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Irrelevant Dems bail out weak county GOP

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward Voters in Chautauqua County put their faith in local Republicans despite increased spending and higher taxes.

As an election approached, a battle was brewing inside the membership committee of the Chautauqua County Democratic party. It had nothing to do with the upcoming vote involving three local candidates vying for positions of importance and influence.

It instead revolved around the appointment of a new election commissioner. During a tense gathering on Oct. 5, Luz Torres of Dunkirk was declared the winner by a narrow margin over Loren Kent for the position when the ballots were opened in Jamestown at the law firm of Lewis & Lewis Attorneys.

For the record, the post is quite significant. Just take a look at the aftermath regarding the presidential decision.

But the added dissension that has come over the last three weeks as well as the defensive and divisive tone of party leaders over what happened certainly raises numerous red flags. By the way, this was all on display for the public to see on Oct. 28 during the Chautauqua County Legislature meeting when Torres was expected to be approved before the resolution was pulled before the evening meeting.

Leaders of the Democrats flipped their lids. Norman Green, party chair, was kicked out of the meeting. Other prominent players, who follow Green’s lead, pleaded with legislators to approve Torres, practically throwing temper tantrums over not having the resolution approved. There also was a sentiment for Kent, who has been a loyal officer while taking studious minutes and keeping records of meetings and decisions for many years as an officer serving as secretary.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Chautauqua County’s listless political party. Almost seemingly withering in chaos — because their most recent slate of candidates appear forgotten and unsupported during the days leading up to the November election — this group has become what this corner feared in July when we warned of an impending doomsday scenario.

County Democrats have reached irrelevancy. A punching bag for the Republicans, many of whom are just as weak but never penalized by voters on a local level for their part in the tax-and-spending decisions that happen here on an annual basis.

Chautauqua County’s 2021 budget, it must be noted, was heartily endorsed by big spending Republican leadership. The party that claims it is “fiscally responsible” doled out 3% raises to already handsomely paid managers during a global pandemic while governments and school districts cope with major deficits and losses of state aid. Their annual justification to taxpayers is simplified by comparing higher taxes to the price of cup of coffee or purchasing a Twix bar every other week.

By the way, this is nothing new. Republicans here are wizards at overspending and then pointing the finger at Albany for its horrible money habits.

Call it a refusal to look at the elephant in the mirror. In fact, the dominant county party has never been accountable when it comes to the high-tax burden here, the decreasing county population or the closing of numerous industries and businesses in the last decade alone.

Why? Because they know the county Democrats will somehow shoot themselves in the foot. It happened last week when all five humdrum Democratic county legislators gave no resistance to the GOP spending plan. It took place earlier in January when an unprecedented appointment of an interim executive, who is a member of the other party, happened by unanimous vote.

It is obvious minority lawmakers will never have the votes to defeat any plan brought by 14 Republicans. But a voice of dissatisfaction — maybe just once — might stir the pot.

Instead, both parties in county government allow for this body — that oversees a huge $262 million annual operation — to become content in its lack of effort and ability to take on real issues, including work-force development, a stronger housing market that is presently booming or promoting government efficiencies.

That brings us back to the bumbling Democrats. We know the Republican party here stands for sending a strong message with a show of unity, even if there is some bitterness behind the scenes.

It is an approach that is bringing fantastic results. Even with nearly 12,000 absentee ballots outstanding, this local show is over. All the candidates — Patrick Swanson, Richard Morrisroe and Christina Cardinale — have thrown in the towel after sound defeats.

They must be tired, frustrated and have a bit of a sense of betrayal.

During an election as important as this one, Democrats lost sight of the real prize while somehow letting the issue of an election commissioner steal their attention and energies.

Rock bottom has arrived. We are officially a one-party county.

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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