Will Conservatives Reward Sandy Treadwell for Failure? – By George J. Marlin
New York’s 20th Congressional District, whose boundaries include the economically depressed areas around Albany and the affluent Lake Placid region, has been reliably Republican for generations.
Last November, however, the District’s four-term Republican Congressman John Sweeney was defeated by political neophyte, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Analysts claim that Sweeney’s loss was self-inflicted. Allegations of reckless behavior, they say, did him in.
Because registered Republicans and Conservatives outnumber Democrats, the 20th C.D. is targeted as a seat to be retaken in 2008. At the moment the likely GOP nominee is Alexander “Sandy” Treadwell, who started running for the position the day after Sweeney conceded.
Treadwell, who served as Governor Pataki’s Secretary of State, New York’s Republican Chairman and R.N.C. committeeman, is a classic political ne’er-do-well. After watching Treadwell in action, the Post’s Albany political editor, Fred Dicker, referred to him as “insular, elitist and ideologically anemic” and tagged him as an “immensely Caspar Milquetoast-like trust funder.”
Under Chairman Treadwell, the GOP’s fortunes declined. Republican county executives were evicted in three major GOP strongholds: Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Assembly Democrats added to their veto-proof majority and the Republican Senate majority eroded.
In 2004, Treadwell gave New Yorkers that year’s biggest Republican joke — the U.S. Senate candidacy of Howard Mills, running against incumbent Charles Schumer.
Managing to get attention in the campaign only when he declared, “I reject [political] labels…I am not into labels,” Mills wasn’t much of anything, and the results proved it: he got 24 percent of the vote — the lowest percentage in history for a statewide senate candidate in New York.
Reviewing the results, a Post editorial asked: “How Treadwell can show his face at GOP national headquarters after the Mills debacle is a bewilderment.”
Treadwell not only showed his face, he was rewarded for failure. Pataki named him New York’s member of the Republican National Committee.
In his quest to oppose Congresswoman Gillibrand, Treadwell is aggressively courting the N.Y. Conservative Party for its nomination. Washington’s Roll Call recently quoted him as saying, “It’s obviously something I want very much. It’s something I’m working hard to earn.”
To enhance his prospects Treadwell paid top dollar for a dais seat at the Conservative Party’s state dinner, and he has been spotted hanging out at the Lake Placid American Legion Hall bar playing the common man.
These overtures are purely theatrical — for Sandy Treadwell is a classic Rockefeller liberal Republican.
During Treadwell’s tenure as Republican chairman, he moved his party to the left and defended Governor Pataki’s liberal fiscal and social policies.
Sadly, Treadwell’s failed leftist strategy still has defenders. Westchester County Republican consultant, Michael Edelman, told Roll Call the following about the 20th C.D. race: “The problem in New York is that the Conservative Party has entirely too much to say about who the Republican Party runs….Any candidate that has to lock step with the Conservative social right-wing agenda in order to get the nomination…is not going to beat the [Democratic] incumbent….Only a centrist is going to win [this] Congressional [election].
The Conservative Party the problem? No so!
Republicans enjoyed their greatest victories in the Hudson Valley district when they enthusiastically embraced conservative principles. Ten-term representative Gerald Solomon (1978-1998), a Republican Congressional icon, was an unabashed conservative. Endorsed by both the Conservative and Right to Life Parties, Solomon averaged over 65% of the vote in his ten elections and his American Conservative Union (ACU) Legislative ratings average exceeded 90%.
Sweeney was elected in November 1998 as a movement conservative, but when he moved to the left, both his ACU ratings and margins of victory dropped.
Sweeney forgot the lesson of the 1980s and early 1990s that running as a Democratic-lite candidate is a losing strategy. That’s because Republicans can never out-promise or out-spend Democrats.
Hudson Valley Conservatives will soon decide if Sandy Treadwell, an architect of this failed electoral strategy, deserves their support for Congress. Are they going to endorse a liberal who gives lip service to conservative principles? Are they going to reward Treadwell for failure?
The Conservative Party was born in response to the rise of Nelson Rockefeller’s liberal Republicanism. Its mission has been to keep the Republicans honest.
To maintain that role and to knock some sense into New York’s GOP establishment, Conservatives should set an example in the 20th Congressional District. Treadwell should be denied their nomination.