Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs made an ambitious promise to voters: that his election to the State Senate would bring term limits to Albany for all state legislators. He won the 60th State Senate District — a pivotal swing district that has been at the crux of Republican control of the chamber — with 59% of the vote in a district that is enrolled 2-to-1 Democrat.
That’s no small accomplishment, but observers wonder if Jacobs’ bold campaign promise will be his undoing when he will face reelection in two years.
Few think Jacobs will be able to make right on the promise, which would require a majority vote in the Senate and Assembly for two consecutive years, and the signature of the Governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (who himself is under the scrutiny of the US Attorney’s office for public corruption) has indicated he would support term limits on the legislature. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) is against term limits. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Long Island) supports the concept of term limits publicly, but is against term limits privately.
The situation has local observers wondering if Jacobs’ campaign promise reflects his own Herculean expectations of himself. Or, was it a cynical election time ploy to yield votes without an expectation that he would be held accountable for the commitment.
“It’s almost as bad as Hillary Clinton promising to create 200,000 jobs in Upstate New York. There are two-faced politicians, and there are honest politicians,” reflects a longtime resident and voter in Delaware 23, a Parkside neighborhood election district that often over-performs in turnout.
A longtime local operative speculates that Jacobs will blame others in Albany for any failure to achieve term limits. That makes his susceptible to a slew of criticism relating to his integrity, honesty, and effectiveness.
The same operative concedes that, if Jacobs were able to achieve such a sweeping constitutional reform in his first term, he would be nearly guaranteed a reelection victory.
Some speculate that Jacobs is planning to pull a trump card: every 20 years, including on November 7, 2017, voters will decide whether the State should assemble a constitutional convention to redraft the State’s constitution.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, activist Amber Small, Hamburg Supervisor Steven Walters, and Grand Island Councilman Mike Madigan have all been mentioned as possible contenders for the seat in 2018.
“Any term limit in excess of 12 years for a state legislator will be seen largely as a failure, and voters will be offended,” postulates another voter.