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Democrats prove they're out of touch

It was not easy, but they did it.

It was not easy to lose the race for the county's primary office, when your troops outnumber the Republican opposition by 144,000 voters.

It is not easy to fail, given the gift of a departing Republican county executive who led us into the arms of a financial control board.

It is not easy to screw up when the odds are with you, the wind is at your back and the national mood swings Democratic.

You cannot underestimate these people. You cannot underestimate their myopia. You cannot underestimate how out of touch -- how focused on the culture of patronage jobs and tired next-in-line candidates -- the hierarchy of the Democratic Party is.

Note to Democrats: The region is in a free fall. Give us something other than the overly familiar and the half-baked. It just shows that you are blind to reality.

The Democrats got the beating Tuesday they deserved. Their candidate for county executive, longtime party loyalist Jim Keane, was crushed by relatively unknown business executive Chris Collins.

Such big-muscle Democrats as Rep. Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown somehow believed that a too-familiar face from a longtime political family would not look like More of the Same to most voters. Party boss Len Lenihan eventually went along.

The 61-year-old Keane, who was deputy county executive to Dennis Gorski, spent thousands of dollars on ads touting his government experience. Collins should have paid Keane to run them. In this community, in this climate, "government experience" merely means that you are part of the problem.

If I had a dollar for every time Collins threw the pejorative phrase "career politician" at Keane, I would be nearly as rich as he is.

With four decades in public office, Keane symbolized a political culture that promises much and delivers little. He stood in many minds for a chronic failure of creativity, innovation and reform amid a long-term decline. It wasn't totally fair. Keane is a sincere, decent man who deserved better than to be thrown into the path of public discontent.

The folks who anointed Keane are tunnel-vision types who regard Gorski's tenure as some sort of golden age. As they found out Tuesday, it is a minority opinion. Voters want more than a memory of a solid but uninspired county executive who reformed little in a high-tax county that is bleeding jobs and people.

Meanwhile, Republicans have understood for years that the alarm is ringing and people want something different. Collins is the latest in a line of appealing, real-world Republican candidates. His choice was no accident. Republican party boss Jim Domagalski, in a prophetic remark, told The Buffalo News 10 months ago that he was looking for "someone like a CEO, a true leader, not a recycled and longtime politician just looking for a new job."

Voters want someone who might help us out of our mess. They do not care whether the person is Republican or Democrat. The unnatural disaster that is upstate's economy renders political boundaries meaningless. What matters to people are more jobs, less government and lower taxes.

Paul Saeli is one of thousands of Democrats who voted for Collins. He lives in West Seneca, publishes a business newsletter and wonders whether his three kids will be able to stay.

"With Keane, it just seemed like the same old show," Saeli said. "Collins says he will run things like a business, instead of just blowing our money away. It's refreshing."

This was not an easy election for Democrats to lose. By offering us Keane, they only showed how out of touch they are.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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