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May 24, 2010 - Ray Hall (Archive)

This week Rick Lazio reached down from a Manhattan skyscraper and picked Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards to be his running mate in his bid to become Governor of New York.

The selection is a source of pride for one of our own home grown politicians and is a stunning tribute to the respect Mr. Edwards has garnered with Republican insiders across the state. Whether a supporter of a Lazio-Edwards ticket or not, we should all feel good about the selection of Greg Edwards.

However, political realities always trump feel good politics and begs the question why a relatively newcomer to political office from a county furthest removed from the epicenter of New York politics would be chosen as Rick Lazio’s running mate?

The easy answer is that Mr. Edwards is a safe choice, one that isn’t likely to become an embarrassment. He doesn’t bring personal baggage to the ticket and isn’t so well connected across the state that he will become a political threat should Mr. Lazio be elected. He will be a team player and a Lieutenant Governor willing to be seen and heard only when it results in a propitious alignment of the stars for the Governor.

Those are all good qualities for a Lieutenant Governor but, from a practical political view there are down sides to his selection. Mr. Edwards can’t deliver a large bloc of Western NewYork votes, even if he carries his home county, and he lacks the ability to raise millions of dollars for the campaign coffers. If Rick Lazio was looking for a candidate that would have had a chance to fulfill those requirements he might have tapped Chris Collins, Erie County’s Executive.

I don’t know if Chris Collins was asked and turned it down but, hard headed politicians would have certainly considered Mr. Collins. Perhaps he read the tea leaves and decided a Republican victory in November was too big a hill to climb and it might be better to wait in the wings and pick up the pieces.

Despite his personal character and qualifications Mr.Edwards’ selection is likely a result of a dreadful depression that grips Republicans statewide. The depression for the Republicans began with the big loss of the State Senate after a forty-year run. That  loss precipitated by an all out war between Governor Eliot Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno that saw Spitzer ousted and Bruno convicted.

That depression was exacerbated when Republicans claimed control after a coup led by a Buffalo millionaire and two Democratic Senators failed. It didn’t help Republicans when a maverick Tea Party movement, led by Governor Sara Palin managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the Republicans by undercutting the campaign of Assembly Woman Dierdre Scozzafava. Scozzafava was the choice of local Republicans to replace Kristen Gillibrand in a special election in New York’s 23 Congressional District. A wounded Republican Party has side lined would be candidates who might be waiting for better times. To use a basketball analogy, New York Republicans have a thin bench across the state and is a confirmation of just how bad off the Republicans are state wide. That, despite an unpopular Democratic Governor and a majority in the NYS Senate that is reminiscent of Casey Stengel’s Mets.

Regardless of the outcome of the Gubernatorial election, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards is a plus for the Republicans and will hold a position of prominence when it comes to restructuring and reinvigorating a tired political party under siege from the Tea Party.


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Hon. Greg Edwards Chautauqua County Executive