Unmasking one strange campaign season

Submitted photo Councilman Don Williams Jr., a registered Democrat, thought it was newsworthy he backed someone from his party in Judge Amy Martoche.

Campaign season, even in a world not facing a pandemic, never comes across as normal. With early voting already in full swing since Saturday, it appears many have made up their mind regarding the slate of candidates.

This year’s race for president has plenty of prominence for those in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that brought both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden to Erie. How crazy is it that western Pennsylvania, including Warren County, has a huge voice in those 20 precious Electoral College votes?

It is expected to be a much different tune for New York. Biden will likely be riding on the support of downstate to win the 29 Electoral College votes that come courtesy of the Empire State.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. That being said, here are some final observations from the recent weeks on the trail as Election Day nears:

¯ PLEASANTRIES ASIDE — The first debate between U.S. Rep. Tom Reed and challenger Tracy Mitrano started amicably enough at The Post-Journal in Jamestown last week.

Both were confident in their platforms and took notice of the views that separated the two candidates. Toward the end, however, Mitrano was gaining the upper hand while criticizing some of the negative television ads put forward by the Reed campaign. At one point, Mitrano was asked by the incumbent to call him Tom. “That is part of the disrespect you love to continue to tout,” she said sternly. “I don’t know you sir and I don’t really care to.”

¯ WHO’S THAT GUY? — There are two names voters are not likely not recognize on the ballot this year, which is a bit unfortunate. Libertarian Andrew Kolstee is a third-party candidate seeking the District 23 Congressional seat. He did debate Mitrano during the League of Women Voters online event on Oct. 14. Another is Frank Puglisi, a Democrat from Cattaraugus County, who is challenging state Sen. George Borrello in District 57. Borrello captured more than 90 percent of the vote last year in a special election. That could happen again considering Puglisi is not actively campaigning this year. One more unknown, Scott Noren, is seeking a write-in vote for District 23. That is a real Hail Mary.

¯ FRESH FACES — Campaign newcomers Christina Cardinale and Richard Morrisroe brought new ideas and perspectives to two important races. Cardinale, who is running against powerhouse Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, stood tall and firm in public debates while not backing down. Morrisroe, who has a political background from Erie County, had a low-key voice but a strong and knowledgeable presence. If both do not get elected, it would be great to see these two shaking things up in a lethargic County Legislature in Mayville.

¯ DINO ALERT — Democrat In Name Only Dunkirk Councilman Don Williams Jr. thought it was so stunning he was actually supporting a fellow party member, he sent out a news release to area media. In the announcement, Williams says Judge Amy Martoche — who is seeking the state Supreme Court justice post — “has outstanding credentials and she is a leader in the legal community.” The recently ousted county Democratic Party first vice chair, however, did not disclose in the item his continued loyalty to the Common Council majority in the city, which is made up of Republicans, and his formal backing of current interim County Executive PJ Wendel for one more year in that position.

¯ FROM THE MAILBAG — We received plenty of comments from readers regarding two major area races. In the contest for Congressional District 23, Mitrano received a great deal of support from letter writers who chimed in to the county newspapers. Many of the letters noted the challenger “understands rural communities in our county must have access to the Internet so that we can attract new businesses to the area, allow our small businesses to be competitive, support farmers, and help our children not fall behind during COVID-19.” In addition, very few letters we received backed Reed.

Also of note was the contentious race for district attorney. Most of those writers backed Schmidt with few favoring Swanson.

For that race — and many others, we’re not quite sure when the verdict of victory will come, though some results will be known Tuesday evening. Absentee ballots, which are coming in record numbers, take time to count.

It could be the same for the nation and the presidency. The waiting may be the hardest part.

John D’Agostino is the regional editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and the Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 253.


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