Random Thoughts on the Primary Elections

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Elections
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With the absentee ballots now counted for the primary races, the two close races now have official results. According to Manfred Phemister’s  facebook page, Ron Wierzbicki has edged out Phemister for the Democratic nomination for the controller’s race.  Also, according to Diane Hatzenbuler’s  facebook page, she has secured the Republican nomination for the 4th Ward Alderman’s race.

It’s tough to draw any concrete conclusions from the results, but I would say the strongest message sent was that folks were not happy at all with controller Heather Reynicke’s job performance, given her more than 2 to 1 defeat by newcomer Matthew Agresta. I believe the displeasure many people felt about her taking vacation time during the heated budget discussions earlier in the year was not forgotten.

In the Democratic primary for the mayoral race, Bill Wills had a solid showing, but lost with 44% of the vote versus Ann Thane’s 55%.  One could argue either way as far as what this means for Thane’s general election prospects. My “gut” instinct is this: I think there was probably as many people voting *for* Wills (as he has had a long political career in Amsterdam) as there were people voting *against* Ann Thane.  I believe there is a significant “anti-Thane” sentiment in the city, and for an incumbent candidate not to get an overwhelming majority in a primary, may signal that sentiment exists among Democratic voters.  I think Thane will have her work cut out for her this election.

As Charlie Kraebel used to say… “It will be interesting to see how this plays out” : )   Is anyone else missing the Venner Vox lately?

Speaking of Charlie, one has to wonder, as does Charlie in his September 18, 2011 column “Time to be a party pooper“,  whether the primaries are even necessary at all?  It’s peculiar to note that the only person who is now completely out of the race as a result of the primaries is Bill Wills, who is not seeking to run independently.  Charlie suggests doing away with the primaries and opening up the general election to anyone.  He hedges a bit by saying “one could argue that non-partisan voting could actually dilute a ballot and flood it with candidates who have no business being on one”, but I would say that if the same petition requirements were kept in place, you would have the exact same lineup you have now, with the addition of Wills on the ticket, who has shown he is a credible candidate.

I’ve always looked at the two-party situation as a necessary evil. By narrowing down the field of candidates, you end up giving voters a choice between a small number of candidates, so whoever wins usually enjoys a better than 50% vote. It’s always a concern when a candidate wins with less the 40% of the vote, as to whether that candidate can govern effectively. But it looks like our candidates are looking at the major party nominations as “nice to have” but not essential and are opting to jump on minor party lines if they don’t win.  So it seems to that candidates who want to run, are finding ways to run either way, and the primaries are hardly doing the job of narrowing the choices down at all.  So really, why bother? Can anyone else offer some defense of the current system?

Apathy in primary elections seems to be the norm in American culture.  But the lack of voter turnout in the Republican primary for 4th Ward Alderman was especially puzzling.  Doesn’t a candidate have to get at least 100 signatures to get on the ballot? Where were those supporters for the either of the candidates?

One also has to wonder at the continuous string of unopposed candidates for county supervisors.  Without any judgement on the candidates themselves, it seems given that Jeffrey Stark has technically secured the 2nd Ward position with less than 30 primary write in votes,  that these important offices are up for grabs by just about anyone who wants them. To me, this shows that Amsterdam’s political culture sees decisions made at the city level as more relevent than decisions made at the county level.  This factor is important to consider as part of the conversation on consolidation and shared services.  If our municipal services begin to be consolidated with county-wide services, does that not shift more of the important financial decision-making up to the county level? If consolidation is increased, will we see a corresponding  increase in interest in the county offices?  I’d be glad to hear other people’s take on this situation!

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Comments
  1. diane says:

    Great comments Tom:) It is Matthew Agresta not Michael.

    The alderman candidates have to get a certain percentage of signers based on the number of registered party voters in the ward. Since there are fewer Rep in the 4th, I think we had to have 32 signatures.

    People were clearly out to vote for a controller and mayor and those numbers were obvious. As someone who has listened to the people over the years, there are way too many people unhappy with the current administration. You cannot have two people in primary positions totally ignorant on the budget issues. And that was a factor in the primary elections in my opinion. And last night again, the controller said, I do not have those figures or papers with me. That has gotten to be a routine saying during the council meetings. It is obvious she just does not care. I think that her actions have spoken for her.

  2. diane says:

    And TIM I spelled your name wrong……should have proof read better. Sorry:(

  3. robert purtell says:

    Yes, I miss the Venner Vox, It seemed to have a new topic everyday, conversations that brought the best and worst in a cross section of Montgomery counties finest. Charlie has a way of getting people to express their thoughts, even if you didn’t agree, there were some great discussions.

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