Dude, you gotta be kidding!

Walt Shepperd 08/14/09More articles
Despite setback, Michael Heagerty is not out of the running for his council seat

Last month the Salt Cityís 14 political junkies snapped their heads in unison. After nominating petitions were scrutinized, First District Common Councilor Michael Heagerty had failed to qualify for the ballot designation he had received from the Democratic Party by one signature. How unreal was that? Check it out: he hadnít signed his own petition.

Confusion reigned immediate. Those obsessed with things electoral locally pondered more scenarios than were produced by the last Republican mayoral maneuverings. Was it arrogance? Early Alzheimerís? Perhaps a coded message that for someone who had played such an activist role in the development of Armory Square and the renovation of the Palace Theater, the petty and pr
ocrastinating pace of city politics was too much to bear?
ďHeís dead in the water,Ē one grizzled veteran observer of scene declared. ďBut heís so . . . so . . . known,Ē another countered. Without particular emotion, the debate raged about the lack of ballot behavior below Rows A and B on voting machines, as opposed to the name recognition factor in a less than citywide race. In the following conversation, Heagerty brings some clarity to the challenge he will face as an incumbent this November.

He maintains he will not expend time, personnel and resources on gathering petitions for an independent line, which would be buried at the bottom of the ballot. He carries the designation of the Working Families Party, and will run on that line, under their banner.

Was this embarrassing?
Thereís definitely a little bit of embarrassment there. A little bit. I made the front page. Itís a lesson. Iíve been embarrassed more by other things. I could have worked harder. I could have done a better job at it. I never really took it for granted, but one of the hardest things for me personally is going door-to-door. It really is. I have a problem with that. I think that for your volunteers itís a lot of signatures, a lot of work to do, so itís hard to gather up. Hundreds and hundreds of signatures.

How many did you need?
I needed 335.

Isnít the rule to get double to be safe?
They say 20 percent more. But I would recommend to anybody to double that. I could use every excuse in the book. Iím really busy with Council business. Iím really busy with my own personal work. Iím busy with my children. So it really is difficult to get out there in the evenings and knock on doors.

Do you think your backing Joe Nicoletti in the mayoral primary, and the party having given the designation to Stephanie Miner play any role in this?
I donít think so. I would hope that wouldnít play any kind of role at all. I would hope that our committee is our committee and they go out and do what they do, pass your petitions. Weíre all Democrats. I like Stephanie. I think sheís terrific. Joe is a mentor and close friend of mine and itís just more of the way I would go.

As a mentor, the first time around did he give you guidelines on gathering petition signatures?
Absolutely. Sure. He mentored me the whole way. He also mentored me in how to run a good, fair race. Itís a lesser race, itís a district seat, but still I was running, I wanted to do well, and I wanted to do it right to set it up for future races youíre going to want to run. Joe taught me how to run a clean race. Two years ago I could have challenged my opponentís signatures, or we could have challenged his actual residency. If things were really, really blatant, we might have done that. Otherwise, I was going to run my race, give my stump speeches and sell people on myself and my experience.

Is the lesson that you, personally, have to check every single signature?
I think thatís why we have a Democratic headquarters. Thatís what those guys do. What happens is you need to get your signatures done early, so thereís time to check them all. So many people go so late that youíre down to the wire. That doesnít give people enough chance to check very, very carefully. The fact remains these werenít fake signatures. They were just slightly, by a street, by a block on the other side of the district boundary. It was unfortunate that way.

Was your first reaction, ďDude, I blew it!Ē
My first reaction was, ďYouíve got to be kidding me.Ē Iím committed. Iím in. I work really hard every day as a district councilor. Iím green. Iím new. Itís been two years, an amazing learning curve. And Iím looking forward to doing better in the next two years. And as it turns out, I have that second line on the ballot, the Working Families Party, which Iím really glad to be part of. What that means is, while we were going to go for an independent line, it didnít make any sense to go out and build a 500 signature effort. So Iíll run on the Working Families Party line as a Democrat. I donít think that itís this major coup for the Republicans.

But this will make it harder.
A little bit harder. My constituents will have to look down four lines (on the ballot) and there I am. My lawn signs will be out. My literature will go out. At that point weíll just be able to see how it is. I think Iíve done as good a job as you can do with a part-time position. Personally, I think it should be a full-time job. I think you should find people who want to do this full-time and can do it full-time, to act as liaisons with the community. You could get more involved with community development. But really, itís a unique individual that can do this, do their job, and raise a family.

If you win, would you be a Working Families caucus of one?
Thatís an idea. Iíd still be a Dem because of my registration. But Iíve got to say Iíve got a lot respect for the Working Families Party. Iíve watched them grow and theyíre a pretty impressive organization. I see them as a major force at some point.

If door-to-door is a weak suit for you, what will you have to do to win the election on that line?
Iíll rev up my literature. I will do door-to-door. Thereís no question about it. Iíll walk the Northside with Joe Nicoletti. He walked with me last year. Weíll walk together as two candidates. Iíve learned so much from Joe, itís not even funny. He is the best at running a campaign.

To arrange a Q&A with Walt Shepperd Ė or 434-8889 ext. 319.

CATEGORY: Government
TAGS: Joe Nicoletti,Working Families Party,Republican mayoral,First District Common Councilor Michael Heagerty Democrats in syracuse NY
EDITION: The Eagle

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