It will probably be about what it’s always about.
Money and machine.
And Joe Morelle has both. And so, in all likelihood, tomorrow night the Democrats in the 25th District of New York will select the guy with the most bucks and the best connections.
And the succession to the Democratic throne – a once-in-a-generation event – will go off without surprise or excitement.
Not that Morelle’s not a great guy. Not that he wouldn’t do an adequate job.
Just that after all these years of waiting, you kind of hoped there’d be something worth waiting for.
For 30 years, Louise Slaughter held to power in the 25th like it was a birthright. And she used the office in her own unique way – as a platform for big-agenda progressive causes. While the region went through an historic economic and social decline – while the industries dried up and the poverty revved up – she was at Nancy Pelosi’s side attending to other matters.
Rochester was represented, but not really.
Someone sat in the seat, but the agenda was about philosophy, not place.
And here comes another one of those.
In two debates, Joe Morelle has promised to take Albany to Washington, to replicate there the Andrew Cuomo agenda to make New York “the most progressive state in the nation.”
And that stuff sells. It’s red meat to the rabid voters who dominate the primaries of either party. It also brings in outside money that cares about a national agenda, not what’s happening on Joseph Avenue or Ridge Road.
Any reference to local issues – like a region bypassed by the national economic rebound – gets wrapped up in the photonics myth. If that ruse worked for Louise Slaughter, the reasoning must go, then it will work for Joe Morelle.
And by focusing on banning assault rifles and promoting transgender rights, Joe Morelle won’t have to say a thing about actually helping a district with arguably the highest property taxes and worst school system in the nation.
All you have to do to get elected is hate Trump.
Or so the reasoning seems to go.
The other candidates in the primary, according to conventional wisdom, don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.
Adam McFadden, who has run a more locally focused campaign, ought to win the city of Rochester.
And I ought to be nationally syndicated.
But we’re both apt to come up empty.
Adam is a son of the city – the largest trove of 25th District Democratic votes – but he – like candidates Rachel Barnhart and Robin Wilt – has raised less than $20,000. That means Joe Morelle has $280,000 and Adam McFadden has less than $20,000, probably closer to $10,000.
Further, while Adam has volunteers, Morelle has a machine. A machine that controls the town of Irondequoit, has handpicked his Assembly replacement, and includes the county clerk looming as possibly the next county executive.
Joe Morelle is one of the most powerful politicians in the district and in the state.
And though the Democrats talk about being the grassroots party, and while they make a big show of representing minority rights, a big-money machine middle-aged white guy is their leading candidate.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
But if I was a Democrat and I lived in the district, I wouldn’t go along.
I’d vote for Adam McFadden.
Recognizing that I eventually hope Republican Jim Maxwell wins, and that my endorsement to a Democrat could be a kiss of death, in this primary, among these candidates, I would vote for Adam McFadden.
Not because I agree with him – he’s a progressive Democrat, and I’m a conservative Republican – but because I respect him and trust him.
Adam McFadden is a straight shooter. He doesn’t talk in political doublespeak, he doesn’t sugar coat things, he just says them. If you agree, fine. If you disagree, that’s fine, too. He’s also focused on the district. In the debates he’s not talking about pie-in-the-sky progressive agenda items, he’s not carping national Democratic talking points, he’s talking about the people and priorities of the 25th District.
And he’s a real guy, warts and all. Like most of us. His suit’s not tailored, sometimes it’s not pressed, and most of the time his tie doesn’t match. And he got where he’s got on his own power. He grew up in poverty and has seen his share of trouble and was shot when he was 14. But he learned as he went, and he has made a success.
He is a man of personal achievement.
Plus, his personal heritage speaks uniquely to the two largest voting blocks in Monroe County – blacks and Italians, of which he is both. A black man with dreads, his grandmother is a white Italian lady who married a black American GI and emigrated with him to Rochester, where she had relatives. Adam McFadden is a black Rochesterian who visits relatives in Italy and whose daughter speaks fluent Italian.
And when I think of what the Democratic Party stands for and who it’s supposed to work for, I don’t think of Joe Morelle.
I think of Adam McFadden.