A Microcosm of Local Political Shifts?
Much discussion has taken place over the theory that large, generational shifts in American politics do not happen overnight with a shooting star grabbing the biggest brass ring in national government, but down at the state and local levels. From one of the small town papers out near my neck of the woods, there is a brief story which might provide a look at this type of shift.
Baker and Chapman, both Democrats, are the only names on the Nov. 4 ballot for two seats on the board, which will be reduced from five to four members in January 2009. All members will be Democrats, including Mayor John Bertoni, who was elected last November to a four-year term. Republicans did not field any trustee candidates for the second consecutive election.
Endicott is in the Empire State, so I can already hear many of you saying, “Oh, well Duh. It’s New York. You don’t have any Republicans out there anyway.” In this, though, you would be wrong, making the same mistake so many often do – confusing Upstate New York with the Big Apple. Upstate actually has a far more conservative base than the city. In fact, until two years ago, the GOP held a slim majority of congressional seats in the districts west of the Hudson River. Endicott is just to the west of Binghamton, and while it resides in Democrat Maurice Hinchey’s 22nd District, it lies only a few miles south of the 24th which was held by Republicans from 1983 until the Big Democratic Broom swept clean in 2006.
How much of a shift has this area seen in recent history? A look at just the last eight years seems to show a fairly dramatic move.
In the early 2000s when the board had six trustees, the GOP and Democrats each held three seats, but then-Mayor Michael Colella, a Republican, was able to cast tie-breaking votes.
As recently as four years ago the Democrats couldn’t get a thing done in that town. Now they not only control every seat and the Mayor’s office, but the Republicans aren’t even putting anyone on the ballot against them. One of the things I’ll be watching this fall is not just “the big board” to see how many House and Senate seats change hands in either direction, but the question of how effective the two parties are in seizing the grassroots in state and municipal governments across the nation. That’s likely to be a far better indicator of long term trends than who moves into the Oval Office or how 100 Senate seats are divvied up.