"I'm not just running against David Koon. He's a nice fellow, you know, I got nothing bad to say about him," says Mark Johns. "But he has become weak in the face of the big money and the big power, and he has done a 180-degree turn. He used to criticize it, now he says it's wonderful. He says they've got real reform. No they don't."
The Republican Assembly candidate from Webster is just one of several candidates for state government running in --- or rather on the basis of --- an environment of hostility towards Albany politics. Johns' words summarize feelings that have drawn challengers including a college student, Matthew Bova, running against Republican State Senator George Maziarz, and a minister, Bob Ertischek, taking on Maziarz's colleague Joe Robach.
Some are responding to a statewide call for reform --- spearheaded by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi --- that seeks to fix state politics by challenging incumbents in the entrenched majorities in both houses. Others cite a report released this summer by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University that found New York's legislature to be the most dysfunctional in the nation.
But most of these would-be populist revolutionaries stand little chance, fighting their battles in districts with overwhelming numbers of registered voters from the incumbent's party. And some majority incumbents like Rochester's David Gantt and Joe Morelle, or Mike Nozzolio of Seneca Falls, face no opposition whatsoever.
Closer to home, control of the Monroe County Legislature is potentially up for grabs, despite that fact that it's an off year. That's because several Republican legislators were appointed to fill seats after the resignation or death of their term-limited predecessors this year. To keep those seats, they'll need to win them in the general election this November. Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping to capture at least two of them to tip the balance in their favor. Some political insiders think that can be accomplished, but no one seems to agree which legislative districts are in play.
Also on the county level, the former counsel to the county lej, Bob Cook, has mounted a challenge against interim County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo, who was appointed to fill the position left vacant by County Executive Maggie Brooks. The Monroe County Democratic Committee attacked Dinolfo for an apparent error in her campaign's financial filings. The discrepancy made her campaign seem to have more than $64,000 on hand rather than just over $11,000, said Democrats. Dinolfo didn't return phone calls from City Newspaper for a response. In a press release, Democratic Committee Chair Molly Clifford said even if the error was honest it cast doubts on Dinolfo's ability to handle public documents.
Despite the glut of media attention paid to the presidential race, there's a lot more going on in politics this November. And voters --- who've registered in record numbers --- have lots of choices to make November 2. To make your voice heard, head to the polls that day. They'll be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call the County Board of Elections at 428-4550 for more information.