Democrats Feel The Heat
Dave Lussier Misses New York County Election by Only 11 Votes
Mark Dunlea, Green Party of New York State
Dave Lussier, the Green Party candidate for Albany County Legislature (7th District) in New York, narrowly missed an opportunity to become one of only three Greens in 2007 elected in a partisan election. (In many states, only state and federal offices are partisan i.e., where candidates ran with party affiliation on the ballot. However in New York State, municipal and county elections are also partisan, making such elections even more challenging for local Greens).
On election night, Lussier held a 5-vote lead, 531 to 526, against the Dem o cratic challenger, Brian Scavo. But Scavo eventually won by eleven votes when paper and absentee ballots were counted. However, several ballots showed clear evidence of election fraud by Scavo (his handwriting showed he personally filled out ballots and misspelled the word “vacation” on two). But it wasn’t sufficient to overturn the election results.
Lussier, 31, is getting his Masters in Urban Studies. “One of the reasons for our success was that people are starting to grasp the importance of environmental issues. Global warming is part of it but they responded to issues like recycling, more bike paths and green energy. We gave them concrete examples of how green values could translate into beneficial action for their community,” Lussier said.
The 7th District spanned four different neighborhoods. Lussier won 3 of them, carrying the working class, student, and middle-class African-American areas. Scavo won the fourth, older white homeowners who voted against the city schools and property taxes, even though that isn’t the responsibility of the County Legislature.
Two years ago, Lussier pulled more than 30% of the vote, finishing second in a four-way partisan race for Albany City Council, District 11. This high vote is significant as Albany is the home of the most successful Democratic machine in the US, with a record of electoral success outstripping that of Chicago.
A former vice-chair of his local neighborhood association, Lussier works in construction. He handed out tulips to voters as part of his neighborhood beautification efforts. “Dealing with the problem of abandoned buildings in Albany has always been a top priority,” said Lussier. “I want them fixed up and put back into the hands of local residents who are invested in building a better community. The county also needs to do more to promote health care for all as a way to control Medicaid costs, and ensure a living wage to all county workers.” He added, “This campaign highlights that every vote does indeed count. I want to thank every voter in this election who made time to participate.”
Scavo’s track record of harassment of local residents, particularly young women, became a big issue during his campaign; many neighborhood leaders and even some Democratic party officials decided to back the Greens. The local alternative newspaper the Metroland ran exposs on Scavo and endorsed Lussier, stating “Lussier might be a little bright-eyed but there is no doubt that Lussier is the best man for the job. Lussier wants to ensure people have a reason to live in Albany County, and deal with the county’s abandoned-buildings problem. Plus, Lussier shines when compared to his Democratic opponent Brian Scavo. Two years ago when running for Albany Common Council, Scavo invited our then-news editor, Miriam Axel-Lute, on a date during an interview. But besides his questionable behavior, Scavo has campaigned on issues such as fixing Albany schools and reducing crime that he would have no control over as a county legislator. Lussier is quite simply the only choice on election day in the 7th District.”
Peter LaVenia, co-chair of the Green Party of New York State, remarked Lussier’s campaign was one the best organized in New York. They had a strong doorknocking campaign to do voter identification, and spent a lot of time making sure the information was kept up to date in a computer database. They had a target goal of 500 votes and managed to bring in a few more, as the turnout was unusually high. Throughout the afternoon and evening volunteers were checking the voting lists at the polling places and going door to door to make sure Lussier’s voters got out. Neighborhood residents were running out of their houses at 8 p.m. to ask the Green volunteers, “Hey, do you know if my neighbor has voted yet? Otherwise, I’ll go get him for you.”
“The door-to-door work was key. The machine takes too many voters for granted. We fell just short, but we showed that it is possible to beat the Democrats in Albany. Their air of invincibility is gone and it means that progressives can’t get away any longer arguing they agree with the Greens on the issues but can’t support us because we can’t win,” added Lussier.
Lussier had also been one of the founding members of the Green House movement in Albany, where young people lived together in a house and took on neighborhood projects such as distributing food, cleaning up vacant lots and opposing large corporate developments that would evict existing residents. Lussier’s new project is building snow people protestors throughout the neighborhood. “Snowmen and women have rights too,” he noted. “They have been out protesting global warming and no wars for oil. Snow people are a fun way to get people’s attention.”