The September Elections

August 25, 2012

Here’s my biased and opinionated guide to some races in the upcoming Democratic Primary in and around the
City of Albany and in Albany County

See the*Update* to the 108th Primary race at the bottom.

People keep asking me, “Who are you supporting in the upcoming elections this September 13?” That would be the Democratic Primaries in the City and in the County of Albany, which for better or worse are the real elections in these parts. For most elections in most years the November elections merely rubberstamp the decision that the voters made two months earlier.

For the New York State Assembly Primary races I’ve been giving my standard answer, “Aw geez, I dunno.” For the other contests, though, I do indeed have strong preferences. In particular one big newsworthy Albany County race is clear and obvious to me. So at the risk of annoying and upsetting a whole new batch of politicians, here’s my take on the races.

This article is ridiculously long, so here’s an index so you can jump to whatever Democratic Primary race you want to read:

Albany County District Attorney: David Soares and challenger Lee Kindlon
Albany County Court: Peter Lynch Unopposed
NY Senate 44th District: Neil Breslin challenged by Shawn Morse
109th Assembly: Six candidates to replace McEneny
110th Assembly District: Four candidates to replace Reilly and Tedisco
My own 108th Assembly district: Two candidates to replace Canestrari –
See the*Update*

All Over Albany put together a great page on how the Senate and Assembly districts have changed, with before and after maps. I referred to it repeatedly as I wrote this article, so give it a look as you read so you can understand the head-spinning changes.

Please note that I am not looking at any of the local races that will be decided in November. These are Democratic Primary races that are effectively final. That’s not to say that the Republicans won’t put up candidates for November against the winners of some of these September Primaries, but such Republican and other party candidates are expected to have no serious chance of winning.

Albany County District Attorney: David Soares and challenger Lee Kindlon

Albany County District Attorney David Soares is seeking a third term. Every single day the Hearst-owned Times Union is printing attack articles aimed at the D.A., almost all of them are repetitive fluff and exaggerated allegations. Meanwhile, his opponent is portrayed by the Times Union as the most perfect candidate to ever file qualifying petitions, but the articles don’t quite explain why he is so wonderful.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares Announces His Campaign For Reelection Albany County District Attorney David Soares Announces His Campaign For Reelection

Albany County Executive and Iraq War veteran Dan McCoy has endorsed the incumbent D.A., standing next to Mr. Soares during his campaign announcement at Academy Park in the City of Albany. Mr. McCoy said, “We have many fiscal challenges ahead and I welcome the opportunity to work with David to serve the best interests of the people of Albany County.”

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but It looks to me like the County Executive considers Mr. Soares’ re-election to be fiscally sound and thus advantageous to the County. It is a notable fact that although these two elected officials come from radically different backgrounds and experience, Mr. McCoy and Mr. Soares are the new generation. Both are in their early forties and unlike their declining political elders are actively struggling to embrace the future. Thus it is natural that they support each other.

Mr. Soares’ re-election is once again opposed by the lingering local network of Old Boy politicians and their minions, law enforcement bureaucrats and corporate media commissars. Eight years ago in 2004 Mr. Soares ran a stunningly successful underdog campaign against the then incumbent. His wide margin of victory shocked the complacent Old Boys, who assumed that the voters would continue indefinitely to behave reliably like obedient sheep.

Jack McEneny And Paul Tonko In May Jack McEneny And Paul Tonko In May

The Old Boys are still enraged. But not all of the elder elected officials have rejected Mr. Soares. He’s been endorsed by our dynamic Congressman Paul Tonko, and by State Senator Neil Breslin who is running for reelection. And retiring State Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who in most minds is every inch one of the Old Boys, has once again lent his support to Mr. Soares.

Despite the 60% to 40% mandate in 2004, throughout Mr. Soares’ first term the Old Boys petulantly refused to cooperate with the new District Attorney, trying to isolate the man and discredit him. Yet when re-election time came four years later, the Old Boys couldn’t find a credible candidate to oppose him and the voters returned the incumbent to office. In 2008 Mr. Soares won by a margin of almost three to one.

Without question the voters were telling the Old Boys to take a hike and don’t come back. The general thought as I understood it was that the voters chose Mr. Soares because they were sick and tired of having District Attorneys who were servants of a few insular power brokers and who ignored the rest of us. As a resident of the City of Albany, which at the time (2004) was suffering under police denial of service, I considered the election of Mr. Soares a welcome break from a corrupt law enforcement network that had failed decisively to enforce the law.

District Attorney David Soares District Attorney David Soares

Also, Mr. Soares brought up the issue of reform of drug laws. He was the first candidate for any local office to speak about this politically dirty subject out loud, how the the so-called “War On Drugs” has failed and how certain people in law enforcement have a stake in perpetuating this war against the citizens. Well, that cogent criticism terrified the Old Boys. But the voters responded enthusiastically and swept him into office.

This is not to say that Mr. Soares has ever had any intention of staging some kind of revolution and replacing The System, on the contrary. His main campaign promise, which he has worked to fulfill these past seven and a half years, has been to uphold the law and try to apply it equitably. This has meant that if a law is on the books, then he intends to enforce it the same no matter the class status of the parties involved, wealth, race, political connections or, most importantly, whether the involved parties lived in the City or resided in the suburbs.

For example, it is not generally known that after Mr. Soares took office in 2005, the Guilderland Police (a suburb in Albany County) were given the green light to crack down on kids cruising in cars and smoking marijuana on Western Avenue. Before Mr. Soares took office the cops rarely bothered, they knew the former D.A. would decline to prosecute these suburban white kids and most of these cases would be dismissed. (Meanwhile black kids in the South End were routinely given jail time for possession.)

Western Avenue In Guilderland Western Avenue In Guilderland

Suddenly the police blotter in the weekly Altamont Enterprise was full of driving and drug arrests on Route 20, and remains so today. Of course this greater enforcement hasn’t solved any drug problems in Guilderland, I hear that heroin is now very popular out that way. But the point is that for better or worse Mr. Soares has done his job as intended and is working closely with local police.

On the other hand, Mr. Soares has annoyed a lot of regular cops by being a stickler for the rules of conduct. One of the biggest problems that law enforcement has had to face in my lifetime is a growing perception by the public that the cops consider themselves above the laws they enforce. We see a strong willingness to tackle this problem not only by Mr. Soares, but also by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and by City of Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff. This is clearly an issue on which all three men agree.

More famously Mr. Soares has tried to enforce laws against the sale and distribution of steroids, drugs used to bulk up muscles and “enhance performance.” It seems the steroid penalties are almost as stringent as the prohibition on marijuana, but the Old Boys rarely if ever enforced them. But oh my, when Mr. Soares tried to prosecute the steroid distributors the Old Boys shrieked and hollered and threw tantrums that were amplified by the compliant corporate media.

David Soares With US Senator Charles Schumer Announcing The Steroid Arrests In 2007 David Soares With US Senator Charles Schumer Announcing The Steroid Arrests In 2007

Personally, I think that all of these illegal drugs, steroids and marijuana included, should be immediately de-criminalized at the very least. But that is not likely to happen soon and the District Attorney does not have the power to alter the law. But he can choose how to enforce the law, and can choose which laws take precedence.

Thus we see that the conflict between Mr. Soares and the Old Boys has nothing to do with perpetuating the discredited notion of social engineering by outlawing drugs. Experience proves repeatedly that the very notion is ridiculous. But this conflict over manner of enforcement has everything to do with who gets to choose which laws get enforced, and therefore who gets to have enforcement power over the taxpayers.

Let me be clear, David Soares is not a saint and a savior. Indeed, I’ve been told by people who work with him that he has an inflated view of himself and sees himself as a man of destiny, which can be very annoying at times. Also, his office is known to be disorganized and chaotic, but then again I’ve been told that is a condition that he inherited. I suppose he should have done something about that by now, but would a new D.A. deal with this lingering problem any better?

Lee Kindlon, Candidate For District Attorney Lee Kindlon, Candidate For District Attorney

David Soares’ challenger in the Democratic Primary is a lawyer with a locally famous name, Lee Kindlon. His father Terry Kindlon is the principal partner of the law firm Kindlon Shanks and Associates, which is located in downtown Albany not far from City Hall. Since 2006 Lee has spent his entire civilian career as a lawyer working for Dad, he is still listed as one of the Kindlon Shanks attorneys.

Mr. Kindlon has carefully managed the readily available information about himself, for example there is no Wikipedia entry on him. It took me a while to track down his current age, which is 35 but he looks much older. But I did find that before he worked for Dad he was a football player in college, then joined the Marines and served in the War Against Iraq and was stationed in Fallujah, although it appears that he did not directly participate in that less than glorious battle.

Now, before I continue here, let me say that I have never seen or heard of anything scandalous or nasty about Lee Kindlon and have heard nothing that would cause me to question his basic competency. I’m reasonably sure that he is quite capable of executing the duties of District Attorney, in fact he is very goal oriented and has a strong drive to succeed. What concerns me is exactly how he intends to execute those duties, and on whose behalf.

The problem is that we don’t really know what Mr. Kindlon stands for. His campaign has been decidedly negative from the start, attacking what he calls Mr. Soares’ “priorities,” picking over the D.A’s office petty cash expenditures and calling for some sort of criminal investigation of the incumbent. Some of these allegations are indeed substantial. But when we brush aside the attacks and accusations we are left with a challenger who is rather mysterious about his own priorities and positions. Indeed, I wonder if he has any.

Occupy Albany Participants And Supporters At Academy Park, Autumn 2011 Occupy Albany Participants And Supporters At Academy Park, Autumn 2011

Mr. Kindlon immediately kicked off his campaign by condemning Mr. Soares’ famous announcement last Fall that he would not prosecute the Occupy Albany participants encamped in front of Albany City Hall unless they committed civil crimes. Whatever you think of Occupy and their tactics, the plain fact is that the Occupy Encampment was primarily a political action and was not at all some random criminal activity. Mr. Soares recognized this and decided to take a politically risky principled stand in favor of the First Amendment.

Lee Kindlon seized on this, portraying Occupy as a bunch of criminals intent on fostering disorder for no particular reason. This, of course, is the attitude of the Old Boy politicians who have wrecked the City of Albany and continue to suppress the economy of Upstate New York for their own personal aggrandizement. Lee’s portrayal of Occupy did not sit well with either me or The Wife, and when the candidate asked the two of us for our support we made sure to tell him as much.

Mr. Kindlon emphasizes his military career in his personal biography on Dad’s website. Indeed, he appears to have spent most of his time in Iraq practicing military law, a field which is radically different from civil law and does not acknowledge the Bill of Rights. He makes it clear that he intends to bring his Marine training to the job of District Attorney:

Now a drilling reservist, Lee still adheres to the warrior ethos and the commitment to be Always Faithful… While he specializes in criminal defense, he applies the lessons learned on the battlefield in the Marine Corps and in the civilian courtroom for every client on every case.