Livingston County DA Race And Political Hackery

It’s nauseating, of course, but not surprising in the least.  The Republican “Committee” reaffirmed its “support” of Eric Schiener.

“I’m humbled by your show of support,” said Schiener to the committee in a speech following the vote. “You voted tonight for a clean, honest campaign. You voted for professionalism over politics.”


Schiener can’t even maintain this facade long enough to avoid contradicting it multiple times in the same news article.  For one thing, having just mouthed the most pedestrian of political platitudes he goes on:

“I’m not telling the voters about platitudes and high ideals


Of course not.  He’s feeding them platitudes, not “telling about them”.  And “high ideals”?  He’s from Tom Moran’s DA’s office.  What are those?

Then comes the inadvertently revealing admission.  Whereas Schiener regards “high ideals” as just so much bullshit, the real question that animates him and his candidacy is:  who has the power?

Schiener dismissed the thought that a tied primary should have resulted in a closer committee vote.

“The Republican committee members don’t just represent the people who came out Sept. 13. There are 12,000 Republicans who did not go to the polls in the primary, and the committee represents all of them,” he said. “It’s hard for a committee member who’s been told all summer by the other camp that they don’t mean anything, that they don’t matter — I think you saw that sentiment tonight in the overwhelming margin.”

In other words, it’s a power struggle first, last and always and that’s all that matters.  (This, by the way, is the single worst quality of mind that a prosecutor can have.  I often wonder, do people like this tell their children that, say, virtue is bullshit?)  What Schiener is saying is that by the very fact of challenging the committee’s selection in a primary election contest the challenger alienates the committee members.  They respond to the perceived insult with a vote against the challenger.  The committee vote has nothing to do with “professionalism”, or “public service”.  It certainly has nothing to do with “humility”.

Just what is this “committee” and who are its members?  It’s almost too depressing to think about, but maybe this will help so I’ll suffer through it.

Especially in places like Livingston County where government is the only game in town worth playing, the members of political party committees are drawn from the lowest of the low.  As detestable as the “public officials” almost invariably are inasmuch as they are grotesque political hacks, the committee members are lower than that:  political hack wannabes.

How do I know this?  Personal experience.  I was a Republican Committee member in Livingston County myself at one time.  I can relate an anecdote for you.  Hold onto your hats.

Pretty much the main function of a Republican committeeman is to get signatures on nominating petitions to put candidates on the November general election ballot on the party line in compliance with the New York Election “Law”, which I put in quotes because it’s essentially a labyrinthine trap for the unwary designed to ensure advantage to the insiders – like “committee” members – who deal in politics regularly.  (You can see an example of a commonly litigated-over statute from the NY Election Law here.)

So, you know, during my brief time on the Republican Committee I carried these petitions around and got signatures from registered Republicans going door to door, which is how it’s done.  And you meet a lot of people and that’s swell.

One guy I met lived outside the village on a farm.  We exchanged pleasantries and he advised that he used to be a Republican Committee member himself.  I asked him why he quit.  He advised that the reason he got on the committee was that he wanted to sell part of his land and needed a zoning change, the Town Board wouldn’t give it to him, so he got on the committee, got himself elected to the Board and rammed through the zoning change he wanted.

He told me this without the slightest trace of recognition that this had been wrongful, indeed criminal conduct.  Actually he was notably proud of it, thinking himself to have been quite the clever boy.

This is the political culture of Livingston County in a nutshell, especially among the perennially dominant Republican Party whose leader, Lowell Conrad, has been in that position probably 50 years.   The mindset has ossified over decades at an extremely low level of moral functioning, the degradation from which is now reflected in the larger community.  A few years ago, the County was all atwitter with anticipation that a new “business” was coming to town:  a call center for a debt collection agency.  And even that embarrassment of a project collapsed in a hail of scandal, corruption and bribery.

The decay proceeds apace but it’s still hard to notice when you’re in the middle of it.  Except among the young.  They overwhelmingly leave.  Those that stay are either agreeable to embark upon the political hack track; or they are fodder for the largest Livingston County industry:  state prisons.

There has been a great deal of destruction in that time, not just to infrastructure but to the vitality and integrity of the individual inhabitants, the very character of the place and the people.  The road to recovery is difficult and slow, and frankly unlikely to be taken in my lifetime at all. Or even thought about, at least among the kind of people who make up political committees.

And yet there has been this effort by Steve Sessler.  A glimmer.  A subatomic particle of hope.  He’ll have to do it on his own, with a few good people.  Or perhaps I should say a few good men, since Steve is, after all, a Marine.

Semper Fi and all that, Steve.  I hope you make it.  There are people in Livingston County who deserve you, or at least a change in the status quo.

You honor them and yourself.  Thanks for running a great campaign, and a great effort.



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Filed under financial crisis, Judicial lying/cheating, Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions

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