The Endangered DemCon

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Have you heard they took the Yellowstone grizzly bear off the list of endangered species?

That’s good for the bear, you’d figure.

In Monroe County, however, it’s high time that a political animal go on the endangered list.

The Democrat endorsed by the Conservative Party.

In the 2005 election, the Monroe County Conservative Party boasted endorsements for 114 candidates. They may have well lifted the Republican Party slate and adopted it for their own. In only three instances did they back a Democrat. In Webster, DemCons William Saucke (Webster Supervisor) and Alexander Sienkiewicz (Webster Town Council) lost. In Irondequoit, Joe Genier, a DemCon town justice incumbent, won.

Other than that… the Conservatives backed Republicans (or in a few instances candidates who ran solely on the Conservative Party line and lost).

The last comparable local election year was 2001 when there were similar county races, town races and at least a number of county legislative slots open. In that year, the Tom Cook-led Conservatives endorsed Democrats such as Vinnie Faggiano for Sheriff (who lost), Fred Amato for County Legislature (who barely beat the Republican to keep his seat). They backed Democrat John Howland in Henrietta against Republican incumbent Jim Breese… and also supported two Henrietta Democrats (Tom Dietz and Ray Ottman) for town board against Republicans Janet Zinck and Michael Yudelson.

This year? An Amato ran for county legislator, but it was Fred’s wife Pat because he couldn’t seek reelection due to term limits. The Conservative Party backed Republican Ray DiRaddo against Pat Amato. She lost. In Henrietta, Breese, Zinck and Yudelson all got the Conservative support. Hell, they gave their Conservative label to people like Ralph Esposito in Gates, the Republican incumbent supervisor who proposed a budget that hikes taxes 14 percent.

Time was when Conservative and Democrat could live with the same Rochester area candidate. Go back to the 1980s when Reagan reigned supreme: Roger Robach, Joe Robach, Ralph Quattrociocchi, Bob Stevenson, David Proud, Gary Proud, Bill Gillette, Phil Fedele, Jack Kelly, John Auberger, Amato, – these were all Democrats who won with Conservative backing. Many of them came from the west side of the region.

When Tom Cook wrested control of the Conservative Party from Leo Kesserling way back around the start of the Reagan era, he opened the door to the Dems – and even reached out to the party chairman, the liberal Larry Kirwin. I recall a few years ago Nathan Robfogel, a former Democratic County Chairman in the 1980s, saying that it didn’t make sense to run liberal Democrats west of the Genesee.

Now? No DemCons.

So what’s this mean? Well, it makes it harder to understand the comment that Democratic County Legislator-elect Paul Haney gave to Krestia DeGeorge in City Newspaper – that the next town Democrats could claim is Gates – a west side, traditionally conservative town. Maybe the demographics are changing.

It’s also harder to believe a statement (made, albeit, in an offhand way) from County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle, who said that Joe Robach, now a Republican state senator, is the kind of politician who should be coming back to the Democratic Party.

Doesn’t this lack of Conservative labeling hurt the Democrats? Well, the party seems rather blasé about it. They can now get another line from places like the Working Families Party and the Independence Party. Maybe they think the Independence line allows them the ability to show they are moderate… and go after the so-called Reagan Democrats.

But that could be in jeopardy if the Independence Party can’t muster the 50,000 votes it needs in the next gubernatorial election (a real possibility with its benefactor, Tom Golisano, now a registered Republican).

And what does it mean for the Conservative Party. Under Tom Cook, that party created the illusion of being real powerbrokers. In part, that was because they could endorse either of the two major party candidates in a key election.

But now, it appears that Cook and the conservatives find themselves in the more traditional role of this party in New York State – being a check and a balance on the Republican Party. (Just look at the statewide GOP. Now some gubernatorial candidates from their own ranks say they will run on the Conservative line if they don’t get the Republican endorsement).

Or maybe Cook and the Conservatives simply don’t want to get involved with Democrats until they can show their mettle on the west side… clearly the Democrat organization there is weak.

Any way you slice, however, one thing is true – the DemCon is truly a vanishing breed.