"Are there any places where Democrats may not catch a wave that they once expected to build? Try upstate New York.
So far, there is precious little evidence that the Democrats’ “perfect storm” — which is based on Democratic landslides in the state’s races for governor and the Senate, as well as President Bush’s low poll numbers in New York — is helping many Democrats in upstate New York.
The 24th district remains a bit of an oddity, a place where each party insists its candidate is ahead. Incumbent Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) is retiring, and both District Attorney Michael Arcuri (D) and state Sen. Ray Meier (R) are appealing. The district leans Republican, and Democrats seem a bit too optimistic for my taste."
Too optimistic? That's putting it mildly. We Democrats outside of Oneida County have spent the summer being told not to worry about Michael Arcuri's appearance of inaction. Don't worry, they said to us. Any minute now, the Mike Arcuri phenomenon would spring into devastating action, like a hungry tiger... and we waited... and waited. It's two months now until Election Day. We're still waiting.
They said that if we Democrats didn't have a primary, we would be the stronger for it, standing united and all that. Instead, it now looks as though the lack of a September 12 primary for the 24th district Democratic voters has taken all the steam out of this election. Michael Arcuri has had no motivation to keep campaigning hard. The 24th district's voters haven't had any reason to notice that a congressional race even exists. Our district's newspapers haven't had anything other than piddling little nonsense stories to report on - nothing that would really fire up the majority of voters. So now, on September 7, it's as if the Michael Arcuri for Congress campaign is starting from square one. Most Democrats in the district still don't know who he is.
Today, the National Journal downgraded our district's congressional race from 11th place in the nation to 17th place. With an open seat in a district that is trending toward the Democrats, we ought to be surging forward, not falling back.
I'm not happy to see this happening. Although I've been a gadfly buzzing around the ear of the Arcuri for Congress campaign all year long, that's not because I want to see a Republican elected - as some conspiracy theorists in our district seem to believe. No, I actually want Michael Arcuri to win. However, wanting something is not going to make me shut my eyes and ignore all aspects of reality that do not concur with my wishes.
As I see it, Mike Arcuri already has plenty of sycophants telling him what a great guy he is, and what a great job he's doing as a congressional candidate. They may join in a Yes Man chant, saying, Gee, Mike. If everybody just knew you like we knew you, they'd all want you as their congressional representative, but that's not the way I think.
The way I see it, the Arcuri for Congress campaign will be best served by honesty. Michael Arcuri seems to desperately need someone to sit down with him and have the hard conversation that he doesn't want to hear. Arcuri will best be served not by cheerleaders, but by sober voices speaking truth to his power.
Some people believe that it's the job of voters to idolize the candidates that their political parties put forward, to offer unconditional support for the good of the team. I don't agree. I think that's thinking backwards.
It's the job of our party's candidate to work for us, and if that candidate wins the seat, it becomes the candidate's job to work for the entire district. We the people don't serve our congressional representatives. They're supposed to serve us, and they need to start that attitude of service with the way they run their campaigns - open, accessible, and responsive.
When a congressional candidate makes the mistake of running a closed, unresponsive, and secretive campaign, as Michael Arcuri has done, it is not the job of that candidate's party members to look the other way and pretend that there isn't a problem, chanting rah, rah, rah all the time. It is our job as Democrats to nag, cajole, and coerce our candidate into running the kind of campaign that we deserve.
Some people say that I just don't get it, that this is about doing whatever it takes to win. I say that we the citizens of the 24th congressional district cannot possibly win if our next representative in Congress doesn't care to listen to what we have to say - even if that representative is a Democrat.
Ray Meier is the wrong choice for the House of Representatives. That much is crystal clear. It is far from clear, however, that Michael Arcuri is the right choice.
Rothenberg is right. It's time to cut the happy talk. Arcuri needs to work like hell to earn our trust if he wants to win.