This election featured a number of firsts—including the selection of a female mayor, and an election without any independent public opinion polling done by the daily paper or any other major news outlets.
Typically The Post-Standard hires an independent entity to conduct a public opinion survey, and publishes the results the week before the election. This year there was no poll prior to the hotly contested Sept. 15 primary (which might have detected the surprise of the season, Steve Kimatian’s victory over party designee Otis Jennings in the Republican balloting), and again no poll before the Nov. 3 general election.
“There are many things in our budget,” said Post-Standard senior managing editor Stan Linhorst, “and that wasn’t one of them.” Reached by telephone days after the voting, Linhorst said he did not know what the cost of doing a poll would be, but he said that it was “expensive.” He was uncertain if this was the first mayoral election in Syracuse to go by without a published poll.
Herstory in the making: Election Day 2009 came and went in the Salt City, with the annual pasta blowout at Our Lady of Pompei Church and congratulations after the polls closed. Among the sights (from top): Mayoral winner Stephanie Miner, her husband Jack Mannion, outgoing mayor Matt Driscoll and his wife Patti, Republican mayoral candidate Steve Kimatian, Conservative Party mayoral candidate Otis Jennings and his wife Debbie, 50th District state Sen. John DeFrancisco and Onondaga County Court Judge Joe Fahey, and former County Executive Nick Pirro and his wife Patty. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Former Syracuse mayor and Miner supporter Tom Young celebrated the Dems’ victory as well.
Pollster Jeffrey Stonecash, a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, estimates that a serious scientific poll can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. He did not recall an election for the top spot in City Hall that had not been preceded by a non-partisan poll.
Stonecash has done polling for candidates as well as for The Post-Standard in previous years. After being criticized for a survey showing last year’s race for Congress between Dan Maffei and Dale Sweetland closer than expected, SU asked Stonecash to stop doing partisan polls using university resources to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest. He agreed to end the practice, which had gone unchallenged for decades.
Stonecash said he saw the absence of a poll as part of an overall trend in reporting on local events in local media. “The coverage of local events is declining rapidly,” he said. “As a citizen, I am lost. You feel like you’re totally lost. I just skipped over half the candidates on the ballot, because I didn’t feel like I knew enough about them. You don’t get any in-depth coverage. The decline of voting is a direct reflection of this.”
Others suggested this year’s low turnout was a function of a campaign that focused on issues and not personalities. All three candidates at different times suggested that they believed the campaign was, by and large, a substantive one waged on the issues. There were no fireworks, few juicy sound bites, no pointed fingers or raised voices. Substance, it would appear, doesn’t sell.
If there was anything resembling a fight it was between the Jennings and Kimatian campaigns on the final weekend. The dust-up began with an attack on Miner. On Sunday, Nov. 1, an anonymous flyer was plastered on car windshields and handed out at churches and events largely attended by African Americans.
Emblazoned with the red, black and green of the pan-African flag, the broadside screamed out in large type: “ARE YOU SICK & TIRED OF BEING NEGLECTED, IGNORED, AND DISRESPECTED? This is what we’ve gotten from so-called leaders like Stephanie Miner… 8 years of nonsense!” The flyer seemed to address Miner as if she had been mayor for the past eight years instead of completing her second four-year term as a councilor-at-large.
“Under the current leadership, the Black and Hispanic community are always on the outside looking in… This won’t happen in a Steve Kimatian administration! . . . Join us in making a statement that we are sick and tired of leaders like Stephanie Miner who constantly disrespect us in our face.”
Reached after the election, Kimatian said he didn’t know the source of the flyer. “It was not from me or my campaign. I don’t know individually who wrote it, but it was a group of people on the South Side who felt that I could do a good job, and that they had been left out by a Democratic administration.” Kimatian added that his campaign did not have the flyer printed.
On election night this reporter found a full box of the four-color papers at Kimatian’s office. When asked days later what the flyers were doing there, Kimatian suggested that they had been dropped off by the authors, whom he would not name.
Why was it not signed? “I can only assume,” said Kimatian, “that they felt there would be repercussions.” Kimatian said he would try to contact the authors and ask them to make themselves available to be interviewed, but as of press time he had not come forward with any names.
Conservative Party candidate Jennings, whom Kimatian defeated twice this fall, also addressed the flyer in a post-election interview. “My whole feeling about this issue,” said Jennings, “was this: What’s his track record? If he’s going to create all these jobs in the black community, why hasn’t he done it at Channel 9?” Kimatian was previously the general manager at WSYR-Channel 9.
As far as the origin of the flyer, Jennings didn’t know who wrote it, but offered this suggestion. “If you found it at his office, that tells you everything you need to know.”
Even before Miner is sworn in on Jan. 1, one challenger has already promised to face her in the Democratic primary in 2013. Alfonso Davis, who came in third behind Miner and Joe Nicoletti in this year’s primary, told The New Times that he will be running again four years hence, as a Democrat.