Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Valentino's Change of Mind: Political Charade?

Cathy Valentino, the Ithaca town supervisor, made a surprising announcement in January that she would not seek re-election to the politically powerful post she has held for 12 years.

This week she made another surprising announcement, that in fact she would seek re-election.

The local media reported the development as a simple change of mind. But circumstances suggest that Valentino never really intended to retire at all, and her announcements were part of a plan to hold onto her job against the scrutiny of her Democratic party leadership.

As part of the electoral process, political parties actively seek candidates for all open positions. There were signs this year that strong candidates would emerge to challenge Valentino for the Democratic endorsement, and she might not get it.

Announcing her retirement was a way to avoid non-endorsement by her party.

In the spring, the Democrats conducted a candidate search that focused on a choice between Tim Joseph, of the county legislature, and Herb Engman, of the town board. Both candidates announced in advance that they would not contest the party's endorsement if they failed to get it, and would support the other candidate.

Engman won, and Joseph immediately endorsed him.

It seems clear that Valentino did not feel comfortable about her chances against other candidates, nor with a pledge to support any other candidate.

So, in the words of a Democratic leader who responded to a call from Ithaca Blog today, Valentino "did an end-run" around the process.

Having avoided scrutiny and accountability herself, Valentino re-entered the race with a crude attack on Engman, who had participated in a thorough and open selection process that revealed a high regard for his work on the town board.

Valentino has a powerful personal political base in town. The question is whether that will be enough to win against her party's endorsement of another candidate, not to mention a blatant lack of transparency in her actions pertaining to the election, and a blistering political style that many seem to wish to transcend.

Valentino will challenge Engman in a Democratic primary in September. The Republicans have not announced a candidate for the general election in November, and will probably not field one.

The speculation here is that if Valentino loses the primary to Engman, she will challenge the Democratic nominee in November as an independent.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

No comments: