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Collins’ Exit Interview

19 Dec

Outgoing County Executive Chris Collins granted an exit interview to the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy. This is no surprise, as McCarthy had been quite vocally assuming all summer that, solely on the basis of Collins’ own deep pockets, he would cruise to an easy re-election.

We all know that didn’t happen.

A week after the election, McCarthy transcribed the concern-trolling from several grumbling Republican insiders. Among their concerns,

How did a county executive who fulfilled all his promises with minimal effects on taxes and no scandals manage to lose?

And in yesterday’s Collins interview, McCarthy repeats – almost verbatim – the same Collinsphilia nonsense.

This time, the defeat seems to genuinely hurt. Collins struggles to grasp how he lost after keeping all his campaign promises of 2007 while running Erie County without a hint of scandal.

Setting aside Collins’ sour grapes and complete lack of self-awareness, it is untrue that he “kept all his campaign promises” and was somehow free from scandal.  The first step to getting better, they say, is admitting you have a problem.

The Buffalo News' Bob McCarthy

First of all, to say Collins didn’t have scandals is to ignore the time when he referred to the Jewish Assembly Speaker as the “anti-Christ”, and the time when Collins jokingly demanded a “lap dance” in order to save a seat at the State of the State address for a well-connected female executive at a local construction company. It ignores the fact that, to some people, informing them days before Christmas that they’d be losing their state-funded daycare services and that they’d have to quit their jobs to watch their kids, is quite scandalous indeed.  It ignores how Collins and his newfound nouveau-riche friend Carl tried to bully David Bellavia to drop out of the NY-26 race.

Secondly, Collins did not “fulfill all his promises“. Collins raised taxes, deepened regional cleaves, and ran on“Three Rs – Reforming Erie County government, Rebuilding the local economy, and ultimately, Reducing taxes.”

He did not reform county government – in fact, he resisted and blocked reforms almost routinely (another “r”); he did not rebuild the local economy, but ensured that stimulus funds were hoarded to artificially improve his balance sheet; and he did not reduce – but raised – taxes.

That’s breaking your promises, and that’s failure under any measure. It’s no wonder he lost

As for the remainder of Collins’ pity party,

Over and over again, the county executive turns to a consoling statistic — 39 out of 44.

That’s the number of county municipalities that voted for him on Nov. 8, only to be “overruled” by the cities of Buffalo and Lackawanna, and towns of Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and West Seneca.

That he won a plurality of small-population towns means nothing. People vote – not square footage.

Practically everyone he meets on the street, he said, says they cast their vote for him. His friends and supporters still tell him he was on the right track, and he firmly believes that the struggles and turmoil of his first term had set the stage for a second term of unparalleled success.

“With everything we had fixed,” he said, “frankly, the next four years would have been cruise control.”

Gee, that “cruise control” quip would have made a great campaign slogan. I guess this reveals that people are polite to Mr. Collins when they encounter him on the street.

Collins lost in the cities and big towns, he now says, because of the “polarizing” nature of politics and a stagnant economy that brought home Erie County’s Democratic plurality of 135,000 voters.

The influence of unions in the Poloncarz campaign energized city Democrats, he said, while stoking a “class warfare” mentality that piggybacked on the rhetoric of Washington and Albany.

That’s rich, coming from a guy whose entire agenda involved marginalizing and harming the poorest in the cities in an effort to gain political support in the wealthier suburbs. It’s a hallmark of current Republican thought that it’s important to kick the poor when they’re down. Slackers.

He rejects opponents’ claims of “arrogance” in running government, instead reasoning that his “noisy” four years energized entrenched interests and the status quo.

The “arrogant” label he now says, stuck with voters as part of a four-year “agenda” of The Buffalo News.

Chris Collins attended exactly zero candidate forums this past election cycle. He begrudgingly attended the one televised debate, and the two that weren’t. He couldn’t even be bothered to drive .5 miles up Goodrich Road to speak with voters at Clarence Town Hall at a candidates’ forum hosted by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. It’s not his money that makes him arrogant – it’s his arrogance that makes him arrogant.

“I don’t believe people voted against me because I was successful in business or I live in a nice house,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth.

“It’s just that class warfare polarizes the country,” he added, “so certainly there is an impact now in local elections, and it plays a role in polarizing people back to party affiliation.”

Never forget that Collins was phenomenally successful at exploiting suburban phobias and resentments at the expense of the poorest in the cities. No one played the class warfare game better than he.  Erie County is better off for returning first Chris Lee, and now Chris Collins back to their lives of gentlemanly leisure. Jane Corwin is the last of the hyperwealthy GOP troika left standing, and her loss to Kathy Hochul last May foreshadowed what happened to her next-door neighbor in November.