In politics, you lose some and you win some, but it’s the close ones that really, really hurt. The second-guessing never ends.
Last week, two months after polls closed on election night, Democrat Dave Clegg was sworn in as Ulster County district attorney, officially defeating Republican Mike Kavanagh by 77 votes. How close was that race? More than 53,000 votes were cast. Do the math. One percent would have been a margin of 530.
Pundits will ponder for years over how Kavanagh, clearly the best qualified candidate in that race, could have secured another 80 votes or, what he could have done, what he should have done, what he didn’t do.
It’s not really fair to parse a candidate when he’s down – and now, out – but Kavanagh had not one but two chances to win this thing in the late innings and he whiffed. Heck, he didn’t even swing.
I’m referring to the twin bombshells that billionaire George Soros was bankrolling the Clegg campaign and that in one of those glossy Soros fliers the candidate was pictured shaking hands with a convicted felon.
Kavanaugh should have hit those hanging curves over the wall. Instead, he demurred. “I’m not running a dirty campaign,” he told me at a candidate night in October at the Kingston library, days after the offending flyer hit doorsteps. “Others might speak to it. I’m not.”
Others – meaning Kavanagh’s campaign team or his Republican Party – did not.
Might that have moved the needle? Just a giggle? Seventy-seven votes?
Let’s not lay all this on the candidate, who after all, as first assistant DA, had a full-time job. His braintrust ran a ‘70s campaign against a landslide of imported negative advertising, Ford versus Ferrari. Some of that ugly negativity accrued to the Republican, but it propelled Clegg to his razor-thin election.
The campaign made another critical error. In highlighting Kavanagh’s extensive prosecutorial experience, they were telling people what they already knew. The name Kavanagh has stood for criminal justice in this county for more than two generations. It was Clegg’s experience, or lack of in courtroom prosecution, that needed to be examined, parsed and held up to comparison.
As a citizen dependent on the district attorney to protect us from the bad people and do justice, I wish the new district attorney the best. His success is our safety.
For Kavanagh, I feel regret, on several levels. I covered his father’s campaigns for district attorney and a couple runs for judge. E. Michael Kavanagh is living a well-earned comfortable retirement. His son is out of a job. He’ll get over the loss and at only 48, will have other opportunities.
But the rancor of being this close will long linger.
It rhymes with doofus – Freshman state senator James Skoufis is a young man, 32, with plenty of ideas, the good, the bad and at least one just plain stupid.
The senator’s proposal to tweak the state’s new bail release laws is one of the good ones, and the sooner the better. Eliminating daylight savings time – putting New York on the same clock all year, as it were – falls into the latter category.
For one thing, it’s not going anywhere. The wonder is why media gave any credence to this cockamamie idea. For another, while the state might have the authority by statute, it cannot act unilaterally in such matters. It’s a federal decision.
And what if this Doofus (Skoufis) law actually went into effect. Imagine if Robbie and Cristine were driving to Connecticut to visit grandma when Cristine asks, “What time is it?” And Robbie says, “Dunno, we just crossed the state line.”
I find switching clocks back and forth in spring and fall annoying, too, especially in my complicated car. Somebody should take it up with the congressman when he comes to Kingston next week.