End of the line
Sure he looks upbeat; cautiously optimistic at the very least. But so do most self-destructive people shortly before they pull the ripcord on life. Tedisco is mere hours away from learning whether his utterly botched campaign for congress miraculously salvaged him a short stint in Washington, or if he lost the seat to a guy that nobody in the 20th district knew two months ago.
Either way, Tedisco theoretically should have won the race in a landslide. The electorate was firmly entrenched in his party’s favor. He has national recognition and nearly three decades of state government service. Simply put, he was a shoo-in 45 days ago. All he needed to do was nothing at all. The only obstacle stopping him from ascending to congress was time.
That all changed at the start of the race. The national and state Democrats came strongly to the aid of Glens Falls businessman Scott Murphy, a fellow who curried a significant amount of political clout in Missouri, but relative anonymity in the northern Adirondack foothills characterizing a good portion of the congressional district. Fresh from their wins in November, the Democrats injected money and punch into Murphy’s campaign, something that surprised Tedisco and many others during the dawning days of the race.
Stung by the emergence of Murphy, the lumbering Republican machine suddenly jolted into action. Run attack ads. Print accusatory mailers. Grab at straws. Say something about AIG. Maybe harp on Wall Street. Take the GOP playbook, tear out all the pages, and throw them up in the air like confetti; hope that at least one goddamn play floats down. But the more they clutched, kicked grabbed and bit at Murphy, the more he seemed to gain traction in the polls. In the end, he surpassed the flailing Tedisco campaign, which remained a solid four points behind.
Tedisco’s desperation was clear weeks earlier when the Republicans summoned the Hatchet. When John Ciampoli gets involved in an election, the GOP might as well announce they’ve taken off the gloves and are now clutching a strand of razor wire in each fist. Ciampoli, who was once the Pataki appointed counsel for the state Board of Elections, is the political equivalent of highly-trained hitman. His modus operandi is quite simple: Find a couple of small party shills, get them to sign a few waivers and then exploit every loophole in election law there is.
Like any hitman, Ciampoli can’t be linked to any specific candidate. And on paper, he’s only loosely affiliated with the GOP. But in actuality, he does the party’s dirty work whenever summoned. Just ask Brian Premo, who went several rounds against the litigator when he brazenly challenged the otherwise unopposed Joe Bruno for state Senate in 2006.
In the case of the 20th district’s special election, Ciampoli targeted state Libertarian Party chairman Eric Sundwall, whose campaign was starting to attract moderate voters rather than the few fringe danglers that typically gravitate to small party politics. But in a special election for a congressional seat that will expire in less than 20 months, some moderate voters on both sides of the bi-partisan isle were starting to consider him as an option; a protest vote to show up the two-party system.
With Sundwall out of the race, Tedisco probably figured he could split the Libertarian vote and again scramble above the election’s high-water mark. At the very least, he probably assumed the shunned freak vote would instead stay at home to stage their protest. So he employed a trio of card-carrying conservatives to challenge Sundwall’s ballots at the last minute, knowing the candidate didn’t have the resources, money or time to battle it out in court.
Among this trio was Don Neddo, the pathetic shill who helped rally support for the war in Iraq seven years ago. For those who don’t recall this sinister denizen, the ruling Republicans put him on a pedestal claiming he was a decorated war veteran that wanted to see the shimmering glow of freedom shine in the Persian Gulf, regardless of the cost. He was the point man for the so-called ‘Patriot Rallies’ that cropped up across the Capital Region. The rallies were fomented by Clear Channel Communications, a company beholden to the neo-conservatives that pounded the drum beat for war just as people were starting to question whether another one was needed. In the end, he was exposed for the fraud he is and sent packing back up into the darkest nether-region of the GOP’s bowels.
That was until he surfaced in favor of Tedisco’s campaign. Remarkably, Tedisco says people like Ciampoli and Neddo have nothing to do with his campaign. He also claims he has no power over the relentless attack ads that are being sent out by his party at the national level. In fact, he seems to claim he has no control over his campaign whatsoever; that his party is running roughshod over the district like a speeding bullet train without breaks. Needless to say, it’s a troubling assertion that doesn’t bode well for his future in politics.
But most pundits realize Tedisco is all bluster. He’s fully aware of what his party is doing and complicit in it. Even the national ads that incomprehensibly link Murphy to the AIG scandal seem to smack of Tedisco, who once claimed he’d swear off Heinze Ketchup to support George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
Well, this is the end of the line. A loss for Tedisco today will likely spell his doom in future office. There’s a chance he might be recycled for a state senate seat. But aspirations for higher office will be stemmed there. Even if he wins, the outlook isn’t bright for Disco Jim. He’ll need to bring home a lot of bacon in a Democratic congress that will be less than welcoming to a guy who just spent 45 days bashing mules