is exactly what Flanagan refused to do. Or at least he refused to do it with the SAFE Act reforms.
Now a lot of people want to Primary the Upstate 6. There is an old saying in politics that you can’t beat somebody with nobody, and I’m not sure the 2A/conservatives are going to find anyone to challenge any of the Upstate 6 in Primaries next year. Petitions to Primary will be passed in June, 2016 for the September Primary, but realistically a candidate needs to begin raising money for a challenge now. It would be a grassroots campaign since no challenger will ever raise the $500,000 an incumbent will have, but someone with a good message and willingness to work nights/weekends going door to door, and able to raise (or self-fund) $100,000 will be credible and could win.
This is a love/hate thing for me. I believe the Republicans holding onto the Senate is the #1 political priority in Upstate NY for the next year. The problem is what good are the Republicans if they are led by a liberal from Long Island who, when given the chance to help us, didn’t life a finger? The line we’ll hear from the Establishment politicos is basically, “yeah, the Republicans are bad, but the Democrats are worse so we’ve got to support the Republicans”, and there is some truth to that. You just wish you had another choice.
The political system is made stronger with Primaries — I had a Primary challenger myself — so if someone comes along willing to raise the money and work hard enough, I’d encourage them to throw their hat into the ring and try to make a difference in Albany’s political swamp. Otherwise, my guess is the 30 year death spiral of Upstate’s economy and legislation like the SAFE Act will continue as NY’s political agenda continues to be driven by politicos of both Parties who see the world through a NYC/LI prism, enabled by Upstate collaborators who trade their votes for trinkets promised by the victors.