Post-Game: From a Back-Row Seat, Tedisco Mans Up

ALBANY—Assemblyman Jim Tedisco said there is no one to blame but himself for losing a Congressional bid that, by general consensus, was very winnable for a Republican candidate against the all-but-unknown Democrat Scott Murphy.

"I think, any time you lose an election it's basically the candidate's fault," Tedisco told me in an interview on the Assembly floor between bill votes. "So I don't blame anybody else but myself. It's the candidate's fault if he doesn't raise enough money, it's the candidate's fault if he doesn't recruit enough volunteers, it's the candidate's fault if he doesn't communicate the right ideas, and you have to overcome those obstacles. Yeah, I think it's uh—I take the loss. I think if I won it would have been by the help of a lot of other people, which I got. But the loss is my loss."

Privately, at least, most local Republicans seem to agree: they think that this was Tedisco's race to lose, and he lost it. The district has 70,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats, and an early internal poll put out by the Tedisco campaign showed him leading by more than 20 points.

National Republicans have tried to spin the election as a victory because Tedisco came close; The Wall Street Journal Monday morning rejected that idea.

They, and others, have pointed to the nominating process as having created problems for Tedisco. According to two people with direct knowledge of the process, Tedisco was rammed through as the candidate with the support of Republican State Chairman Joe Mondello and Saratoga County Republican Chairman Jasper Nolan. Local Republicans had agreed to not campaign openly for the nomination the weekend after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Tedisco and his surrogates did anyway, the sources said, and what was supposed to have been an open process among candidates, in which they would have been interviewed by the 10 county chairs, never took place.

I asked Tedisco if Mondello should bear any blame for the loss.

"I don't think it was Mr. Mondello's fault or the Republican Party's fault. I think it was the set of circumstances," he said. "I haven't really had time to totally analyze it, but I think the brand has been difficult to run with, and we've got to re-learn Republicanism, and gain the trust of Republicans, so they get back on the line, and I think that was part of the challenge."

He was talking to me from his new chair in the last row of the Assembly. (New Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb called to say that the move was a "ripple effect" stemming from his elevation of Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava to minority leader pro tempore. "It shouldn't be construed as any other kind of change of status," he said.) He read bills the chamber was considering, and a packet of news clippings.

I asked Tedisco how he is doing personally, after losing an election for the first time in three decades. Last week, he looked very much as if the result had taken an emotional toll on him. 

"Fine," he replied. "It's kind of like being an athlete. I played a lot of games. I remember I won 18 games one year, but we lost three. Didn't like to lose any of them. And we didn't like to lose any of them. But we gave it the old college try, we had a lot of support, a lot of good people helped us, and we came very, very close."

Beyond that, he wasn't much interested in going over what might have gone wrong, saying only that "hindsight is 20/20."

Others have been less reticent. John Faso, the former Assembly minority leader whose name was thrown into the mix as a candidate for the Congressional seat, said that dithering on the stimulus bill hurt Tedisco's effort.

"The strategy and the tactics that were employed were not viable, and it would have been very important to take a position outright on the stimulus bill, in opposition to it because it was excessive borrowing and not really stimulative to the economy today," Faso said. "It was unfortunate, because Jim had a lot of positives in his Assembly record, but that message was obscured by a lot of nonsense about bonuses. Since when does a Republican attack a businessman for compensating people?"

When Tedisco stepped down as minority leader, he told reporters asking if would seek re-election to the Assembly if he lost to Murphy. "Well, it's not going to happen, so I don't have to decide that," he said at the time.

I asked him again yesterday, and he said, "Right now my plan is to seek re-election."

I asked about higher office; perhaps to succeed State Senator Hugh Farley, should he choose not to run again.

"The old saying is, you never say no to anything really. Anything's possible," he said.

And another run at Murphy?

"I'm not planning on it, per se, but I wouldn't say no to anything right now." Post-Game: From a Back-Row Seat, Tedisco Mans Up