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A REEMERGENCE OF NORTH EASTERN REPUBLICANISM
July 19, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)
On election night 2005 Republicans took a drubbing across New York State, but there was one bright spot for Republicans--Chautauqua County. On that night a quite, unassuming, almost shy appearing man, a Republican, defeated a well financed, two term Democrat for County Executive. Greg Edwards may have been a stranger to Chautauqua County voters but he was certainly no stranger to Chautauqua County politics. His father, Joe Edwards has been a fixture in Chautauqua County politics for years--as a Democrat.
His administration got off to a shaky start--not with the Democrats, but with Republicans on the County Legislature. Edwards it seems was as much a stranger to Republicans as he was to Democrats, but he quickly adjusted. This time around County Executive Greg Edwards has the advantage of an incumbent. However, with that advantage comes a record of performance and to this point Mr. Edwards has not been one bit shy about running on his record.
In his public persona, Edwards is a different kind of Republican from the current national stereotype. He appears to have developed a political style marked by a refinement in taste and manners. Although he doesn’t run from confrontation; he has had more than one dust up with Assembly Member William Parment, but he does appear reluctant to intermingle personalities into the debate. He chooses instead to kick the can further ahead taking a half loaf here and a piece there as long as he ultimately reaches his goal.
Mr. Edwards has also consolidated his support within the Republican Party and party operatives are making an effort to regain former prominence on the Conservative Party line. That effort comes at a time when the emergence of the Independence Party has offset votes for Republicans on the Conservative line and has trended toward Democrats. There is, however, a warning sign on the horizon: There is at least a visceral feeling that Republican Legislators have grown accustomed to serving in the minority.
Being a Republican minority on the County Legislature with a Republican County Executive can be viewed as the best of both worlds. County Legislators in the minority are not the policy makers; they do not control committees and can react instead of being proactive by pushing an agenda for the County Executive. Being in the minority is not a problem as long as they can sustain a veto. The downside might result in less than an energetic legislative campaign (look at the unchallenged seats) and reduce voter turnout in the general election which could hurt the County Executive.
Mr. Edwards might not typify a Northeastern Republican, but he has become the kind of Republican that is missing in the Northeast. Thus far Greg Edwards has shown he is not bound by partisanship or so paralyzed by rigid ideology that he refuses to entertain a multiplicity of ideas. Perhaps his non confrontational style is due in large part to his legal training but he seems comfortable in his own skin and appears to relish his work.. Unless a person has held elective office voters generally do not know much about the work involved or the duties of an elected official. Typically we are likely to apply loose standards of ‘good and bad’ or ‘for or against’ on what friends say or what we hear or read abut the performance of a particular official. Subsequently we grant our elected officials leeway when it comes to performance in office. That is why a high percentage of incumbents are reelected.
Regardless, Greg Edwards has sharpened his political skills and appears ready to engage in a spirited campaign.
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Hon. Greg Edwards Chautauqua County Executive