Rochester’s Mayoral Race: Why do Strong Personality Types Make Us Crazy?

There are two major parties in Rochester: the Democrats and the Republicans. No other party has won a mayor’s race here that I know of. At least, not in my lifetime. And really, its just the Democratic Party if we’re being honest. Republicans don’t seem to have run very good candidates and they’ve failed pretty miserably.

So, when into the confusion left in the wake of Mayor Duffy walks former Mayor Johnson, the outcome should be simple: split the party, even if he gets the nomination, and the Republican wins. Hell, there might even be a shot for an entirely different party to win. But that’s probably not going to happen: with Mayor Johnson’s strong personality and connection to his constituency, he’s very likely going to win.

And that just makes me wonder about personality types in politics in general, how they affect the voters and how they affect the opposition parties. And by “strong personality,” I don’t mean “good candidate” or “good at the job given,” though we can fairly say Mayor Johnson was both of those. I mean that whether we’re talking about Bush vs. Clinton, Bush vs. Gore, Bush vs. Kerry, Lazio vs. Spitzer or I am sure many other examples, it seems like not only does the electorate respond favorably to a personality that leaves them with a strong opinion – even a negative one – but the opposition party always seems to react to that personality, ending up with sort of a Bizzaro Candidate that leaves the voters flat.

In the case of the opposition party, I think maybe they feel the need to run a candidate who answers the questions Type A Candidate raises. If Type A spends too much, Candidate B talks about fiscal responsibility. If Type A has rough sex with hookers, Candidate B has to raise a moral flag. That is, of course, in reference to Spitzer, who didn’t run for reelection. But the Republican candidate Paladino was I think more of a response to Spitzer than to Patterson.

What about the electorate? Political parties make decisions based on political tactics, even if they’re losing ones. But what drives us to vote for someone we distrust over someone who, I presume, seems a little flat? Bill Clinton’s sexual appetite was already pretty established by 1992 and we didn’t care. It was still an issue – though the Lewinsky thing hadn’t broken yet – in 1996 and we still didn’t care. His poll numbers remained relatively high even after the scandal, while his personal approval rating dipped.

I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this. Is it just calculation? Was it really just the economy (“stupid”) that buoyed Clinton, or something else?


The Punk In Me is Starting to Root for Johnson

Let me start by saying that I don’t have a dog in this race and no longer live in Rochester, proper. I can’t vote in this next… well, whatever it is.

But while I’m hardly the anti-establishmentarian that some of my friends are and have always been, if there’s one thing I don’t particularly like, its a coronation. And if there’s two things I don’t like, that second one has to be when the group gangs up and decides they’re going to demand things be the way they want them to be. And if there’s three things i don’t like, that third thing has to be that shitty music they play at DSW when I’m trying to buy shoes. Seriously? When did I enter a gay nightclub? But I don’t suppose that’s really relevant to this post.

I’ve been paying small attention to the whole mayor flap in Rochester, in that I’m reading headlines, watching Twitter but otherwise not bothering to get too deep into the subject. Rochester politics were never my forte anyway. There’s lawsuits and the Rochester City Charter and not-so orderly transitions of power.  There is very little doubt that, over nearly a year in which a solution could have and should have been devised, it wasn’t. And frankly, none of that is my problem, nor yours unless you actually work for the Democratic Party. This really is one of those, “figure it out, asshole” kind of moments.

But its clear that not only can the Democratic Party not figure it out, but when one of their own tries to inject something like a logical solution – have an election, almost as if we were a democracy – the party will do as any kid failing his math quiz will do: cover his arms over the test and say, “I can do it!!” Joe Morelle issued a statement that read in part:

“Bill Johnson’s attack on the integrity of Bob Duffy and his administration is an insult to the citizens of Rochester.”

Akshully, no. Its a call for a fair election with real choices, which is a tribute to a citizenry accustomed to such things. It is an insult to the Duffy Administration and the Democratic Party (not to be left out), one that they heartily deserved. You boys fucked up. Man up and take some responsibility. Mayor Duffy did fine work – if with more than a touch of prevarication at critical moments – for the city. I appreciated his dedication to raising the cultural profile of the city, promoting festivals and dragging people out of the ‘burbs and downtown. But we’re not playing Jeopardy, here: a bunch of right answers do not make up for a wrong one.

So, my opinion of this situation is hardly rooted in history or political reality or even a particularly astute observation of current events. It’s not rooted in a sense of responsibility to the City of Rochester, though as a Rochester blogger and somewhat wistful expatriate, I do certainly want what’s best of the city. Really, my first reaction to the news of Johnson’s intention to run was less than enthusiastic. Elections are about the future, not the past. The trouble is: if left to their own devices, the Democratic Party would prefer there not be an election. At least not now, while they are still trying to find someone to coronate.

If only because a certain anarchist streak wants to see the Democratic Party of Rochester get blowed-up, at least a little, I’m starting to warm to the idea of a Johnson Administration, The Redux.

Late Update: Here is the full text of Morelle’s response to Johnson’s announcement.