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Friday, January 7, 2011

Where Dave Valesky Might Lose Out

Interesting news recently about our local state senator, Dave Valesky, joining three others to form a new Independent-Democratic caucus.  There's been a lot of speculation about why he's doing this just now, and what effect it might have on his effectiveness.

I think the idea that this is a politically strategic effort to demonstrate a commitment to reform after a close shave in the elections is off the mark.  For Valesky to have won by over six percent, in this year--when three of his incumbent Democratic colleagues from the same area lost (Stirpe, Maffei, and Arcuri)--against a quality challenger in Andrew Russo, and with all the money that was spent, suggests that he is probably a safe bet from here on  out, absent a dramatic downfall.  The Democrats losing their majority status in the chamber strengthens that view, as the Downstate-control argument is now defused, at least as it relates to his re-election.

How the move will affect him in the chamber is less clear, given--again--that his party is now in the minority.  One could imagine the independence playing to his advantage or disadvantage, depending on how the Republican majority approaches the term.

One place where I think it's likely to hurt regardless, however, is access to inside information, a critical element in any legislature.  Not being part of a major party caucus will make it much more difficult for him to know what's coming and what is being planned.  Fewer people will confide in him.  His effectiveness may thus depend more on his ability to deftly react to what comes his way, rather than to strategically plan ahead and shape the agenda.  Again, depending on how the chamber functions (or dysfunctions), this could land him in a prime spot, but all other things being equal the Albany part of his job will be tougher with more limited information.

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