Elections all over the country rewarded a progressive agenda. There was a big win for collective bargaining in Ohio. In Buffalo, Democrats unexpectedly won several local seats. The state of Maine repealed a Republican effort to deprive voters rights.
Yet, in Binghamton NY Republicans won the County Executive seat and two Council seats. Regrettably, among them was Sean Massey, Even a prominent Republican said, “I can’t believe he lost. Sean Massey really worked hard and did so much more than anyone else. We won’t see that again.” Sean, who is an assistant professor at Binghamton University, a restaurant owner (Tranquil Bistro), co-chair of the Commission on Downtown Business Development, and an active force in many local organizations, won the seat from Chris Papastrat by a mere 14 votes (if memory recalls) four years ago. On Election Day, Papastrat won it back by a much bigger margin.
Why? Elections are hard to analyze, but it may be that Sean got caught up in an anti-Ryan move, and certainly an anti-incumbent sentiment. Ryan’s tolerance of the Occupy Binghamton movement and earlier support of the Cost of War clock may have added up. According to one canvasser for the Working Families Party, “The voters in that district were angry, out of proportion to their concerns. One was the $3 garbage labels for oversized items, even though it is estimated that it has saved the city $70,000 in the first 9 months in user fees at the landfill. Another concern was money spent on the Southside Commons that some voters felt could have been better spent on road repair.” (The Commons was built by other grant money, however.) “Late ads from the challenger, Chris Papastrat, also seems to have riled people up,” according to this worker. Many voters were troubled by the all Democratic council and Papastrat is seen as an affable, benign, if not overly intellectual figure. And perhaps an anti-gay sentiment swayed some voters as well.
What is clear is that City Council has lost a unifying figure, a very smart policy person, and a true leader. Sean is not going away, but Binghamton has lost his considerable talents as a Council person and that’s really sad.