Michele Madigan and Larry Bulman, candidates for Democratic State Committee representatives from the 113th Assembly District which includes Saratoga Springs, have been knocked off the ballot after their petitions were challenged by a group of insurgents. Saratoga County Democratic chair Todd Kerner had asked Madigan and Bullman to run for these positions. Challengers circulated petitions for Minita Sanghvi and Patrick Nelson who will now appear on the fall ballot and win these now uncontested seats.
What makes this story so bizarre is what being a New York State Committee member represents. These people gather for conventions biannually to anoint whomever the institutional leadership of the party has selected. If you go on line and search for the NYSDC party platform, nothing comes up. If you go to the website of the NYSDC you will not find it. You will find a series of platitudes under the category “What We Stand For.”
To appreciate how bad it is try the following:
- The Wikipedia entry for the New York State Democratic Committee just lists the current and previous chairs of the committee. There is virtually nothing else in the article about the committee because……there is nothing else to say.
- There is also the video of the recent convention which is an homage to Governor Cuomo. It represents the kind of sound bites passing for substance that most of us abhor.
Cynthia Nixon is challenging Governor Cuomo in the September primary. While Ms. Nixon visited the May Democratic State convention, she was not allowed to address the delegates. Cuomo received 95% of the votes at the convention. Has that old Soviet Politburo feel.
Basically, Democratic Committee members who attend the convention are extras in a well orchestrated show.
Why do people attend? Basically, it is a good place to network. If you are interested in jobs in Albany or for running for higher office in New York or Washington, this is a place to develop contacts. This is a place to try to get business as well.
It is not as though this group can be reformed. Aside from the anointment of pre-selected candidates, it really doesn’t do anything. There are a variety of reputable reform groups in the state like Common Cause, the New York State Public Interest Research Group, etc. Nobody serious about reform goes there.
My wife, Jane Weihe, was chair person of the city Democratic Committee for many years and briefly served on the state committee. The experience was brief because she resigned because the experience represented everything she hated about the worst elements of American politics.
So why would anyone spend time on this?
The successful candidates for the State Democratic Committee were Minita Sanghvi and Patrick Nelson.
Dr. Sanghvi is a professor in the Management and Business Department at Skidmore College. Her specialty is “Political Marketing.” Her dissertation was titled “Marketing the female politician: An exploration of gender, appearance and power.”
Dr. Sanghvi was on the previous Charter Review Commission chaired by Skidmore professor Robert Turner. This blog has extensively covered the very troubling advertising campaign waged by that commission. At the risk of snarkiness, one wonders whether Dr. Sanghvi simply ignored the ugly and often false claims put out in the literature of the group or whether she actually helped craft it.
Patrick F. Nelson was the campaign manager for the unsuccessful campaign of Mike Derrick running against Elise Stefanik in the 21st Congressional District in 2016. Most recently he was one of five finalist candidates competing for the Democratic Party line to challenge Stefanik this year. Of the five, he received the fewest votes in the primary (9.21% as compared to the winner, Tedra Cobb with 56.53%).
The insurgents put a great deal of effort into their campaign to elect their state committee members. They gathered probably a thousand signatures as compared to the petitions carried by the members of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee who got only a fraction of what the insurgents gathered. This reflects the fact that traditionally this is a pro forma process that attracts little interest.
Most interesting was the fact that the insurgents went down to the County Board of Elections and went through the petitions of their opponents’ challenging signatures. This is a laborious process. It is not as though they were looking for or found fraud. What they found were illegible signatures and signatures of people who signed both groups’ petitions.
Bear in mind that this group sees itself as forward thinking progressives. I have been involved in a number of campaigns over the years and have always opposed challenging opponents petitions based on technical problems. My attitude has always been to let the voters decide. Not so with this group, they were going for the throat.
So why expend all this energy? Because Michele Madigan was one of the two candidates for State Committee.
I went down to the Board of Elections to look at this insurgent group’s petitions. It was instructive to see who carried these petitions.
From the previous Charter Commission were:
In addition there were supporters of the last charter change proposal who were active on social media:
And other active charter change proponents Bill and Peter McTygue along with Joanne Yepsen
Former charter commission treasurer Gordon Boyd circulated petitions for Sanghvi and Nelson although he is not a registered Democrat. He was able to circulate a petition because election law allows a notary public to circulate a petition for a party position without being a member of the party. Why, one would one ask, though, would someone who is no longer a Democrat bother to circulate a petition for Democratic State Committee positions?
Kevin Madigan, Michele Madigan’s husband, has been the representative of the 19th district to the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee. His petition was thrown out in a challenge submitted by Rita Fornbush. A number of signatures were disqualified because the people who signed Mr. Madigan’s petition also signed the petition for his challengers. His challengers were Marie Fontain and Steve Bederian.
Interestingly, neither Bederian nor Fontain actually circulated petitions for this district although they did get petitions for the insurgent NYS Democratic Committee candidates. Kathleen Harder circulated the petitions for them. She also circulated petitions for the NYS Democratic Committee challengers.
I am sorry to say it but this is an example of the worst kind of politics.
The challenging of Kevin Madigan would make sense if it was part of a broader challenge to the Democratic Committee members who opposed the previous charter change proposal. This would have at least had some substance. The fact is that he was not the only member of the committee that opposed the proposed charter change but he was the only one challenged.
What is truly stunning was that these people would go out in the heat of summer and spend hours getting signatures over a pathetically symbolic position i.e. New York State Democratic Committee member. As someone who has circulated petitions, it is not easy to get signatures. Why waste that time and energy just to keep Michele Madigan off the State Committee? What was accomplished? It is a testament to the pettiness and banality of this group . This is why people hate poitics.