State Republican, Meet Monroe County Democrat

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It’s pretty easy to criticize Steve Minarik these days as the state GOP swirls in its public chaos. One columnist from New York City
Minarik is ready to leave as the New York State Republican chairman. Days later Minarik told WXXI that the NYC column is trafficking in rumors.

Whatever the private situation – it’s clear that Minarik is dealing with a party in turmoil. The situation is similar to those experienced by Bob Cook, Ted O’Brien and Molly Clifford when they took turns heading up the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

Like those three county Democratic leaders, Minarik has no other political position beyond being a chairman. Yes, he’s head of the Monroe County Republican Committee. But he’s unlike, say, Assemblyman Joe Morelle or his state counterpart, Assemblyman Denny Ferrell, who hold party chair positions. Having an elected political post can help dilute his public role as chairman – and bring with it a certain power of its own.

So Minarik must amass a political base by helping others get elected (just as he did in Monroe County). Doing this puts elected leaders in a position of gratitude. And those politicians understand the advantage of keeping in place a system that got them the win. That includes the person who orchestrated the win.

Newcomers to a party chair post don’t enjoy that perk right away. They need time to chalk up those wins. So it was for Minarik on the state level. He  needed the backing and support of the person who brought him in. He needed the power (monetary and vocal) from that patron. Then he had to hope the rest of the elected leadership in the party would rally around him.

But these days Gov. George Pataki has been a no-show when it comes to New York State Republican politics. And others in the state (Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Congressman John Sweeney) are hardly getting behind him. Former Pataki patron, Alfonse D’Amato, comes out squarely against Minarik’s choice for governor (William Weld). So the challengers to Minarik’s
are emboldened. Then comes the real threat – the outsider with a potential to challenge the orthodoxy.

But – as has been written in this space before – a chair is only as good as the team around him or her. That was applied to Clifford when she took over for the Democrats… and then for Rick Dollinger during his
minuscule tenure as county party chair. What the count Democrats needed (and still need) are elected people at the top who can support the chair, provide help in rallying the troops around that chair. Bob Duffy stands in for Bill Johnson but the equation doesn’t change.

George Pataki needs to be involved in his state party as much as ever, although it probably will not happen while Pataki has his sights set on Iowa and New Hampshire.

So criticize Minarik all you want. But the chairman is much like the manager of a baseball club. He’s a genius when they are winning and a bum when they’re not. In reality, it’s the players on the field, not the manager that do the winning and losing.  That applies to Monroe County Democrats as much as it does to New York State Republicans.

I’m sure Minarik is  not so thrilled to learn how the other half lives.