Final numbers

November 27, 2007

Today, three weeks after election day, the final numbers for the Geneseo Town elections were released by the Board of Elections. There were no surprises or major changes from the unofficial results tabulated on election night, however, it did provide a more accurate picture of the much discussed student vote.

Overall, the students appeared to turn out at a rate of about 15 per cent with less than 200 of the over 1,300 registered coming out. This remains an estimate since not all students have on campus addresses. Of those that do, only 134 voted.

As might be expected the students who voted were enrolled in higher percentages as Democrats, or not enrolled at all. Almost 1/2 the students voting from campus addresses were enrolled Democrats and about a quarter were blanks.

Of those voting from campus addresses, only one in five was enrolled as a Republican. This contrasted with 47 per cent of the total vote coming from Republican voters town-wide with only 1/3 coming from Democrats.

This time around it didn’t appear that the student vote had a significant impact on any of the town-wide races, however, with close to 200 voting that could change in a closer contest.

This will be my last entry in this campaign blog. I will keep the blog online for historical purposes (since it doesn’t cost me anything to do so), although the campaign site itself will disappear soon. Tune in to the Clarion News Blog or my weekly Clarion Call column (available at for the latest. Thanks to all of you who read these posts and especially those who supported my campaign, it is much appreciated! Happy trails!

I’m not done yet!

November 14, 2007

I had hoped to close this blog today with the results of the final canvass of last week’s election, but I am told that with all the modern technology at the Board of Election’s disposal, it will take another week to get the final numbers. So you’re stuck with me!

This week’s issue of the LC News is out with letters from three of the four Supervisor candidates, including yours truly. Wes and Will fell all over each other with praise of the other guy, while Bob Wilcox was missing in action. My letter (which I reproduce below for those of you who refuse to read the News and so Greg Lamb won’t have to wait for the mail) was rather less effusive.

For reasons that I have never understood, the News allows Bill Cook to bloviate on political matters without disclosing that he is one of Wes’s closest political associates. Apparently he does the same thing in his college classes. There ought to be a law!

After trying to rehab Wes’s tarnished reputation, he attempts a double hit on Bob and I, by saying that Bob’s campaign was so bad that I might have finished third if I were not such a flip-flopper. I don’t intend to respond in the News, but for the more sophisticated readership of this blog I will.

Bill seems mystified as to why I appeared to tilt towards a Lowe’s compromise near the end of the campaign. Could it be that I actually thought that was the best way for the community to resolve this issue? Knowing who Bill’s political mentor is, I can understand why he would be confused that a politician would take a position based on principle.

As I have said, those who think I flip-flopped have failed to distinguish between my previous rhetoric as a PDDG spokesperson and my personal views as a candidate. If they had been paying attention, they would have noticed that I brought up the idea of a compromise on the Lowe’s issue in my very first political ad back in July.

And now the letter. (BTW Advice to future letter writers: send in your own suggested headline, because the guys at the LC News sure won’t get it right.

To the editor,

During the recent campaign, many voters told me that the Geneseo Town election, with nine candidates competing for three seats on six party lines, was the most confusing they had ever seen. Nevertheless, I expect that some will try to draw a simple conclusion from the results that the majority of voters want the proposed Lowe’s. I can understand that sentiment, since the two candidates who supported the project most strongly did garner a total of 61 per cent of the vote, however, it’s important to remember that elections are almost never decided on a single issue.

Perhaps an even simpler conclusion can be drawn on the basis of party-line voting. The winner of the Supervisor’s race, Will Wadsworth, was able to hold on to his Republican base and get almost exactly the same number of votes that Dick Gallivan got four years ago running against the same incumbent. In contrast, the Democratic party vote was badly split, with the incumbent getting little more than half of the 1100 votes he got in 2003.

I congratulate Will on running a smart political race, but note that a large part of his success can be attributed to his avoiding taking any detailed positions on the controversies of the day. Unfortunately for him, however, it will not be possible to govern that way.

The most significant number in this race is the nearly 75 per cent of voters who did not support the incumbent supervisor. This is a clear mandate for change away from the hard-ball tactics that have been used over the last two years to try to force the Newman project through. The voters were clearly looking for a way to end the divisive battle that has resulted from the incumbent’s strategy of holding town and village cooperation on all issues hostage to Lowe’s.

If Supervisor Wadsworth is going to demonstrate the kind of consensus building he promised in his campaign, he will have to make a fresh start on this issue. That new start must include persuading his fellow members on the town board to reject the failed policies of his predecessor and the current PDD application as the wrong vehicle for making major changes in our existing planning and zoning.

The only course of action that will re-unite this community is to quickly re-start a joint town and village Master Plan process that will determine our future land use on a comprehensive basis, including the Gateway District. Only after a re-zoning, pursuant to a new Master Plan, can the Lowe’s be properly approved without setting a damaging precedent that would leaves us extremely vulnerable to a kind of future commercial sprawl that very few would want to see.

I also congratulate my friends Hop and David on their victories. I believe, however, that it was their personal popularity that allowed them to be re-elected despite, rather than because of, the flawed policies they have supported.

Corrin Strong

And the winner is …

November 9, 2007

The winner of the Great Geneseo Election Contest sponsored by the Geneseo Store was John ‘Toat’ LaGeorge. He was one of only two people out of 186 entires to correctly predict the order of finish of all nine candidates. The other was Liz Van Sickle, a 8th grade student at Geneseo Central School.

Toat won the tiebreaker by predicting 27.1 percent as the share of the vote that the winning Supervisor candidate would get. Apparently he was expecting a tight election, however, Will actually got 35.7 per cent. It is reported that the teacher who gave the students the form misunderstood, and told the kids not to fill out the tie-breaker or Liz might have won.

Toat received the Grand Prize of a $100 gift certificate, but store owner Neil Moynihan decided to give Liz a $50 certificate as well. Well done! It is interesting that all the so-called political experts, including me, were outdone by Toat and a 8th grader. Of course the odds of getting it all right was 2,880 to 1!

Asked whether working at the college for 32 years had sharpened his chops in political science, Toat said, “No, I just took a wild guess!”

Perhaps it is hardest for those closest to the election to see things the most clearly. After all, many people say nice things to candidates so as not to hurt their feelings. I certainly thought I would do better than I did, but that’s the way I have felt in every election. I guess you have to be an incurable optimist to participate at all!

My friend Hop

November 8, 2007

A lot of the post-election buzz has been about Hop’s final ad paid for by the “Committee not to elect Hop.” As first reported in this blog, Hop paid for the ad himself, which did not surprise me, but apparently a lot of people did not realize it was a parody. I know this because it came up quite a bit in my last week of campaigning.

Livinston County News editor Mark Gillespie devoted his editorial this week to a stirring defense of freedom of the press and said he would do it again. Of course the Pennysaver ran the same ad, but nobody expects very high journalistic standards from them.

As a former newspaper publisher, I have been asked my opinion. I would like to think that I might have hesitated to run a political ad that had the potential to be deceptive the week before an important election, but I’m not sure. Business is business, and not being as politically correct as some, I might not have even realized it was offensive.

On the other hand, I never took the same liberal position on printing letters to the editor that the News does. I would print any kind of opinion, but I did not allow letters to report “facts” that I knew to be untrue. In fact, the News did run many unedited letters over the years that I either rejected for publication or required edits on.

I apply those same rules to moderating my blogs. For instance, recently our Florida correspondent Greg Lamb wrote a comment claiming that Bill Lofquist was wrong in asserting that there was no site plan for the Newman project on file in the town office. His source for that was Newman attorney Ken Kamlet’s quoted in the LC News. I wrote back to Greg and told him that I was not going to allow him to spread Mr. Kamlet’s disinformation on my blog. Of course, I could have posted the comment and then refuted it, but why give something that is obviously untrue any credibility at all?

Getting back to Hop, I doubt that the ad flap made a difference in the outcome of the election. He finished almost 150 votes ahead of Patti Lavigne, and if some people did vote for him out of sympathy for being attacked, not all of those voters would have had Patti as a second choice.

I believe Hop (and David) won because of their personal popularity. They are both Teflon candidates who managed to survive even though they ran as part of a team whose leader and policies were wildly unpopular.

A note about this blog: Now that the election is over, I will keep this blog open for election items until the final canvass of votes is made next week. Yesterday was the second day in a row to set a record in traffic with over 200 readers and the blog has been read over 5,000 times since I started in May. Thanks for reading and especially to those who commented.

I will continue to write my weekly column (maybe a few days late this week because I am working on my DEIS comments) and publish my news blog (which also had a record day yesterday and where some interesting post-election comments have been posted). Both can be found at

An idea whose time has come?

November 7, 2007

It’s hard not to look at yesterday’s election results as anything other than an endorsement of the Lowe’s project. With the two candidates unequivocably in favor of the project polling 61.4 per cent, it is clear that the people of Geneseo want a Lowe’s. How the town gets there from here, however, is not very clear.

Supervisor Wadsworth will have a big job in cleaning up the legal, political and ethical mess surroundingĀ  this issue when he takes office in January. His claimed abilities to find consensus on this and other matters will be sorely tested.

The reality that almost 40 per cent of the community was prepared to say no to the Lowe’s will give substantial encouragement to those who continue to believe that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

As I told representatives from Newman Development at last week’s public hearing, their best course of action would be to withdraw their application until such time as a new master plan and new zoning that permits their proposed use can be adopted. I believe that, the election results notwithstanding, this is still good advice.

Might does not necessarily make right. Just because a majority of the voters want something does not mean that an illegal process can be used to trample on the rights of a substantial minority. This is because we are a nation of laws, not men.

It seems a little more likely now that the Lowe’s will be built than it did yesterday, but it is still a long way from a done deal. There is such a thing as winning the war after losing every battle, and the fight will go on. The pro-project forces have lost their General. It remains to be seen if their new leader has the stomach and the ability to carry it forward to a successful conclusion.


November 6, 2007

Today, Election Day, is the most holy day of our civic religion. One can only sit back in awe and appreciation for the efforts that so many have made in the past six months that will culminate in today’s voting. The election will prove at least one thing: people really do care about the future of Geneseo.

As I look over my wrinkled canvass sheets, I have many fine memories of new friends made, lots of laughs and a few really astonishing moments. It can truly be said that Geneseo is a wonderfully diverse community, maybe not so much in the traditional sense of racial diversity, but certainly from a cultural perspective.

In large part we have the college to thank for that, as it attracts people from all over the world as students and faculty and many of them decide to make this their permanent home. I was very touched by love stories of young college students and “townies” who found each other, some as much as 50 years ago, married and made a life here.

In other cases, both parts of the couple were strangers here, but found each other and a community that they loved. Of course many of our residents are teachers, not just in the Geneseo public schools, but probably in every school district you can think of within 50 miles.

So Geneseo is an education community but it is so much more. I particularly enjoyed visiting with folks in the town outside the village and along the lake, but I was universally treated with kindness and hospitality no matter where I went in town or village. I hope you will indulge me as I recount a few of my favorite memories. Since I can’t campaign today, I really don’t have anything better to do than blog.

The Miskell Family: I crashed this year’s high school graduation party at the home of John and Zahra Miskell on Center Street, because I was determined to finally meet John who spends most of his time in Africa, and I couldn’t resist the Somoli-style vegetarian cooking of Zahra. Delicious!

Later in the summer, I was riding my bike up and down Second Street looking for signatures for my independent petition when I spotted Mary Miskell, a stalwart of the Democratic Party, sitting on her porch. The first couple of times past I waved cheerily and got no response. That’s strange, I thought, Mary is usually a friendly person. On my next trip past, I stopped right in front of the porch and said hello. “Who is it?” she asked. It was only then that I understood that her vision was so bad that she couldn’t recognize me from just a few feet away.

She invited me up on the porch and we had a nice chat. I didn’t dare ask her for a signature as I knew her fierce party loyalty. Finally she said, “I can’t sign your petition, but I think my son will.” She called Carl from inside the house and he was happy to sign. Speaking of diversity, the Miskell Family is a wonderful example. Of the 7 children I believe that 3 are Republicans, 3 are Democrats and Carl is a blank.

My friend Chris: Another favorite memory of the summer also involves a visual handicap, but in this case, that is just the beginning. On a recent campaign swing I ventured out to the Kingston farm on Groveland Road. This was certainly a demonstration of chutzpah on my part, since I doubted there were many votes for me in this strongly Democratic family.

This was also a trip down Memory Lane for me since I had lived and worked on the farm during the summer of 1964 when I was just 13 years old. After chatting with David Kingston for a while I went through my voter list with him and tried to figure out the 11 voting members of the extended family (All Democrats of course).

I noticed a listing for David’s sister Maureen at his address, but he informed me that she was now living down the street in a house near the corner of Long Point Road. As I drove back towards the village I saw Maureen’s car pull into the driveway and I followed her in. After a 15-minute conversation, she invited me inside saying, “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Nothing could have prepared me for the amazing person I met that day. Chris, who is about 21 years old, is of much diminished stature and he is totally blind and deaf. Apparently, however, he does not consider any of that to be a handicap. He can speak clearly, and with great humor, and he understands what you are saying by placing his hand on your face.

His communication with Maureen is even better because he can hold on to her hands and follow her sign language. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. David later told me that Chris loves nothing better than to help out on the farm by jumping into the back of the grain truck and help shovel out the corn.

Meeting Chris was a magical moment in my summer and I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet him and so many other people that I probably never would have except by banging on the doors. Win or lose, thanks to everyone for a wonderful 6 months!

Note: As of 3:30 this afternoon, this blog had already set a new record for single-day readership. Thanks for reading!

The Frogs are back!

November 5, 2007


Spring came late to the valley this year, when four large frogs appeared on the front lawn near the county courthouse over the weekend. The Frogs had not been seen since March of last year when they were much in evidence in support of the Boiled Frog party. Apparently the sound of all the pandering in the current election awoke them from their hibernation.

Speaking of pandering, check out the youtube video posted by the Democratic team and heavily promoted to college students. In it college students are urged by ‘Che’ Wilcox (appropriately wearing a red sweater) to “send a message to Washington” by electing the straight Democratic ticket. There’s nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster!

Not to be outdone, Republican Will Wadsworth has sent out an e-mail to college students touting his involvement in the Geneseo Rental Housing Association as somehow beneficial for students. He concludes, “You should vote for me because I am the only candidate who has worked to protect your opportunity to choose an affordable alternative to living on campus.” Of course, he doesn’t tell them that the Town Supervisor position has absolutely nothing to do with village housing regulations.
Isn’t it a little sad that the future of our town may be decided by who can best pander to the students? That’s politics!