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Reach out and touch somebody’s hand

It’s difficult to get a “read” on this year’s Onondaga County Executive race. Unconfirmed polls have Republican Joanie Mahoney up by 4 percentage points. The Magnarelli campaign has stacked up endorsements like poker chips in an effort to wrest control of the powerful County Executive job from republicans who’ve held the position since its inception.

There are arguments on both sides that their particular candidate would be best for the African-American community.
On the Democratic side, Magnarelli supporters make the case that with ensuing retirements and “change” that a Democratic administration would bring new blood into positions long held by suburban white Republicans. The new democratic County Executive would be able to diversify the appointed workforce thus creating more opportunity for blacks to participate in Onondaga County government.

Republican supporters of Joanie Mahoney point out her ability to bring different people to the table. Her reference to Doris Kerns Goodman’s book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” raised a lot of eyebrows. Much to her credit, Mahoney has drawn on old friends who attended Corcoran High School with her and remained on board even after losing the tight mayoral race with Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll.

Criticism of Magnarelli’s aloof demeanor on the campaign trail has angered some longtime active Democrats. As one middle-aged black woman said after a Magnarelli campaign event, “He’s afraid to touch black people.” She said this with a tone reserved for older African-American woman chastising a well-meaning “hoity toy tee” salesman. I held off writing this because I thought it was an anomaly, obviously a feeling expressed by just one person. But when that assessment turned into several women who felt that way I have to bring it up. In summary he “appears to be uncomfortable around black people.”

Joanie Mahoney is still nursing self-inflicted wounds endured when she moved out of the City of Syracuse soon after the ballots were counted. “She had to be planning to move all along,” one disappointed Joanie supporter mused as she shopped at Wegman’s on Onondaga Boulevard. “There are some of us who’d like to leave too.”

But those around the Mahoney campaign are poised to win this election if the numbers hold. Like Roy Bernardi in the panel truck embarking on a mission to become Mayor of Syracuse. The Mahoney campaign had to challenge the Republican Party in order to take the nomination from longtime legislator Dale Sweetland. It took guts.
Joanie has promised to look at things with a new set of eyes. Magnarelli supporters are talking about the prospect of “inclusion” in the operation of Onondaga County.

As someone who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats in appointed positions, I find that Democrats talk about inclusion when the black vote is needed. But once the ballots are counted, African-American Democrats are treated like a sex partner in a Minnesota public bathroom.

I served as director of development at the New York State Fair. The Republicans quietly empowered minority entrepreneurs by having someone on-site to make sure it happened. Despite overwhelming support for Democratic Governor Elliot Spitzer, blacks have received no benefit by supporting Democrats.

I would ask the supporters of Mr. Magnarelli what has he done to support appointments of local African-Americans in New York State positions by this Democratic governor?
Does Mr. Magnarelli have any African-American staff in his Assembly office? If not, how can we the black community to trust him just because a few people guaranteed to get jobs support him? I’m just asking the question.

Not to escape my virus infected political pen, Republicans are so unfamiliar with black people in their everyday lives that we’re invisible to them and when we appear we’d might as well have three eyes and two noses with matching antennas. After the last innocently burped, “I can’t believe a black Republican” at a Republican event, I stopped going. Next they’ll want to rub our children’s heads for good luck.

Both political parties treat the black community as “some-thing” that takes from Onondaga County government instead of embracing us as full partners in citizenry.

The winner of this race may well boil down to the words of an old Supremes song: “Reach out and touch/Somebody’s hand/Make this world a better place/
If you can.”

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