Where did Jim Keane go wrong?

7 Nov


I keep hearing that Chris Collins won the Erie County Executive race because people demanded change, that they were tired of “career politicians”. If that is the case, why are legislators Marinelli, Ranzenhofer, Wroblewski, and Kennedy prepping for another term in office? Why are budding career politicians like Maria Whyte, Dan Kozub, and Bob Reynolds heading back for another term?

In the municipal elections around the county, change was not readily evident in the results. Familiar faces returned to town boards, common councils, and other offices.

It seems to me that people weren’t voting for change, they just didn’t like Jim Keane and preferred the soft spoken Collins.

Looking back at the ads run by Jim Keane and the tenor of his campaign at stops around the county, he spent more time tearing down Collins than advocating for his own platform. Of course, this isn’t an odd strategy, but it seemed to backfire on him as people didn’t really know what he stood for.

About the only thing that I could glean from Keane’s website was his desire to reform the Erie County Water Authority, his disdain for $10 per hour jobs, and that he planned to implement some loosely defined County-Stat monitoring program modeled after the Citistat program in Buffalo. Now, I was familiar with more of his platform because I chased it down, but the average voter doesn’t do a lot of legwork.

So, that left voters with his commercials and debate appearances. The commercials were very negative on Collins and his debate appearances could be paraphrased as follows: “Gorski, Gorski, Gorski, Higgins, Gorski, Collins Sucks, Gorski, Collins=Giambra, Higgins, Gorski, Collins hates Buffalo, Gorski”. Not a very compelling platform.

If Keane had taken the career politician angle and spun it, he might have had a shot.

How about a commercial that said, “I’ve been in and around government service for decades. I’ve seen the good that efficient government can do and I’ve seen the crushing inefficiencies and how they can cripple a community. I know how to get things done, I know how to achieve compromise and move this region forward. I intend to benchmark governmental efficiencies from some of the most well run counties around America. While success in the private sector is something to admire, knowing how to create the environment for that success to occur is my specialty.” Just throwing that one out there on a whim, didn’t give it a ton of thought, but you get the idea.

Instead, Keane went with the tired old “Giambra sucks” and class warfare angles…neither of which sell well in Amherst and Clarence. After all, Giambra was overwhelmingly elected twice. People believed in him and thought he had good ideas, as it turns out, he was an arrogant leader with a penchant for buggery and patronage. It’s just my opinion that telling people they were stupid to have ever voted for him in the first place is not the best way to curry favor.

After all, even Len Lenihan was on “Team Giambra” back in the day.

If you were in charge of the Keane campaign, what would you have done differently?

Also, how much egg does Higgins have on his face for pushing Keane as the candidate?

11 Responses to “Where did Jim Keane go wrong?”

  1. Jen November 8, 2007 at 7:06 am #

    ““Gorski, Gorski, Gorski, Higgins, Gorski, Collins Sucks, Gorski, Collins=Giambra, Higgins, Gorski, Collins hates Buffalo, Gorski”.”

    I was thinking the same thing, the commentary I woke up to on election day on WBFO was Keane whining about how he was going door to door all weekend and Collins was not. What a way to promote yourself in the last few precious hours.

  2. Stephen Nazwisko November 8, 2007 at 8:25 am #

    That mock ad you made was pretty much word for word how the first, second to last, and last Keane ads (his three positive ones) went. That’s what his mailers said. That is the campaign Keane tried to run; a career of service, a career of results. The problem may have been that that reinforced his biggest negative – the politician one.

    But the biggest problem here I believe was that no one – and I mean no one – on the democratic bench could have beaten Chris Collins this year with any strategy, much like no one could have beaten Spitzer last year with any strategy.

    Collins ran a good campaign, helped by the fact that Paul Clark’s lies about Keane disqualified the man before Chris Collins had to spend a dollar. While the truth is that Keane is not a racist, Keane is a vietnam veteran, and Keane has never given a job to a family member, everyone in the county thinks these things are false, not because of Chris Collins, but because of Paul Clark.

    Collins was left to coast to victory, and could stay above the negatives (except the career politician mantra) to do it.

    Finally, it wasn’t Higgins who pushed Keane to the endorsement in the end, it was Byron Brown.

  3. Buffalo Hodgepodge November 8, 2007 at 9:24 am #

    Disagree with the previous comment. Lenihan knew that Keane would lose which is why he so desperately sought a “fresh face.” In the end, party unity carried the day…and carried them to defeat. A progressive Democrat with fresh thinking and concrete plans could easily have won this election.

  4. TJ November 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm #

    Keane never went on the offensive. He let others define and malign him (and lie). Even his negative ads were half hearted and complicated.

    Keane had the money but did not have anyone who could shape his message and responses.

    Keane was Al Gore to the Clark/Collins Bush.

    It is a shame.

    Keane is a great manager but lousy campaign strategist.

    He would have cleaned up County Hall.

    This should have been an easy win for the Dems.

    Lenny and the rest of the EC Dems brain trust should be held accountable for this.

  5. Ethan November 8, 2007 at 6:47 pm #

    What HodgePodge said-

    Dyster won in N.F. by a frikikin’ landslide! It can be done here, too.

  6. whitney November 9, 2007 at 8:38 am #

    Why are budding career politicians like Maria Whyte, Dan Kozub, and Bob Reynolds heading back for another term?

    This line frustrates me and I think it’s a kind of lazy interpretation of the situation at hand. Do you really know for sure if either one of those folks is planning on becoming a “career politician?” What’s so wrong with the fact that they want to continue sorting through the mess that is county government?

    I understand that we need to hold electeds accountable, and it’s frankly surprising to me that I’m defending a system with some clear problems, but this anti-government, automatic distrust is not helping either. We owe it to ourselves to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to understand the complexities of government. It’s not easy.

    If we keep up these ridiculous standards–and please don’t accuse me of not having any standards!–we are going to self-destruct.

    I don’t think you’re a lazy person–I don’t read your blog too often, honestly–because you’re here trying to make sense of it all. I think making blanket-statements directed at people who haven’t even been in office for 24-months is a little shortsighted.

  7. Christopher Smith November 9, 2007 at 9:12 pm #

    I call them budding machine candidates because that is exactly what they are. They are part of the machine. None of them has shown any inclination of legislative independence since they were elected. I am not naive enough to believe that you should automatically defy the caucus upon election and I realize that one has to go along to get along.

    However, I have seen no inclination that any of those legislators intends to return to the private sector or to demonstrate some individualism from the party.

  8. Jim Ostrowski November 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm #

    “A progressive Democrat with fresh thinking”

    Progressivism is about 150 years old so it’s pretty stale and has basically failed wherever tried. Keane is a progressive (liberal).

  9. Joe November 10, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    Geek, I disagree with part of what you say. You state that Collins was soft-spoken, and Keane was very negative. My recollection of the race for CE was that Collins was far more negative than Keane. I remember Collins running negative ads for weeks, well before Keane ran a negative ad about Collins, which lasted for about one week, before it was taken off the air in favor of a positive ad blitz. If the public was really watching, they should have seen that Collins was nasty. He told us little about himself or what he intended to do, except that he’ll “run it like a business” and hire a Six Sigma Balck Belt (this was totally laughable and sounded straight out of the sitcom “The Office,” the movie “Office Space,” and the comic strip “Dilbert”). Collins called Keane all types of names, and even recruited actors to pose as people on the street to drag Keane through the mud, with the last woman saying the Keane ought to be ashamed of himself, without stating why. To put it bluntly, Collins’ campaign reminded me of other nasty Republican campaigns, especially Bush. Bush said he was a “uniter, not a divider;” Collins similarly said that Keane was dividing the community by making this a Dems vs Repub thing. Both Bush and Collins said they would run it like a business. Both Bush and Collins threw lots of crap at their opponent. But it amazes me that the public couldn’t see it. They just thought that the innocent looking Collins was an angel, and didn’t see the mean in him. Keane’s strategy was to be positive, and his ads (except for the single week he was negative) reflected that strategy. Significantly, it was Keane who was trying to be positive for the voters, but Collins’ nasty attack ads defined Keane. You are correct that Keane did not effectively get his message out there, but lets face it, the stuff on his literature would have taken to long to say in this soundbyte age of advertising. Collins stupid “Run it like a business” soundbyte worked. Keane’s message was just too long. The public does not have the attention span for it. I wish Collins well, and hope he gets it done, but I am skeptical. The story on the street is that he didn’t really want to win. He only wanted to get his name out there and show well for his eventual run at Congress. That story is confirmed by his statement in the paper that he was afraid and could not sleep when the polls showed he was ahead for the first time. If anyone watched the debates, it seemed like he knew nothing about County government. He better start studying now. And he better not rely on Griffin and Naples for advice. If the public wanted Griff, it would have voted him in. But the pubic voted for Chris Collins. Message to Chris: you better keep your promises because the public trusted you. Don’t give us lame excuses why you can’t get it done.


  1. Alaasface.Com » Where did Jim Keane go wrong? - November 7, 2007

    […] wrote an interesting post today on Where did Jim Keane go wrong?Here’s a quick […]

  2. WNYMedia.net :: Buffalo Pundit - November 8, 2007

    […] Geek has a good explanation as to why Keane lost, so I won’t repeat them here. I think he’s right on the money. I saw some Keane lit that explained his reform agenda, and every single thing on there was something I could support. The average voter probably never heard any of them. Did you know Keane promised to institute term limits for himself and the county legislature? Neither did I until the eve of the election, and I literally stumbled upon it. […]

Contribute To The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: