June 8, 2011

26th Congressional Afterthought: Bouncing Back

Politics is a funny game, especially for those who've spent a good deal of time in the arena. Just this week we learned of revelations that will eventually lead to the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the Congressman who had his sights set on running for mayor of New York City when Mike Bloomberg's term is up. It really is amazing how quickly folks in the political arena can so quickly fall from grace.

Locally, a couple of familiar faces have taken some pretty serious hits lately, namely Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and former Jane Corwin Chief of Staff Mike Mallia. Just eight short months ago, Langworthy had been riding high after helping Carl Paladino to a huge win in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Erie County carried the second highest vote percentage for Paladino in the state, just behind Niagara County. Of course, the Paladino campaign went on to a massive implosion, but Langworthy made his mark and received the credit he was due.

Turn the page to late May. Langworthy has taken his share of lumps for the loss in the 26th CD. That's the nature of the business - one second you are on top of the world, the next moment you're the goat. And it all happens on the front page of every newspaper, on the network news and on every blog that covers politics. If you don't have thick skin, you won't last. But that's the thing with Langworthy - he does have thick skin and he will bounce back.  And ultimately he will be wiser from the lessons of a race that went from slam dunk to disaster and he won't make those mistakes again.

Mallia's situation is a tougher one to gauge. People have told me that he's a bright kid with strong political instincts.  But the exuberance of young man trying to capture the "gotcha" moment on Jack Davis contributed to Corwin's loss.  The fact is there is no substitute in a campaign for good strategy, good messaging and hard work.  Mallia's mistake hopefully puts the brakes on the proliferation of the lazy campaign tactic of following the other side around.  And there should have been more adult supervision on this race to make sure Mallia didn't cross the line.  But we all make mistakes early in our careers and bounce back.

Indeed, politics is a game of resilience. One guy who knows the ups and downs of politics of Joel Giambra. Prominently featured on the front page of yesterday's Buffalo News, Giambra has seen a political resurrection unlike any I can recall. It wasn't long ago that Giambra was vilified for his red and green budgets that tried to get taxes and spending under control in Erie County. Unfortunately for Giambra, the redcoats at Channel 2 used the sage to make a name for themselve and he fell out of favor.

While his visibility in politics diminished, Giambra never stayed away. He laid low, reinvented himself, and emerged last year as the mastermind behind a little known candidate named Mark Grisanti. The rest is history. Giambra now serves as the Managing Director of Park Strategies, one of the most powerful lobbying firms from Buffalo to Washington, and is once again being prominently mentioned on the front pages of the Buffalo News for his great work for the community.

My point is this: politics is often a nasty game. People rise, people fall, and sometimes people rise again. 24/7/365 you've got people trying to bring you down in an effort to make themselves, their party or their candidate look "better". (As a side note, I never thought Chris Lee should have resigned - he'd have weathered the storm and persevered - and he'd have beaten Kathy Hochul, but that's another story for another time.) Joel Giambra is a warrior who proved this. He went from the highest of political highs to the lowest of political  lows and now he's riding high again.  It's the nature of the business.

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