I chatted with Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush last week about the paucity of candidates in state legislative races, and he offered some interesting insights as to why he very well could skate through Nov. 6 without a challenger.
His hypothesis — which many privately agree with, in much starker and more cynical terms — is that it's just too difficult.
"I just think people in general, even people that may think that they would like to go on to statewide, the Assembly or Senate, really aren’t willing to or want to be in a campaign mode all the time," said Mr. Blankenbush, R-Black River.
Indeed, senators and members of the Assembly serve two-year terms. That means that about half of their time in Albany is spent in campaign mode.
Mr. Blankenbush said he especially dislikes fundraising.
"What is it that I dislike the most? Coming back and doing fundraising in my district, it's the same people you ask for help year in and year out," he said. "I like representing the people in Albany, but the worst part of this job is raising money to run. With the population we have up here, you seem to be hitting the same people over and over again."
The R word also came up — redistricting. Out of the four legislators that currently hold office in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, Mr. Blankenbush was the only one who saw his district change in any significant way, but it's still 70 percent the same, and it got even more Republican.
Despite his lack of an opponent, though, Mr. Blankenbush is still campaigning. A Democrat could still get into the race. He's been visiting his new Oneida County towns, and keeping up with his current territory, too.
"I’m still doing what I would be doing if I’m campaigning," he said.
I'll add here about the lack of candidates — and this is my own opinion, not that of Mr. Blankenbush — that a perception of Albany finally working again has probably kept some people on the sidelines. Going through the Watertown Daily Times archives from the 2010 races, it's easy to find references to fixing Albany, to Albany's late budget, to Albany dysfunction. But polls indicate that New Yorkers believe their government is working again.
There's just not that much left to caterwaul about.