101: Scott Trees is in it to win.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
unlikely candidate in the 127th district gets a real-life
lesson in politics
Siena economics professor Scott Trees’ political career started
when a student told him to “shut up and do something about
was teaching a class, and I routinely call up newspaper articles
and talk about them,” Trees explained. “I spend five minutes
talking about an article in every class. So I threw up an
article on economic policy, and some kid in the back who had
me in the fall raises his hand. And he said, ‘Dr. Trees, are
you going to get angry again? It seemed like you are getting
worked up.’ I asked, ‘Does that offend you?’ He said, ‘When
are you finally going to do something about it?’ I said, ‘I
teach. I’m making you better citizens. You might be able to
hold office one day.’ And he told me, ‘That is a cop-out.
It’s not the same as doing something.’ ”
That was the same week that Assemblyman Dan Hooker, who represents
the 127th district, announced he would not seek reelection.
what made me say, ‘I’m gonna do this.’ I watched people do
things I really don’t like, and you e-mail them, call them,
go to rallies, and I finally thought, ‘Why are you trying
to get them to do the right thing? When I can do the right
The 127th district, made up of parts of rural Schoharie, Greene,
Dutchess and Columbia counties, traditionally been represented
by Republicans—which means, Trees insisted, that the district
has been underrepresented in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
are a forgotten district, and part of that is Dan Hooker’s
fault,” said Trees. “This guy did nothing. He so marginalized
himself that he couldn’t work with anyone. He couldn’t even
get a second from his own party. We elect Dan Hooker the super-conservative
and send him to the Assembly, and then we wonder why we don’t
get anything done. The reality is, I will have a much better
time than my opponent because of my party.”
Trees, who has his bachelor’s from Princeton and his Ph.D.
in economics from the University of Notre Dame, knew his race
in the Republican-heavy 127th was not going to be easy. Trees
was warned that the rural district would be a slog for an
academic and a Democrat. “When I first started running, people
said, ‘Wow! You are a Ph.D. from Siena! You can’t tell anyone
that. Play it down!’ It’s funny, [the] people that told me
that were wrong. They were wrong. People want to discuss issues.”
He said that during his time as a professor he realized more
and more that “politicians need to shut up and listen. There
are so many experts in these communities that need answers.”
Yet, thanks to a number of gaffes caused by inexperience,
his campaign did not start with the momentum he would have
wanted. There were the county committees he should have met
with before launching his campaign but didn’t, the issues
he focused on that didn’t go over well; and even the fund-raiser
for himself that he missed.
But then, Trees decided to walk across his district, a district
that stretches from Schoharie County through Greene and Columbia
counties, all the way south to Dutchess. And Trees was born
without hands or feet. What could have been the greatest challenge
in his campaign became a boon, and his walk started to get
his campaign the attention it needed. Trees has now been endorsed
by party heavies Eliot Spitzer, Chuck Schumer and Michael
party has now recognized me,” said Trees. “They have no clue
whether I have any staying power and whether I resonated or
not. There is a learning curve. We were meeting people, talking
issues, and we didn’t realize we should have run over to the
Democratic power and really put a pitch on to get them excited.
That’s really happened recently, and we are rolling now.”
Trees said the people of his district are not stuck to parties,
and he said they don’t simply want change: “They want answers!”
he said. He noted that, although there is a conservative bent
in his district, Eliot Spitzer has the support of a great
many on both sides of the aisle.
Trees also said that his district is very diverse and that,
while there are some larger issues that are important to all
parts of his district (like property taxes, school funding
and gas prices), “there are microeconomies throughout the
district that have their own issues that aren’t known by anyone
else. Chenango had major flooding, but in Easton all they
know is 88 had a hole in it. Schoharie has the Gilboa dam.
Go down to Greene County and they are facing building a jail.
Jump to Saugerties and Ulster and they are talking about building
Last week, Trees, the unlikely candidate who forgot his own
fund-raiser, took the stage in front of an impatient crowd
at a rally for Kirsten Gillibrand that featured Bill Clinton.
And Trees delivered one of the most stirring speeches of the
think I’m gonna win the damn thing,” Trees told Metroland,
“but if we lose, writing a book is going to be one the first
things we do. We could have used a book in this campaign to
avoid some of our false starts. I think it would be a scream!
A tell-all sort of book!”
And just what would he recommend in his book? Lawn signs not
in the standard blue and red; attention-getting events like
his walk; and stickers like his, which say, “More Trees Less
about a domestic-violence call made at the home
of U.S. Rep. John Sweeney (R-Clifton Park) was
released this week, after a nearly yearlong court
battle involving three local news outlets and
the state police. According to the report, Sweeney’s
wife called 911 and told the operator that Sweeney
was “knocking her around.” The police responded,
and no charges were pressed. The Sweeney campaign
has claimed that the document “is a concoction
by our opposition.” However, the story would have
broken in December of last year—far away from
the election season—had the state police complied
with the Freedom of Information Act.
Stark, who used to give Albany politicians an
earful, is now right at home in Virginia asking
area politicians tough questions. This week the
staff of Republican Sen. George Allen decided
to give Stark a warm welcome—they tackled him
to the floor and bashed him around after he asked
Allen, “Why did you spit on your first wife?”
Stark has indicated to some news outlets that
he plans to press charges. Keep up to date with
Stark’s politician-baiting antics at www.call
addition to deciding several close congressional
races, Tuesday’s elections will answer many social-policy
questions posed in states around the country.
Eight state ballots contain propositions about
amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage.
Missouri voters will decide whether to protect
embryonic stem-cell research and ban procreative
human cloning. In South Dakota, voters will decide
whether to overturn the nation’s most restrictive
abortion law, which was approved by legislators
earlier this year.
Full of Shit
Miami Zoo is hosting an exhibit dedicated to dung.
The Scoop on Poop is a traveling exhibit
that invites visitors to discover the science
of scat and improve their No. 2 IQ. Visitors are
invited to listen in on an animal’s digestive
system, learn the language of poop from around
the world, examine fecal samples, view photos
of animals caught in the act, and smell the stench
of flowers that mimic dung to attract flies for
ties mean little to Republican congressional challenger vying
for media coverage
In a move he knows is certain to earn him condemnation from
the political party whose banner he carries, Warren Redlich,
the Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty
in the 21st district, yesterday announced his endorsement
of the Republican Party’s rival in the 20th, Kirsten Gillibrand.
be very honest, I wouldn’t be doing this endorsement if I
didn’t think it will bring more attention to my campaign,”
Redlich said. “That race is sucking all the media away from
me, so why don’t I say what I really think?”
It’s a struggle for attention that Redlich, who also challenged
McNulty in 2004, said he’s all too familiar with.
time my campaign was swamped out in the media by the Bush-Kerry
election,” he said. “This time, instead of being swamped out
by Bush versus Kerry, I’m being swamped out by Sweeney versus
Redlich’s nod comes less than one week before elections that
will decide several close races around the country and, ultimately,
whether the Democrats will take back the House of Representatives.
don’t agree with either of them on much,” Redlich said of
Gillibrand and Republican Rep. John Sweeney. “But, I think
there’s hope that she will be not corrupt, where there’s no
hope for him.”
Redlich had plenty of mud to sling at his fellow party member
in the 20th, but few criticisms for his own opponent. “I like
him better than I like Sweeney,” Redlich said. “I think I
like him better than I like Gillibrand.”
McNulty was first elected to Congress in 1988 and has maintained
widespread popularity among his constituents.
Redlich operates a private law firm in Albany and never has
held political office. In 2004 he received about 30 percent
of the vote, the highest of any McNulty challenger, and spent
For his repeat challenge, Redlich has changed his campaign
strategy dramatically. He’s not taking any campaign contributions
and plans to spend less than $5,000 in order to avoid the
report-filing requirements of campaign finance law.
can write a check for more than I spent last time anytime
I want to, if my wife wouldn’t shoot me for it,” Redlich said.
“But, the reality is, in order to really make that money worth
spending, I’d have to spend a quarter million, and I can’t
write that check, and I’m not going to write that check.”
Instead of purchasing television and radio advertisements,
he’s using the Internet as his primary campaign media. He
maintains a campaign blog to broadcast his slogan, “Stop wasting
money,” a condensed version of his previous message, “Stop
wasting money overseas defending rich countries.”
Although he holds a Republican title, on social issues Redlich
abides by a more liberal philosophy. He is pro-abortion-rights,
opposes the death penalty, supports gay marriage and
speaks out against the war in Iraq, to name a few. He said
he does, however, typically align with the Republican Party
on economic issues.
not that I’m not in line with the Republicans, it’s that I’m
not in line with either one of them,” Redlich said. “I’ve
considered enrolling as an Independent before the election.
I’m thinking about that, disenrolling from the Republican
Party and enrolling in the Independence Party. I’m probably
not going to do that, but I’m not sure yet.”
When Redlich decided to scale back his campaign spending this
election season, McNulty followed that lead. McNulty said
he adjusted his own reelection account and also decided not
to advertise on radio and television.
Although his own reelection bid hasn’t demanded much in the
way of funding, McNulty has contributed thousands to support
fellow Democrats, including Gillibrand. He said he’s hoping
for strong Democratic elections across the country.
If McNulty is reelected and Democrats take the majority in
the House, he said his role in the House will change “dramatically.”
As a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee,
McNulty likely would become chair of one of the major subcommittees:
taxation, trade, health care, human services, social security
Under such circumstances, the new Democratic leadership likely
would steer certain policy in new direction, he said.
think you’re going to see a different attitude toward taxation,”
McNulty said. “I don’t think you’re going to see any more
multi-trillion-dollar giveaways to millionaires. We’re not
going to do that. When we do tax relief, it’s going to be
for middle-income Americans, small businesses and family farms,
the people who are struggling to make a living and support
McNulty said that if Democrats take control of Ways and Means,
the committee also likely will push for a national health-care
system and tougher international trade agreements with countries
that lack adequate labor or environmental standards.
loose ends this week-