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It’s politics as usual: Bill Reilich’s class act 

None of us should be shocked, I guess, at the level to which some politicians will sink. Nonetheless, I was surprised at the statement Republican chair Bill Reilich sent out last week when his Democratic counterpart, Dave Garretson, announced that he was resigning.

Garretson had said he's leaving because of "personal concerns regarding health and family." Here's Reilich's response, which Republican Party headquarters helpfully e-mailed to the media:

"The primary role of any Chairman is to unify the party, generate financial support and most of all - win elections. Given Mr. Garretson's failure to make substantial progress in any of these aspects, it's no surprise that his brief tenure as Chairman has come to an end.

"While the Democratic Committee continues to spin its wheels, the Monroe County Republican Committee and its 2015 slate of candidates led by County Executive candidate Cheryl Dinolfo, are firing on all cylinders.

"Our strong leadership and commitment to lower taxes and job growth are ideas all voters can get behind regardless of party affiliation. I'm confident our Republican team has the right message and our momentum will carry us to decisive victories on Election Day."

I can think of only two reasons Reilich would do such a thing: he doesn't believe Garretson is ill or he doesn't care.

Anybody who has been watching local politics lately knows what a sad state the Democratic Party is in. Heading into a huge local election, the party has almost no money. Its popular district attorney jumped ship and is running as a Republican. The Democrats haven't found a high-profile candidate to run against her.

And the party is deeply divided, including along racial lines - fallout from the 2013 Democratic primary, when Lovely Warren beat then-Mayor Tom Richards. Rather than uniting behind Warren at that point, a predominantly white group of Richards backers tried unsuccessfully to mount a Richards challenge against her in the general election.

That rift hasn't healed. And Warren, whose support is by no means limited to the black community, has built a good relationship with County Executive Maggie Brooks, so there's probably not much incentive for her to help the party try to defeat the Republicans' candidate to succeed Brooks, Cheryl Dinolfo.

(It's no small matter that Warren's fundraising dwarfs that of the Democratic Party and the Democratic candidate for county executive, Sandy Frankel.)

Against that background, then, we have Bill Reilich's gloating reaction to a fellow politician's troubles. Reilich and his party control the county. He had nothing to lose by taking Garretson at his word, expressing sympathy, and wishing him and his family well. On the contrary, doing so would have been good for him, for his party, and for the community.

Instead, Reilich has given us gutter politics. That few people will be surprised is an indication of how low the state of politics has sunk in the eyes of the average voter.

In elections around the country - most especially in the current lead-up to the 2016 presidential campaign - public offices are for sale. And the highest court in the land has endorsed that practice. In Albany, the former leaders of the Assembly and the Senate are facing federal corruption charges. The trial began last week for the deputy majority leader of the Senate, who also faces federal corruption charges. And the head of a major political party in Rochester throws spitballs when the head of the other party says illness is causing him to step down.

Is there any reason for people to vote? Any reason for them to participate in political campaigns? Any reason to think we can attract honorable people to run for public office?

This city and this county are facing serious challenges. We need a healthy political system, with honorable people representing diverse constituencies and views. That the Democratic Party is in serious trouble shouldn't please any of us.

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