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Spitzer's slip and Collins' coup

Maybe it dawned on Gov. Eliot Spitzer when he spoke in downtown Buffalo back on Oct. 10.

Maybe he detected the irony as he detailed plans for reviving the upstate economy, only to endure hounding over his plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

And it's further possible that he recognized that the economic development promises sweeping him into office last year were now horribly sidetracked.

But if he did, driver's licenses festered for five more weeks until he finally backpedaled on Wednesday.

On Oct. 10, however, all of the warning signs were there. That's when Spitzer announced his statewide plan to revive the upstate economy on a "city by city" basis. He chose to introduce the idea in Ani DiFranco's church on Delaware Avenue, itself a symbol of revival and success.

It was an eloquent speech.

He recalled a once proud city, cited the Erie Canal as an economic engine and said new ideas could duplicate that success. Then he announced specific ways the state would aid in redeveloping downtown Buffalo to produce new business and new jobs.

He made similar stops in Rochester and Syracuse. And in the next weeks, he outlined state assistance in creating new high-paying jobs at General Electric in Schenectady and Corning Glass in Corning.

But just like on Delaware Avenue, delivering on his campaign promise to create jobs and revive the upstate economy got lost. Instead, the sideshow took over.

All of the eloquence, all of the planning, all of the campaign promises kept didn't seem to matter.

For sure, Spitzer promised during last year's campaign that he would issue licenses to illegals. But even he would acknowledge that his 2006 success at the polls stemmed not from that promise, but from ideas to change the culture and wipe away upstate's "Appalachia" label.

The license issue is behind him now, though not his problems over "Troopergate" and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. But at least the next time the governor chooses a significant setting to announce the kind of idea that got him elected, he won't have to concentrate on self-induced small potatoes.

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A few leftovers from a most historic local election on Nov. 6:

*Has anyone stopped to think that despite Erie County's Democratic enrollment advantage, the Dems have elected only Dennis Gorski to the office since it was established in 1960?

*And speaking of streaks, Jim Keane preserved another dubious run as he joins a list of city-based Dems who failed in their bids for county executive.

*Jim Griffin may be one of those city Dems who failed (three times) to win the office, but most observers believe his endorsement served as a plus for Republican Chris Collins. Ditto for former County Comptroller Alfreda Slominski.

*The next county executive election in 2011 is a long way off, but three Democratic names to tuck away for cocktail party chatter are Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, County Clerk Kathy Hochul and Orchard Park Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy.

*Some fault Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan for cross-endorsing State Supreme Court Justices Rose Sconiers and Frank Caruso, further depressing the city vote that Sconiers might have encouraged for Keane.

But Erie County's minority Dems boxed him into the cross-endorsement as much as Mayor Byron Brown and Congressman Brian Higgins forced the Keane candidacy. Still fuming over the chairman's decision to bypass African-American Jim McLeod for county judge, they demanded and got bipartisan backing for Sconiers, also African-American.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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