Friday, March 17, 2006

24th Race Set to Boom With Boehlert Retirement

Today, the 24th District awaits the formal announcement of Sherwood Boehlert about whether or not he will run for re-election. Yet, everybody seems sure of what the announcement will be. Sherwood Boehlert is going to retire.


1. He's making the announcement at 3:00 on Friday. That's the time of the week set aside for news you'd just as soon people forget about. It also gives potential Republican candidates the whole weekend to prepare for their own announcements next week.

2. Boehlert has been doing less fundraising than normal, and he's been giving a lot of the money he's raised away to other Republicans.

3. Boehlert held a conference with Bush on Air Force One to let Bush know about his decision. That's not the kind of thing members of Congress do when they're just going to run for re-election for the umpteenth time.

4. Boehlert is turning 70 soon, and is not in the best of health.

5. Boehlert had previously planned for a June re-election campaign announcement, but abruptly changed plans some weeks ago - all the better to give other Republicans enough time to run.

6. Boehlert has lost chairmanship of the House Science Committee, and has failed to get the chairmanship of any other House Committee, a humiliation for him.

7. The Associated Press has obtained an email sent to friends of Sherwood Boehlert, asking them to attend this afternoon's announcement, did not request suppport in the campaign to come, but said instead, "Please show your support for Congressman Boehlert by thanking him for his 42 years of public service and an amazing 24 years of service in Congress!" A Republican official who is working with potential candidates to retain the 24th District for the Republicans after Boehlert's retirement, speaking anonymously, commmented to a reporter, "They don't hold a thank-you party for someone who is running again."

Goodbye, Sherwood Boehlert.

Now, let's turn to our Democratic candidates. With Boehlert gone, this race is hitting the big time. Every political analyst out there is turning to our little district, and declaring that New York's 24th is among the hottest political territory this year.

Cook's political report has declared, "Should Boehlert retire, his upstate district would be a top target." The Swing State Project wrote yesterday, "this seat becomes a top-tier pickup target for us. It went for Bush by just 53-47 and gets a mere R+1 rating from the Almanac." Congressional Quarterly, a publication usually hesitant to use flowery language, recently gave the following headline: "A Boehlert Retirement Could Open a Hot Contest".

The campaigns of Michael Arcuri, Les Roberts, and Bruce Tytler would do best go send volunteers out to Gimme Coffee to get a dozen bags of their best organic, fair trade Bolivia coffee beans, and prepare their staff members to pull a couple of all nighters. This no longer just some sleepy, backwater race that can be run according to the rules of local politics.

All of America is going to be watching New York's 24th District this year, as a bellwether for the national contest for the control of Congress. Just making the rounds to the Democratic county committees won't do. There will have to be a battle for funds on a national scale, and so the candidates will have to articulate coherent, detailed policies to deal with national issues, and will have to launch communications efforts to gain support from Democrats from across America.

That's surely the game the Republicans are going to be playing, because they can't afford to lose this district - especially not when so many other districts are opening up, through the retirement of other Republicans or through the astonishing incompetence of the Republican Congress.

Expect Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer to be recruited into this race, as well as other Democrats from New York currently serving in the House of Representatives. Which Democrat will be able to get their support? It won't be the one who rests on the laurels of his local support.

The Democratic primary race can be entirely redefined in the next few days, if one of our Democratic candidates can come out with a strong burst of communication and organization building.

Candidates, this blog is here to help you in that effort. Reach out and drop me a line. You all know how to get in touch.

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