Collins Picks Low-Hanging Democratic Fruit

5 Aug

What does Chris Collins want for Christmas?

Apparently, an Erie County Legislature that can’t override his vetoes.

What do I want for Christmas?

To stop writing about an entity called “County Government”.

Late yesterday broke the story on Twitter that County Legislator Kathy Konst was set to resign from that body in order to take a job with Chris Collins’ administration.  Konst will become the Commissioner of Environment and Planning, which handles county environmental compliance, economic development & planning, and sewer management.

The Department also provides direct service to residents and municipalities through:

  • The operation of six County sewer districts.
  • The provision of U.S. Census data as an Affiliate Data Center to the New York State Data Center.
  • The provision of technical and educational assistance related to business assistance, physical development, geographic information systems and environmental compliance.
  • Enhancement of cultural resources in the community and region.

The department that Konst will be heading up seems to have jurisdiction over some of the most important issues facing the county – economic development, planning, the environment. Konst has a background in marketing and advertising, and is a past chair of the Lancaster chamber of commerce, but she was in favor of the strategic planning initiative that Collins vetoed. I wish her luck in her new position.

But nominating petitions have been submitted, and it’s now too late for the Democrats to replace Konst with anyone else, meaning it’s likely that the only candidate on the ballot for County Legislature District 5 will be Dino Fudoli. If Konst is replaced by a Democrat for the period between now and December, that Democrat would have to run on a hastily-arranged minor party line.

So, as far as Collins’ Christmas wish, he’s given himself a bit of a cushion. It appears likely that there is one less seat he needs to worry about to get to that magical number 6, so all he needs to do is flip two more seats. Hardwick vs. Iannello seems a possible pickup. I haven’t paid enough attention to the other races yet to figure out if there are any others.

But again, Collins proves himself a very shrewd strategist among a sea of often petty tacticians.

16 Responses to “Collins Picks Low-Hanging Democratic Fruit”

  1. Chet Morton at 7:45 am #

    This appointment by Collins is a clever political maneuver. The appointment of Konst is purely political, as he and GOP Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr (a Collins ally) know all well that Konst’s name cannot be substituted for and removed from the ballot in the fall elections. So, unless voters vote for her (knowing she can’t and won’t serve), the voters are left to do a write-in candidate or vote for the Republican candidate. This appointment, as Alan notes, allows Collins to take-out a Democratic seat in the Legislature and convert it to Collins (I mean Republican) control. As for Konst’s reasons for doing it, one infers it is all about the benjamins. She will significantly boost her county salary, more than doubling it. The oddity is that this was a situation in which Collins tried to recruit Konst to run in a Democratic primary against Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Konst, wisely, declined. She then joined the Democratic majority in being critical of a number of Collins activities, marked by the 2009 property tax increase. Collins and his staff then openly attacked her and disparaged her. And now, suddenly, she is great and they want her on the team? I am willing to bet Collins whacks her by early next year.

  2. JFC Fuller at 7:50 am #

    Neither Fudoli or Hardwick have much of a shot at being in the Leg next year.

    Hardwick is a terrible candidate, this is a guy who has already suffered to embarassing losses in the 10th Leg district and the district has become significantly more Democratic since his last run.

    Dino has a BIG problem, if Konst can’t be removed from the ballot, she’ll probably end up winning re-election.

  3. JFC Fuller at 8:03 am #

    I also thought I’d mention that the only time Kevin Hardwick has won while running for County Legislature, the Rpeublican Primary in 03, his campaign was being run by the Democrats.

  4. It kind of reaks of opportunism on the part of Konst. A little disappointing that she can not see it for what it is… attempt to grab that seat for the GOP. In some respects, I have a lot of respect for Kathy. At other times, I see a side that I am not fond of. Shades of the I’m going to run for State Senate…no wait….I’m going to run for Congress….no wait…..I’ll have fundraisers now and tell you what I am running for later.

    As a Democrat, it’s disappointing to me that she would leave at a time she knows there is nothing the Dems can do to mount a campaign, and it’s possibly political career suicide for her unless she is willing to change party affiliation. The local GOP is in such disarray that they would probably welcome her with open arms.

  5. Russell at 9:13 am #

    Pete, Konst was not a career politician so this is not suicide.

    Chet, the Dems can appoint anyone they want to fill her vacancy and I’m sure they’d make it clear that a vote for Konst in November would actually be a vote for that person, who’d they reappoint to fill the vacancy and would run if an emergency election were needed for the rest of the term. So the option is not for a write-in or the Republican. I’m not even sure the write-in option is available.

    Why is everyone assuming the worst of Kathy Konst now? I doubt the money is the main or deciding factor. As far as I know, she been successful in business. Why can’t you think that Konst did this because she feels she can have a much bigger impact in a very important position in the county? Sure, there are political ramifications, but Konst is not a greedy moron. I don’t know why your assumptions are suddenly that she is.

  6. Pete at BuffaloStuff at 12:53 pm #

    @Russell – I guess I don’t equate opportunism completely with greed. I think she did put herself first on this despite the difficulties it will cause the party. And, yes she has enjoyed some successes in her life, but I am sure that she did not make $101K at the Lancaster Chamber.

    As far as her being a career politician, she was an EC Leg, then decided to run for Congress, then in the midst of that decided to change horses and run for State Senate…sounds like the basis for career plans too me.

    I know Kathy and like her, I just find this to be a strategic gesture on Collins’ part and a somewhat selfish gesture on her part and quite frankly, I wonder at Collins’ motives. If you used her to make that seat easier to win, she is just his tool. Not good for anyone but Collins in the long run.

  7. Haterade at 7:07 pm #

    Pete – both posts spot on.

  8. PJ at 1:51 am #

    Did anyone see Collins on TV. He denied, in his best Eddie Haskell impression, any political motivation for the appointment. BULLSHIT! This guy is a brilliant political genius. Six Sigma, running government like a business, all of it is just a diversion. He picked the perfect target. Her County Leg races were all struggles in a district which was traditionally GOP. She just came off a bruising state senate campaign that featured negative ads against not only againsther but also her family. It was also embroiled in protracted litigation. After all that, it had to be really easy to take an offer to get out. Collins’ timing was perfect too. The Dems now have an uphill battle to retain that seat. He can now also say that he is being bipartisan. He looked as though he was about to have a facial spasm choking back the smirk that was sneaking onto his face. Nonpolitical,right. Anybody want to bet that Konst doesn’t last a year. Philosophical differences will be cited as his excuse. She’ll be gone as soon has she has exhausted her political usefulness to him.

  9. Russell at 7:57 am #

    PJ, if everything you’re saying is true, it’s not a very smart move by Collins. If Konst is so beaten and battered in a GOP-leaning district, then there would have been no need for Collins to offer her a plum position to do what November’s election would have taken care of for free.

  10. Simonex at 3:02 pm #

    Kathy was one of the legislators targeted by Collins in November, and she, along with Michelle Ianelo, had a big target painted on theri back. Now the GOP will be able to direct all of their $$ against Michelle and, if successful, they’ll get 2 Republicans into the legislature.
    It’s all about the GOP making inroads at weakening the Democratic majority on the legislature and Collins & Domagalski came up with a great strategy.

  11. Terry McNabb at 4:00 pm #

    How is Reynolds vs. Dixon looking in the 12th District?
    What about Kozub being challenged by Tobia in the 1st District?
    Hardwick is a terrible candidate? I don’t agree. Where is Kevin to defend himself and his campaign and his previous efforts to gain elective office?

  12. Konst was still strong in this district (my district) I think she would have beaten Dino Fudoli pretty handily. It was a great move on Collins part. And whoever said it is right…Kathy just got beaten up by Volker. A lot of that crap would have come up again. Even if it is crap, it’s hard to read the newspaper each day with that stuff being said. She gets a great paying job and doesn’t have to run a campaign. Win for Konst.
    The win for the GOP is now
    Domalgowski and Co. can focus on Ianello and Reynolds seat. Not sure what to make about the Reynolds/Dixon race. She has name rec, but not like alot of the other reporters, and I never look at her and say….wow, that lady’s got it all together. I’ve heard both good and bad about Reynolds. They win Ianello and Reynolds and take Konst, it’s a different Legislature all together.

    Great move on Collins’ part.

  13. Bob from Getzville at 7:09 pm #

    Collins is the most political “non-politician” ever, and this hire reeks of politics. Kathy Konst has no credentials whatsoever for this position, and Collins can laugh to the voting booth knowing he has taken away the people’s right to vote for a legislator.
    That doesn’t surprise me considering the way he runs the county: like a dictatorship. He posts the headsof his companies in key positions at the IDA even though they have received IDA dollars. He rams through contracts tohis company even though the charter says it should be approved by the legislature. And he treats all other branches of government as a nuisance. While I have my issues with the legislature they have a role,and Poloncarz has done a great job as comptroller. Konst has shown herself to be a lightweight who hides behind her husband Harry (who showed up at MANY legislative hearings to prod her statements). She knows nothing of the area and will do what King Collins wants without a debate.
    This is terrible for local development issues. Disgusting. Can’t wait until people see the truth in him.

  14. HapKlein at 7:04 am #

    I used to work in environmental enforcement and appointing previously inexperienced political folk to positions in Environmental Decision making really serves the tax payers poorly. Regulatory agencies often spend a lot of time educating and explaining to elected officials how their decisions are controlled by the legislation and court decisions only to see the officials move on in the next election and then have to start all over again.

    For all her intelligence and capability Konst will have a learning curve so steep that her staff will have to form her priorities and point her decision making for the first year or so. This also means that an assistant staff will have to found to guide her for the first few years as Commissioner. This also means that much of her time will be spent learning rather than deciding.

    But this is a modern Republican thing I guess. After all, the most significant thing we learned from the Bush- Cheney years was the repeated mantra “unintended consequences.” With Collins headed along the same road we should see some whoppers emerging over the next couple of years. We still haven’t learned to stop digging once we find ourselves in a deep hole.

  15. PJ at 1:58 am #

    Russell, I didn’t mean to imply Konst was so “battered and beaten” that she had no chance of winning. What I was trying to say that she has had enough of an uphill climb that the appointee offer made it an easy choice for her. I think it was a very smart political move on Collins’ part. As the heading indicates, Konst was low hanging fruit, ripe for the picking.

  16. my2cents at 3:09 pm #

    Mrs.Konst is smart and Politically overwhelmed.

    Mr.Collins is just perfecting is “Play by their Rules” game. He is just doing what Dems would and have done. I think she will be dropped from this position as soon as she has served er purpose. She wont be hurt to badly – now she can skip the financial and emotional re-election game and still qualify for tax funded retirement credits and benefits. Money may not be her issue – but tax funded pension and benefits – hard to walk away from……..

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