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2008 General Election Endorsements

On Election Day, (Tuesday, Nov. 4), polls will be open in Albany County and throughout the Capital Region from 6 AM to 9 PM.


United States President: Barack Obama (D)

With one of the most spectacu-larly failed presidencies in American history drawing to a close, change is finally in the air—at least, it should be. Americans want it, badly. We want someone to lead us out of the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need someone to make the kind of intelligent decisions that will help us put our shattered economy back together. We’re looking for someone smart enough to recognize that politics as usual in Washington just doesn’t cut it any more, and bold enough to lead us into an era of dramatic political change.

The person we’ve described is definitely not John McCain, who not only agrees with much of the Bush agenda that has brought us close to ruin, but seems to fundamentally not understand how bad things are or how deep the discontent is.

Barack Obama has the intelligence, the passion, the vigor, and—we hope and believe—the political skill to be the president we need right now. And we wholeheartedly endorse him in the election that will take place on Tuesday (Nov. 4).

We’d like to give John McCain the benefit of the doubt that the nasty, negative and shamelessly inaccurate campaign that his team has been running against Obama is nothing more than political calculation, the only strategy McCain has left to try to take some of the air out of Obama’s seemingly high-flying campaign. (And we’ll add that as political campaigns have become ever more micromanaged by political pollsters and strategists, the rhetoric that emerges from candidates’ mouths becomes increasingly scripted, unsubstantial and of little real use to intelligent voters—the same can be said of some of Obama’s rhetoric, however eloquent.) But McCain, who railed against this very sort of campaigning by George W. Bush after the 2000 Republican primary, not only has diminished his once impressive political profile by taking such a low road, but has made himself a hypocrite to boot.

And yet, McCain’s negativity appears to have helped Obama in a way the Republican strategists might not have anticipated: Through it all, Obama has remained calm, collected, thoughtful, dignified and unflappable—in short, presidential. The grace under pressure he has shown during this campaign has gone a long way toward calming the fears of some Democrats that he was too inexperienced for the challenge of being president so early in his political career.

Barack Obama has a lot going for him that might make him a great president. He is intelligent, charismatic and articulate, and he puts a great deal of thought into most everything he says and does. He does not seem to be overtly driven by ego, and is likely to surround himself with talented advisors. He already is loved and respected around the world, and can restore the level of respect we enjoyed under Bill Clinton, if not more so. Far from the radical leftist he is sometimes portrayed as by Republicans, Obama has shown skill as a negotiator and conciliator, someone who seems likely to work for bipartisan support rather than trying to bully his way through his presidency. While the latter qualities—along with his sometimes centrist-leaning views—are what worry some progressives, Obama’s political skill at lining up support for sound legislation may prove more effective at bringing change to Washington than the sudden, tire-screeching left turn that progressives, at their most naďve, would like to see.

To be sure, Obama—if elected, as we believe he will be—should feel pressure from the left to take advantage of the likely power shift that will occur as Democrats pick up even more seats in both houses of Congress. In particular, we would like to see swifter action in getting us out of our failed military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a more aggressive push for national health care than Obama has yet articulated. We do applaud his plan to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy—and in general, we hope he works to correct the upward redistribution of wealth that took place under the Bush administration. And we’d like him to take the lead in holding our financial institutions to higher standards of accountability—but also to enact legislation to stop them from preying on the most vulnerable among us with predatory lending of all kinds, if he can distance himself from his own ties to that industry.


Photo: Chris Shields

It has been said that the election of Barack Obama would be a historic and transformative moment in American politics. Historic, absolutely: He would be the first African-American president. Transformative, maybe: That depends on him—and on us. There is so much work to be done. Barack Obama, one of the most promising politicians to come along in quite a while, has the brains, the charisma, the skill and the sense of decency to be a transformative president. We believe he deserves that chance, and we endorse him to be the next president of the United States.

U.S. House of Representatives, 20th Congressional District: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

A candidate in a congressional race taking place during one of the worst financial collapses in American history should not have to repeatedly tell voters and reporters that he is running for the right reasons. But that has been Sandy Treadwell’s primary message as of late. Treadwell—the recipient of a blind trust and grandson of a founding executive of General Electric—has done all he can to portray himself as a guy who understands the working-class residents of his diverse but predominantly rural district. But we don’t buy it. Treadwell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an unabashed Bush supporter and entrenched Republican insider, not the bipartisan he pretends to be. Treadwell’s attacks on Kirsten Gillibrand have been shrill and dishonest. Thankfully, Gillibrand has demonstrated herself to be impressively versed in the financial problems that face the residents of her district. Her vote against the bailout bill demonstrated her commitment to dissecting and understanding legislation that she is presented with. And she did amazing work on the dairy bill that got higher milk prices for farmers. Metroland endorses Gillibrand because the work she has done for her district as a freshmen outpaces what any reasonable observer could have hoped. We can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in her second.


Photo: Alicia Solsman

U.S. House of Representatives, 21st Congressional District: Paul Tonko (D)

When Paul Tonko stepped from the list of local political notables into the primary campaign, the smart money assumed he would simply be stepping in to claim the Democrat’s nomination. The smart money was right. Now, challenged by area businessman and political neophyte, Republican Jim Buhrmaster, Tonko looks like he will have an even easier victory come Nov. 4. To be fair, this is a safely Democratic district that includes most of the Capital Region’s most liberal communities, and Tonko’s campaign message of environmental stewardship and innovation, coupled with his embrace of the national progressive agenda, makes him a comfortable fit for the district. And although Tonko, who is essentially a career politician, was not our first choice to replace Congressman Mike McNulty, we support him.

New York State Senate, 43rd District: Mike Russo (D)

It is a good year to be a Democrat, and the fact that a Democrat has a shot at taking the seat that Sen. Joe Bruno held for three decades has Democrats in the 43rd buzzing. The sweep of Obama’s coattails, and the fact that Rensselaer County now numbers more Democratic voters than Republican, are hopeful signals; and the Democrats are lucky to have such a strong candidate in Mike Russo. Russo has proven himself a capable and knowledgeable leader during his decades-long tenure as a union representative. He has been a valuable member of Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. As the district director, he was a constant presence within the 10 counties she represents, whether working with veterans or social-security pensioners. Although Russo’s opponent, Republican Roy McDonald, has waged a respectable campaign, and has proven as a state assemblyman that he is a loyal representative, we know that Russo will have the fire that comes with youth, and we believe that he will use his considerable drive to be a strong advocate for smart business development, and an even stronger advocate for struggling families. We strongly endorse Russo for the 43rd.

New York State Assembly, 112th District: Ian McGaughey (D)

Ian McGaughey, the young, former Wilton Town Board member, has generated quite a buzz. For months, Democratic insiders have pointed to McGaughey, saying that he is a candidate to watch. He jumped into the race in early spring, challenging the popular incumbent Roy McDonald before McDonald stepped up to bat in the 43rd Senate seat, leaving an open district behind. Where McGaughey has a fledgling, but accomplished, political career already behind him, his challenger, Tony Jordan, is an unknown, a neophyte who offers little to differentiate himself from McGaughey. In a race where the candidates, reacting to their desired constituents, are bound to agree on issues more than disagree, we would like to see the promising McGaughey given the opportunity to prove himself in Shelly Silver’s majority caucus.

New York State Assembly, 104th District: No Endorsement

Jack McEneny spent his last two years in office arguing for a convention center that Albany likely can not sustain. His arguments, based on privilege and legacy, worry us that McEneny, who has not had a legitimate challenger in years, has become just another rusty cog in the Albany Democratic machine. We believe after eight terms in office, it is time for new ideas. However, challenger Terry O’Neill—who is running on the Republican ticket, and who does have good ideas about law enforcement—may not truly have a background that would benefit Albany in the Assembly. O’Neill’s campaign did not strike us as one of a serious candidate, but more of someone trying to draw attention to his favorite issue. McEneny and O’Neill both carry their share of positive and negatives. It is clear that they both know Albany well and have deep investments in the community. Simply put: You make the call.


Photo:Shannon DeCelle

Albany County District Attorney: David Soares (D)

David Soares took some lumps this year, from accusations of being a headline chaser, to audits by Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners that showed, at minimum, a lack of strict financial responsibility in Soares’ office, to the rejection of his case against Signature Pharmacy. And yet it still appears there is only one candidate running for Albany County District Attorney this year. Roger Cusick, Soares’ opponent, has not proven he is running for the DA’s office, only that he is running a smear campaign against Soares. Cusick managed to avoid presenting substance. The difference between the candidates could not be clearer: Soares has presented and implemented a vision of prosecution that addresses crime in a multifaceted way. Cusick, when he actually talks about his vision for the office, says he would return the office to a “basic” prosecutorial office. Cusick has repeatedly stated that thinking about alternative ways to prosecute crime should be left to “greater minds than my own,” and we agree. That greater mind belongs to David Soares—and thankfully he already has the job. We acknowledge that Cusick has been at a distinct disadvantage in this campaign, but what he has made of it has been dirty and ugly and at times shameful.

Soares is human. He has made his share of freshman mistakes, but also has displayed a profound understanding of the types of crime that affect not just the city of Albany, but that of rural and suburban Albany County as well.

We do believe that Conners’ audits have pointed out that Soares office needs better management. However, Albany County need not look for a more competent, brighter or more passionate District Attorney than David Soares.

Albany City School Board: Dan Egan and Edith Leet

We have no doubt that all four candidates for the two open seats on the Albany School Board are committed to providing the best possible education for Albany’s schoolchildren. And we believe each has expressed a generally laudable set of priorities. With all of the challenges currently facing the Albany public schools, we have chosen to endorse the two candidates we fell are best qualified to navigate the hard road ahead. Egan, who has a master’s degree in secondary education, brings strong management and budgeting credentials to the board; Leet, with a master’s in English, has a strong background in writing and editing curriculum. Both have put children through Albany’s public schools, both have intelligently addressed the myriad issues facing the district, and both receive our wholehearted endorsement.

Troy Charter: No Endorsement

It certainly would have been appropriate, and responsible, for the mayor to have tried a bit harder than just wandering through the offices of his political appointees to find members for his charter commission. However, this is Troy, and rarely will anyone willingly take the high road. The citizens are the ones left wondering why the children always seem to run the day care. The battle of the charter revision has been going on for nearly a year now, resulting in two lawsuits, an appeal, and plenty of ink spilled in the opinion page of The Record. As it stands, only the mayor’s commission’s version will be on the ballot come Nov. 4, and we cannot support the passage of this document. The benefits of the document, which do include some interesting restructuring ideas, are outweighed by the obvious political aims that the mayor’s commission sought to achieve, specifically the weakening of the legislative branch. That is we encourage a “no” vote. We hope, if the charter fails, that the two competing interests in Troy politics can put partisanship aside and find a truly competent, independent commission of Troy citizens to devise a more thoughtful document that can last a generation.

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