Albany, capital city of New York State, is pending a mayoral election and, as in prior years, Progressives:
1) raise important questions;
2) lose the Primary; and
3) most of them pull the lever for the machine candidate, despite sentimental third party efforts.
This year, Shawn Morris has already withdrawn and Corey Ellis looks cast in the Jack McEneny role in this recurring drama.
Could this year be different? Yes. But it would require a peak outside the box.
There should be a sign on the Northway as you approach Albany that would say:
“Welcome to Albany, Entrenched Incumbent Capital of the World”
Since 1924, the O’Connell/Corning/Jennings Machine has run Albany. At times, it has been effective: at its best the Machine put a human element into the Welfare State and took care of people who returned it to office. Even during the uninspiring Mayor Jennings’s tenure the area around Lodge’s Department Store downtown has had something of a renaissance.
But the wheels are coming off. The machine is inbred, unresponsive and atherosclerotic.
Decades ago in the 1930s, in New York City, Progressives faced a similar problem with an entrenched, dysfunctional Democratic Party political machine. Tammany Hall had been around since the mid-19th Century and was reduced to producing corupt non-entities like “Beau James” Walker. To get rid of it, Progressive Democrats had to turn to a Republican, Fiorello Henry La Guardia.
To get rid of the Machine in Albany, Progressive Democrats may have to turn to the Republican Candidate, Nathan Lebron (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nathan-Lebron/78064072978, http://www.lebronforalbany.com/, http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=797312&category=ALBANY). The parallel is not exact, Mr. Labron is more conservative than Mayor LaGuardia was, but it is worth remembering that the last serious challenge to the Machine was by a Republican named Carl Touhy back in 1973, who enjoyed a great deal of Democratic support while running on a platform of property tax reform.
What would Progressives gain from supporting Nathan Lebron?
For one thing, Mr. Lebron does not want to be mayor-for-life, some thing unusual in Albany politics. Opposing a one term mayor in 2013 or facing a wide-open race in 2017 presents a less daunting prospect than facing a 5 or 6 term incumbent whose Machine has been in power almost a century. A new Machine, rather than a new System, is unlikely if Mr. Lebron is elected.
While Mr. Lebron is a conservative, at the city-level, there is more overlap than you might expect. For example, while Mr. Lebron is a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights (although he does not own any firearms himself), he also supports Pastor Mueller’s gun-buy-back efforts. As a small government conservative who wants to make the City more responsive to the neighborhoods and their people, he finds common cause with Progressives who want to empower the City’s neighborhoods.
Additionally, the Progressive candidate in this race, Corey Ellis, also has “conservative” positions which Mr. Lebron also strongly supports, such as lowering property taxes and bringing community policing to its next logical step with more police presence and a strong effort to build trust with the City’s people.
Depending on how the Democratic Primary turns out, Mr. Ellis, Ms. Morris and their supporters can have an alternative to holding their noses and voting for the incumbent. If a Fusion Party could end the rule of Tammany Hall in the 1930s, can a Fusion-powered System replace the Machine in Albany today?