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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

Teachout campaign a warning to Albany

I had never heard of Zephyr Teachout until just a couple months ago, when she decided to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor.

I wasn’t alone. At that time, few people had ever heard of the Fordham law professor.

And if the polling data is to be believed — and it usually is — most registered voters still have no idea who she is. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month found 88 percent of voters hadn’t heard enough about her to form an opinion.

This hasn’t deterred Teachout.

During a stop at The Daily Gazette last month, she told editors and writers she was running to win. She acknowledged her low name recognition, but expressed belief that primary turnout would be low, due to a lack of enthusiasm for Cuomo.

She made it clear her campaign is targeting the “300,000 high-information Democrats” who are likely to vote in the primary and likely to feel strongly about fracking, public education and government corruption.

I sat in on Teachout’s visit, but didn’t feel all that motivated to write about it. For one thing, I’m not particularly interested in endorsing candidates, and while I found Teachout engaging and thoughtful, I wasn’t wowed by her, although it’s difficult to explain why. Perhaps I was just hoping she would articulate a larger vision for the future of New York, and upstate in particular, rather than hop from one hot-button issue to another in an attempt to position herself as a progressive alternative to Cuomo.

In the past week or two, Teachout has been touting her momentum. She’s picked up some key endorsements, and while she didn’t receive the endorsement of The New York Times, Cuomo didn’t, either. The paper blasted the governor for his failure to clean up state government, and said that while it had reservations about Teachout — specifically, that she lacks experience — voting for her “could send a powerful message to the governor and the many other entrenched incumbents in Albany that a shake-up is overdue.”

So there’s at least some buzz around Teachout. The question is: How much?

Is her campaign truly gaining momentum? Or is the momentum a mirage? Would new polling data show growing support for her candidacy? Or is the upsurge in media attention the product of wishful thinking — reporters love covering a competitive election — and the slow August news cycle?

These questions will be answered Sept. 9, when primary results come in. Until then, we can only speculate.

My feeling is there is real support for Teachout, but not enough to catapult her past a well-funded and powerful incumbent. The most compelling thing about her campaign is that it exists, and for Democrats who are disenchanted with Cuomo, that will be more than enough.

Plea deal fitting

Last week, a sad story came to a sad end: In a plea deal in City Court, Schenectady resident Sean McKearn agreed to put down Tyson, the second of two dogs involved in the fatal mauling of a small dog named Templeton. The first dog, Victor, had already been slated for euthanasia.

It gives me no pleasure to see Victor and Tyson put down, since their behavior was the result of poor training by their owners, but it’s the right thing to do.

The attack on Templeton marked the third time Tyson and Victor had attacked another dog, and the horrific scene described by Templeton’s owner, Niskayuna resident Rebecca Cigal, suggests the two really were dangerous dogs. They might have been beloved family pets, but pet ownership is a responsibility, and those who fail in such an egregious fashion should suffer the consequences. As David Hooper, Cigal’s husband, noted in court: The dogs’ love for the McKearns did not excuse their brutal attack on another dog.

It also doesn’t excuse the McKearns’ contempt for the court. The family initially hid the dogs, which did them no favors.

“You’re not the worst person I’ve ever had in front of me as a judge,” visiting City Court Judge Stephen Swinton told McKearn. “You might be the most childish.”

In court, the McKearn family apologized and expressed remorse, which I was happy to see. Sean McKearn’s father, Kevin, said when he heard Templeton’s owners speak, he realized he would feel just as angry and upset if a dog of his were killed.

“We all learned a lesson,” he said. “It was a hard lesson.”

It’s unfortunate it took the deaths of three dogs to teach that lesson. However, I tend to be a better-late-than-never person, and I hope they really did learn something.

I euthanized my ailing 14-year-old cat last fall, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. When Kevin McKearn said his family learned a hard lesson, well, I believe him.

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