Those who ignore history are more likely to repeat it.
In 1982, New York City Mayor Ed Koch was the odds-on favorite to follow Hugh Carey into the Governor's Mansion in Albany. However, a funny thing happened on the way to his coronation. He lost.
Koch was a legendary mayor of New York City who has become one of America's best-known and most beloved political personalities. Prior to his run for governor, he was re-elected mayor in a landslide.
Then, in an interview, Koch offered his perspective on upstate life. He stated that living upstate is "nothing. It's wasting your life." To add insult to injury, he also said that he would not waste "time in a pickup truck when you have to drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or a Sears Roebuck suit." Ouch!
With this in mind, I refer you to Ed Koch's endorsed candidate for governor in 2006: Eliot Spitzer. It was Spitzer who recently remarked, "If you drive from Schenectady to Niagara Falls . . . it looks like Appalachia."
Appalachia, a vast mountain region that stretches from the Deep South to the Mid-Atlantic region, shares little in common with the upstate that millions of hard-working New Yorkers call home. Largely isolated from modern urbanized areas, the Appalachian Region is known for its underdevelopment, harsh coal-mining practices and widespread poverty. Using the term "Appalachia" only proves that Spitzer is out of touch with upstate New York.
I'm very proud to live in Monroe County, located in upstate New York. I have lived here my entire life and have chosen to raise my family here as well. Upstate New York is a special place; for a candidate to win upstate, he or she must understand its culture and values. To mock upstate, or to refer to upstate with condemnation and disdain, is to act at your peril. Just ask Koch.
Upstaters live in a vital region rich in history, culture and entrepreneurship. While there's no question that upstate New York is encountering some economic struggles, it is disingenuous and offensive to compare our region to one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the country. The area from Schenectady to Niagara Falls is made up of strong families, skilled workers and a spirit of optimism, all struggling to cope with the heavy tax burden imposed by Albany.
As upstate New Yorkers work diligently to improve and advance our economy, we need another leader like Gov. George E. Pataki who will fight to lessen our tax burden, ensure that we receive our fair share and make us proud to be New Yorkers.
A candidate for governor should offer leadership, not insults. He or she should offer a vision, new ideas and a burning passion for reform. You can be assured that under my watch as chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, our party and our candidates for governor will work tirelessly to promote and advocate for upstate New York. Our people deserve nothing less.
Stephen J. Minarik III is state Republican chairman.