In his bid for a third term, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-District 107, is forced to wage a write in campaign for the Independence Party line.
Evidently, the party extended his Democratic opponent, East Greenbush Councilman Phil Malone, permission to run on its line but snubbed McLaughlin for the first time in three election cycles.
An email sent by Troy Chairman Mark Wojcik asks a number of Republican loyalists to volunteer to collect a second round of signatures on McLaughlin’s behalf. The signatures gathered the first time were specifically for McLaughlin to run on the Independence Party line, but they are null and void without the party giving its permission, known as a Wilson Pakula. McLaughlin will now have until July 13 to collect at least 5 percent of registered Independence Party members within the Assembly District who voted in the last gubernatorial election to force an opportunity to ballot, or write in.
“If you can spare 1 or 2 nights we would really appreciate the extra effort for Steve,” Wojcik wrote.
If McLaughlin does get on the ballot – in the form of an OTB, which opens up the ballot for anyone to write in anyone’s name – he still faces an uphill, if not impossible, battle to win the primary in such a fashion against someone whose name already appears on the machine.
The Independence Party – which is independent in name alone and infamous for giving (selling) its line to the candidate (bidder) who can give the most in return – is the third largest party in the state and coveted by any candidate. In the 107th Assembly District there are 26,011 registered Republicans, 25,096 Democrats and 7,304 Independence Party members with 27,536 not enrolled in any party. There are also 3,734 enrolled Conservatives and 854 enrolled in the Working Families Party.
McLaughlin has had the Independence Party’s endorsement in his two successful bids for Assembly – even in 2010 when he unseated the only enrolled Independence Party member to ever get elected to the Legislature, Tim Gordon of Bethlehem. In other words, the Independence Party stands strong for nothing nearing a platform, value or belief.
Statewide, the Independence Party endorses Republicans and Democrats equally depending on which candidate has the best chance of success. But, since the party’s vice chairman is Tom Connolly, of North Greenbush, who a decade or so ago pledged his allegiance to the Democrats but now works for the GOP, there is only one reason a local candidate like McLaughlin didn’t get the line this time around – Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
McLaughlin has been the most vocal Republican Cuomo critic in the state, hitting he governor about everything from the SAFE Act to giving state workers time off to watch the USA play in the World Cup. The Melrose resident toyed with the idea of running for the state’s top elected office earlier his year but opted out and Westchester County Executive Rob Astornio took the plunge instead. McLaughlin, however, continues to make statewide news as the party’s defacto attack dog and is constantly nipping at Cuomo’s heels.
Also, the governor has much more to offer the Independence Party than a Republican from Melrose. And the state Republican Party has more important things to worry about - like trying to get Astorino at least a respectable showing as opposed to getting crushed in a landslide and holding onto a semblance of influence in the Senate.
If nothing else, the potential new ballot dynamic is going to make for an interesting race since Malone, already an elected official, will get the WFP line too and McLaughlin’s write in campaign is a longshot at best. That said McLaughlin is popular in his district. Two years ago he ran against Cheryl Roberts, a popular attorney from Columbia County who was backed by the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee to the tune of $300,000, and he beat her by more than 3,000 votes – but he had the I line. It’s unclear if DACC will throw its considerable resources behind Malone.
The 107h Assembly District includes the majority of Rensselaer County, nearly half of Columbia County and the towns of Cambridge and White Creek in Washington County.