The Un-Dog

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This gets somewhere soon, trust me on this.

But this week I was able to see the play Inherit the Wind at Geva Theatre. It’s a solid performance by all who performed in the production based on the Scopes monkey trial. The lead characters are, of course, largely based on two giants in American history – Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

Bryan’s legacy reached far beyond the courtroom, into politics. He was what would now appear to be an odd mixture of liberalism, populism – and religious adherence. Bryan was known as a titanic orator. And in politics he has a record that includes being the only person (best known person) to lose an election for president three times (see the helpful historical hint from Joe Morelle in the comments section, one that set me on the straight and narrow).

Interesting fellow, that Bryan. And I thought of him as New York City attorney and political veteran Mark Green pulled into town on Thursday. He was here to make official what was already known – that he will run for state attorney general.

Green knows about losing himself. The evidence came as supporters rose in a meeting room at the Hyatt Regency Rochester.

There was Bob Cook, the former Monroe County Democratic Party chair. He told the press about first getting to know Green in 1986 when the latter was running for the U.S. Senate. This was during the primary race, when Green ultimately beat John Dyson, a businessman who was formerly chairman of the State Power Authority. Green’s quest ended at the brick wall that was that Pataki mentor – Alfonse D’Amato. The Republican trounced Green in the general election.

"He was fond of saying he’s not the underdog," Cook said. "He said he was the un-dog."

Cook quickly said Green is not in the same position during this run for attorney general.

Next to speak at the Hyatt was City Councilman Adam McFadden, who recalled getting to first know Green in 1998. This was Green’s second run for U.S. Senate (I remember McFadden striding down Main Street with Green early that year at an event where Mayor Bill Johnson came out extraordinarily early for Green’s candidacy). Green never made it out of the primary race in 1998, losing to Chuck Schumer – who is now a nationally known thorn in the Bush administration’s side.

Add to those Green losses the one he endured in 2001. It was during a sad and tumultuous time in New York City history because of the Twin Towers attacks. But there was also a mayoral campaign. Green beat a field that included Bronx Borough Pres Fernando Ferrer in the Democratic primary. But then, an early lead over Republican Mike Bloomberg evaporated, and he wound up losing.

Green doesn’t shy away from that record.

"I haven’t always won. But I have won major elections," he said, behind signs that called him the "people lawyer". In fact he can claim wins while others running for attorney general – such as Andrew Cuomo and Denise O’Donnell – can not. In addition to winning Democratic primaries, he was elected the city’s public advocate. (Check out the field here)

But get Green outside of the city limits and he’s been less successful. And now, with his third statewide shot, can the liberal from New York City win over the Upstate Democratic faithful? If they pay attention to record, rather than zip codes, Green said. If he gets by the Democrats (no given here, by the way)… can he beat a Republican in November in places north of the New York City metro area?

Green’s hoping that this third statewide run is a charm. Because… Green may aspire for Bryan’s passion on the podium… and maybe Bryan’s populist appeal. But there’s no way he wants something approaching Bryan’s political track record.

p.s. – A colleague of mine just read this over my shoulder… and thought… geez… that’s kind of a stretch. What do you think?