Profiles in Cowardice

On the Empty Chair at the Commissioner of Finance Debate

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Let us define our terms:


chal-in-jer ]

1- A person or thing that challenges,

2- In boxing, a boxer who fights a champion for their title.



Heretofore, implicit in this definition is that a challenger does not often get to pick their battlefield.

Instead, they meet the battle wherever it arises. They will make their case to anyone who will listen.

Heretofore, these challengers would dream that an incumbent would even give them the opportunity to debate.

And, if so, the reply – with relish, was always, of course: At any place. At any time.  

In the toothpaste aisle of Price Chopper, if need be – bring it!

That’s how Michele Madigan brought it, now approaching five election cycles ago. She brought new ideas to the table. And won an election.

And was re-elected.

And re-elected.

And re-elected again.

But that was in the heretofore.

What we are witnessing today on the electoral landscape, is a different animal altogether.


Again, let us define our terms:


kou-er-dis ]


lack of courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition…


Implicit in this definition is the reluctance to engage. Remarkably like an empty chair. Hmmm.

But hardly the hallmark of a challenger, as defined above. In fact, quite the opposite.

When it’s ‘put up’ time – they are nowhere to be seen, Instead, they take advantage of modern-day (but also one-way) communications vehicles.

They mega-tweet. Make groups on Facebook, and develop sites with their POV. Like everyone else. 

Comment anonymously on blogs. Everyone has their favorite flavor… Like everyone else again.

Which is all fine in itself – if your goal is to shore up your own supporters. But these things do not engage those whose minds they need to change; whose votes they need to win.

And so, a true challenger would have seized this moment – Friday, June 14, at the Saratoga Casino Hotel.

Seized a chance to talk to a room that was (my guess) 87% filled. And certainly 97%+ for the incumbent. A true challenger would have seen the opportunity, and showed up.

Showed up – pure and simple.

And maybe not pick up a single vote. But maybe, pick up a lot more respect from the attendees; certainly more than an empty chair did tonight.

Plus, in the interests of equal time (great to see you Mr. Fran LaBelle!) everyone would have to listen to all your ideas – listen to those new approaches that might be worthy of considering… and hear the reasons why you threw your hat in the ring in the first place…

Pffffffft. Instead, the electorate in that room got an empty chair.

So, what did we see tonight?

I’m just an observer with a vote. The conclusions are yours to discuss and decide. To decide as you vote in the June 25 primary, and the general election this fall.

Arthur Gonick – June 15, 2019

At The 12866, your comments are welcome.

If they are not anonymous or under a pseudonym like ‘Truth Teller’ or something equally as dumb… I sign my name to everything I write, and so should you.

And keep it clean, please – I want your Grandparents and Grandchildren to be able to read anything they want on this site.

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