Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A tale of two Chrises

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

For Erie County Executive Chris Collins, it's the worst of times. Hoping to become the first Erie County resident to run for governor in over 50 years, he can't seem to keep his foot out of his mouth long enough to say anything impressive to average voters.

Sure, he's polling well among the tea-baggers of the world, but that's like having someone who claims they saw Bigfoot be the only one to believe you. Hardly re-assuring. Heck, he's not even beating David Paterson in a recent poll. And I firmly believe Paterson would lose the governor's race to a bag of rocks.

While I would normally want to see someone from the area do well in statewide politics, Collins is an embarassment to Western New York and I can only hope that he stays home and duct tapes his mouth before the rest of the state starts to think the rest of us are anything like him.

First he compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – who's Jewish – to Hitler. Then he said it was a joke.

Then he allegedly offered his seat at the State of the State speech to a young woman in exchange for a lap dance. That, he says was a “private conversation that was completely and deliberately mischaracterized.”

I can only imagine what Collins will do for a third act.

As I said, I hope he stops talking before the rest of the state think we're all like that. And don't give me the whole 'but he's from Erie County. What do we care?' bit. You need to recognize that the rest of the state doesn't care that Erie and Niagara counties are different. Just like all your out of state friends assume you drive to Manhattan every weekend and can see the Statue of Liberty from your kitchen window. If Chris Collins runs for governor, he will be the face of Western New York.

Meanwhile, it's the best of times for another Chris from Erie County. Freshman Congressman Chris Lee is receiving accolades and making Western New York proud through his words and actions in Congress.

I'll be honest, Lee scared me at first. He was endorsed by his predecessor, Tom Reynolds, who I can only describe with words this paper won't print. Instead I'll use the words of a former listener. “Tom Reynolds is Dick Cheney without the warmth.”

Reynolds was the perfect example of what I don't want my kids to be when they grew up; cold, cruel, calculating and 100 percent partisan.

Lee has shown that he's no Tom Reynolds. And that's a good thing. He's also No Chris Collins.

The National Journal's Almanac of American Politics calls Lee a “rising star.” Politico refers to him as one of the “rookies of the year.” And Democrats and Republicans alike inside the beltway seem to say he's easy to work with. No one seems to say anything like that about Collins.

Last I had heard, Lee was still without an opponent in this year's mid-term elections – an astounding feat for a freshman congressman. While I typically hate seeing politicians go unopposed in elections, I can't currently think of any reason not to give Lee another two years in office.

If I were to advise the Democratic Party, I'd tell them to sit that race out and concentrate on other areas. Of course, if I were to advise the Democratic Party, I'd tell them to be Libertarians, so they probably wouldn't listen to me anyway.

In Western New York politics, it is the spring of hope. And the winter of despair. And I can only pray that hope comes out on top … and Collins fades quickly into the darkness.