The big surprise for me on Election Day was the closeness of the race between Gary McCarthy and Roger Hull for mayor of Schenectady.
I had figured McCarthy would win easily. He is first of all a Democrat in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 1/2 to 1, and he is second of all a seasoned political operator who knows how to work the system -- as opposed to Hull, who was making his first run for public office as the candidate of his own tiny party.
But just look: When the votes were counted Tuesday night Hull was just 77 votes short (4,504 to 4,427), which means the result will be determined by absentee ballots. There were 529 of those on hand yesterday at the county Board of Elections, and a few more can be expected, since anything postmarked Monday or earlier is valid.
Of the 529 total, 218 are from Democrats and 206 from Republicans, I was informed by Election Commissioner Art Brassard, which is obviously very close and could break either way, since Hull must have gotten a fair amount of Democratic support to come as close as he did, whereas McCarthy probably got very little Republican support.
There are also 20 absentee ballots from people registered in the Independence Party (dominated by firefighters), which would probably lean toward McCarthy, and 72 from people not registered in any party, which I venture to guess would lean toward Hull. Plus a few from other minor parties.
Can Hull overcome his 77-vote deficit out of that pile? It seems to me entirely plausible.
This suggests to me that Schenectady voters are not as relentlessly blue-collar, bowling-league as commonly thought and not as hostile to candidates who give off a whiff of superiority, as Hull, former president of Union College, often does.
We old-timers think back to Jim Conroy and even farther back to Dave Roberts, and we say a guy who is too smart and too hoity-toity doesn't have a chance in Schenectady. Schenectady doesn't like elitists.
Schenectady likes Frank Duci and Al Jurczynski and Jim Tedisco.
McCarthy, a longtime investigator in the DA's office, played on that presumed prejudice in his campaign literature, mocking Hull as the singer of a jukebox song "Baby, I'm a Rich Man," and always directing attention to Hull's record at Union College, a somewhat elitist institution in a working-class city.
I thought it was effective, but apparently it was not.
Apparently Hull was right that a lot of people are fed up with one-party rule in Schenectady and are ready for an outsider, even one of elitist proclivities, to pump some fresh air into the atmosphere.
I was also struck by the victory of my friend Vince Riggi for a seat on the City Council. He ran as a candidate of Hull's Alliance Party and, like Hull, also had the endorsement of the Republican Party. He was the only non-Democrat to win a city race on Election Day, undoubtedly helped by his 20-year record as a constructive rather than belligerent gadfly on city matters.
I'm always guarded about gadflies taking office, fearful their perspective will change once they taste even the meager scraps of power offered by a city council or a school board, but Riggi assures me, "I'm going to hold true to myself and my conscience," and I trust that he will.
Elsewhere in this great land of ours, I was dismayed that the voters of Mississippi rejected the so-called personhood amend
ment, which declared that life begins with conception and presumably would have endowed a zygote, or fertilized cell, with all the perquisites and privileges of a full-fledged human.
I had anticipated many entertaining columns down the road on this subject, and now those are not to be.
I wondered, for example, if a fertilized human cell is a person, is a fertilized equine cell a horse, and would a Mississippi governor try to put a saddle on one and ride it to a campaign rally?
I also wondered, if a zygote is a person, and if a corporation is also a person, as the Supreme Court has ruled, does it follow that a zygote is a corporation?
And if so, does it have to file an annual report, and can it be sued?
Now these questions may never be answered.
A WIN FOR UNIONS
And in Ohio I noted that the voters rejected the law passed last year that would have effectively destroyed public-employee unions in that state.
No friend of public-employee unions myself, I still felt the law went a bit far. I would be happy just to bar those unions from lobbying and making campaign contributions, so as to break the circle we have now, in which government pays its workers and the workers kick back some of their pay to elected officials, ensuring that government keeps giving them more and more pay and benefits, until the rest of us are either in the poorhouse or in Arizona.
But no one asks my advice on these things.