CGP Community Stories

Anthony Casale, November 15, 2017

Title

Anthony Casale, November 15, 2017

Subject

Politics
Herkimer
Otsego County
Cooperstown
Washington D. C.
Boca Raton, Florida
New York
Government
Political Parties
Republican
Education
Community
Media
News
New York State Legislature
New York State Assembly
Herkimer County
Environmental Conservation
Congress
President
Lynn University

Description

Anthony J. Casale has had 40 years of experience in government, politics, business, and higher education in New York, Florida, and Washington D.C. During his time as a student at the University of Albany, he began his political career as an intern, working on political campaigns until he ran for New York State Assembly in 1978. During his tenure, he worked with several state agencies, including the New York State Liquor Authority and the Environmental Conservation Committee.

After 17 years serving in the New York State Assembly, Anthony Casale then worked for Congress in Washington D.C. He left the political sector when he was invited to work with the administration of Lynn University, a small school in Boca Raton, Florida before moving back to upstate New York to live in Cooperstown. Now, he is self-employed as a consultant for local politicians and businesses.

I interviewed Mr. Casale in his office in Cooperstown, New York. Casale’s recollections range from explanations of his political career – both in New York State and in Washington D.C. to his time working in Florida and his current work as a consultant. Because of his lengthy career in government, a major point of discussion related to how the nature of politics and political campaigns has changed over his career, as well as the changing role of the media in politics. He provides his thoughts on the current political leadership and the public’s participation in politics.

Creator

Nathan Samoriski

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2017-11-15

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5MB
audio/mpeg
20.9 MB
image/jpeg
773 x 974 pixel

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

17-017

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cooperstown NY
Herkimer County, NY
1947-2017

Interviewer

Nathan Samoriski

Interviewee

Anthony J. Casale

Location

29 Pioneer Street
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

NS:
This is Nathan Samoriski interviewing Anthony Casale on November 15, 2017, in his office in Cooperstown, New York. Now, I’d like to start with a little bit of your background. So can you tell me about where and when you grew up?

AC:
Yes. I was born and raised in Herkimer, which is on the Mohawk River, just north of Cooperstown, and lived there my entire life until I went off to college in the mid-sixties.

NS:
And how did you first become interested in law and politics?

AC:
Well, I attended the University of Albany. I had an interest always in civic affairs and history. I’m not a scientist or a mathematician. I had a real interest in politics, and thought that I would major in Political Science, which I did. And while I was a student at the University of Albany, I think it was my junior year, one of our professors suggested that since Albany is the capital of New York State, and the state capitol is about a two-mile ride from the campus, that students should try to get some experience, either as interns or volunteers at the capitol. So, through a friend of mine, I was able to get an interview with our local state senator who brought me on board in January of 1968 as a part-time student assistant. In those days, they called us clerks. And, I worked a couple afternoons a week at the legislative session, basically it was in the early days what you might call a “go pher” job – you know, run errands, take the senator’s briefing books over to the chamber for him. But I had the opportunity to sit in on the legislative sessions, both the senate and assembly, and watch the process. So, let’s say for the first couple years, I was a pretty keen observer, but I wasn’t a participant.

NS:
What do you think brought about your interest in politics when you went to school?

AC:
I think it was the notion of trying to serve your community, trying to do something for someone else. I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I know a lot of people think it’s the law-making and the rule-making and the power and all that, but to me, rule-making and law-making really is a way of helping people as well. So my biggest interest, even when I was a legislator myself, was finding out how I could help people solve their problems, and by learning what their problems are, trying to figure out if there’s a way we can change the law or change the way government runs to make people’s lives better. And that’s kind of the background there.

NS:
Can you tell me in more detail about your political career?

AC:
Okay, as I said, I started as a student assistant in the State Senate. And then when I graduated from college, I went into the New York State Senate’s Graduate Intern program – a one-year program. It’s a combination of classroom work and practical experience working in the state senate. I did that for about a year. I had some military time in between, did some active duty. And then the senator I worked for hired me full time. I worked for him until 1972. And then in 1972, our local state assemblyman in Herkimer County decided to run for Congress. And I’d gotten to know him. He invited me to work on his campaign for Congress. So that was the first real major campaign I worked on, had a major role in, and that was in ’72. We won that congressional race. He then invited me to be a member of his staff. Went to Washington, served as his legislative assistant in Washington for about a year, year and a half. And then he transferred me back to the district operation where I ran his district offices and his district operation until 1978. In ’78 there was a vacancy for the New York State Assembly, and I put my name forward and got the party nomination. I ran in a primary, ran in the general election. I was elected to the assembly in 1978. I was elected nine times; I served there for 17 years. And then in the middle of my ninth term, the newly elected governor, George Pataki, appointed me to head the New York State Liquor Authority, which is a cabinet-level position. So I basically became the head of a state agency. I did that for one term – about three years. And then left state government altogether. I went into higher education work as an administrator. More of the corporate vice president of a small school, did that for a few years. And then when that job ended, my wife and I decided we wanted to come back home, and I began my own public affairs business, which I now operate in Cooperstown. So I do public affairs work, assisting people, and advising people, primarily on how to handle their business development and government relations needs. And I also do some advising for political candidates and political parties. So that’s kind of where I’ve been the last fifty years.

NS:
You mentioned you had experience in the military. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

AC:
Yeah, I enlisted in the New York Army National Guard while I was in college, went through basic training and eventually, was transferred to the United States Army Reserve. I was a Reservist for a number of years working with a hospital unit based up in Utica. I wouldn’t say my military experience was anything large, anything important, but I did serve. Basically I served stateside, and our role was to back up U.S. installations for the troops that were being deployed elsewhere in the country.

NS:
Do you think your military experience influenced your thoughts on politics?

AC:
To a degree, yes. I think first of all, the regimen and the discipline that you pick up in the military is very important in life. It also instilled in me the need to help people. The military is the great equalizer. Everyone is equal. It’s all based on rank and seniority. It’s not based on race, creed, color or social status, which I thought was a very important lesson for people. As you travel in the military, you meet people from all fifty states and elsewhere. You meet people from all walks of life. It was a great experience for me. I enjoyed it.

NS:
Did you mainly stay in the U.S.?

AC:
Yeah, I was stateside. I was never deployed overseas.

[TRACK 1, 7:02]

NS:
Describe for me the process of the political campaigns that you were involved in.

AC:
I never thought I’d be saying this, back in the old days, but when I first started in politics, it was a lot more localized, a lot more personal, a lot more hands-on if you will. Campaigns back when I started, yes there was money involved because you needed resources to pay for the advertising, but the bulk of the advertising in those days was newspapers, direct mailing, maybe some television depending on the scope of the race. It was nowhere near the size and scope of campaigns today. I tell young people that are getting involved today, they find it hard to believe – 1972, I worked on a congressional campaign, eight county district where we did extensive traveling. So a lot travel expenses involved with our vehicles. It was a door-to-door type campaign. We did direct mailing. We did some bit of television up in the Mohawk Valley. And the entire campaign, primary and general election, cost us 85,000 dollars. And in those days, we thought we had spent a million bucks. That’s what people thought. The other thing is, campaigns in those days relied heavily, heavily on volunteers. The notion was that if someone wanted to volunteer on a campaign, you could get them to help stuff envelopes, and prepare envelopes; have them help you go door to door; still use volunteers in campaigns today, but today a lot of campaigning is based on paid professionals and consultants and technology, which I guess is the way to go today. But back in the day it was a lot more personal, a lot more localized. The other thing too, is campaigns back when I started used to begin in the spring. Primary season began in maybe June. In New York State we have a petition process to get on the ballot. That begins in the spring. So candidates would announce their candidacy maybe, in the election year, maybe March or April and start the process, especially new candidates. And then you’d have a primary and a general election, the campaign would be over, then you’d go about the business of governing. And then you didn’t think about campaigns for at least another year. Well it seems like we’re in perpetual campaign mode in this country – nationally, even state. In the first half of this year, which is the first year of a term of say, members of Congress or state legislators. We’ve got people announcing now, for races a year and a half from now. I read the other day, there’s something like six candidates vying to oppose our local congressman, and they’re all running around getting support now. I just think that the perpetual campaign cycle is bad because, first of all, it makes campaigns much more expensive, and secondly, I think it alienates the voters. The average voter wants to find out about candidates and campaigns at election time, wants to make an informed decision and go to vote. I don’t think they want to be barraged with political mailings and advertising and issue advocacy 24/7. I think people get turned off by a lot of that. So the campaigns have changed in that sense. And fundraising back when I started was primarily centered on the political party. The central political party would raise the funding and help fund the campaigns. Today, every candidate from every office from president right on down to town clerk have campaign funds in many cases, and they have their own infrastructure and their own fundraising mechanisms. So it’s become even more complicated and more expensive.

NS:
How else have you seen politics change? The nature of politics change over your career?

AC:
Well, I guess the other big factor is on the media side. It used to be that reporters—and reporters did their job right—the job of the reporter was to learn the facts, report the facts, report the news as it happened, and yes, get a scoop every once in a while. And of course, they would be reporting the negative as well as the positive news. But ever since the time of Watergate, in the mid-70s, where it was a big scandal, and it was the press that uncovered this as opposed to the courts and the prosecutors, that every young reporter wants to be the next Woodward and Bernstein, the two reporters that were famous for Watergate. And it seems like the media is in more of a “gotcha” mentality than it is a reporting mentality. So much of the media today, they want to shape the news rather than report the news. And the other aspect of that, that I think is a little bit concerning is the fact that we now have so many news outlets and it is 24 hours a day. You’ve got 24-hour news stations on both ends of the spectrum, everything from Fox to CNN to MSNBC. And you’ve got the news available to you on television, on radio 24/7 and through the Internet. So it’s a constant barrage of information and news, there’s all kinds of blogging, there’s all kinds of commentary, there’s talk radio. It just seems like we’re immersed in it so much. And again, I think this is part of the reason why people... If you look at the turnout though, it doesn’t affect turnout. Turnout is still low in this country. When you look at the total number of people eligible to be voters, paired with the number who actually registered to vote, there’s a drop-off. And then of those who are registered to vote, the percentage that actually votes is quite small. So in effect, you’ve got a very small percentage of the total population actually participating in the process. And they talk about trying to improve that by instant registration, same day registration, early voting, 24 hour voting, electronic, you know, electronic voting. All these proposals are out there, and you still don’t see that much of an increase. I spent some time in Florida while I was working there, where they do a lot of early voting. And I don’t think the percentage of turnout there is much higher than it is in the states that don’t have early voting. So I don’t think that it’s a function of the logistics of voting. I think it’s the mindset of people who just get so turned off, who think that it doesn’t make any difference anyway. And I think sometimes, all this excess reporting, all this excess news coverage confuses the voter more than it helps them make an informed decision.

[TRACK 1, 14:17]

NS:
Do think that there are any partisan news sources out there?

AC:
I don’t think they’re as partisan as they are philosophical – the conservative to liberal side of things. I think that’s really what the difference is. And I’m not pointing fingers at any of them. I think they’ve all got a purpose, and they’re all trying to do they’re best. I will say, I think they’re all very sincere, they actually believe what they say. I just think they say it too often, too much. There’s just too much of it.

NS:
What are your thoughts on the “Fake News” trends in country right now?

AC:
I’m not sure what “Fake News” means, quite frankly. I always used to laugh because if there was a report made, and it was brought to the newspaper’s attention, let’s say it was a front page article in which was a glaring misstatement of fact that was brought to their attention, if you could even convince them they had made a mistake, the correction always occurred about the third page in. You never saw a correction on the front page of the paper. So I don’t think it’s a question of fake news, maybe it’s just pride in work that they do, or just philosophical differences to how they approach the news, but you could say there’s fakery in every aspect of life. But I really don’t know what “Fake News” actually means.

NS:
What role do you see social media playing in politics in the future?

AC:
Social media’s playing a major role right now because that’s how most people get their news, especially the Millenials and the younger people. I’m an advisor to the State Republican Party and my role is primarily on legislative and public policy. I do interact regularly with the data people and the social media people. And I’m impressed with the fact that you really have to have a combination of traditional advertising and social media and advocacy if you intend to get your message across. And I think it plays a major role. And I think those candidates and those political parties that do not take advantage of that aspect of disseminating information do so at their own peril.

NS:
I’d like to go back to your time at the New York State Assembly. Can you tell me about that specific campaign when you were actually running for state legislator?

AC:
When I ran in 1978, I ran in the days of the two county district, it was all of Herkimer County, all of Otsego County. And I was nominated by the Republican Party in Herkimer County. There was another gentleman nominated by the Otsego County Republican Committee. And we both went into a primary, and we were fortunate enough to win that. That campaign, because of the nature of the district, and again back in the day when things were a little less complicated as far as your advertising, was primarily a door-to-door campaign. We did an extensive amount of travel, going to every village, every town, and the two cities in the district. So a lot of it was door-to-door. We did some television advertising. It was a home-made TV commercial starring my children [laughing] and my family, and it was that kind of a campaign. It was kind of a homespun, down home kind of a campaign. Great experience. I still have friends I made in that campaign, who are still my friends here in Otsego County and in Herkimer County. It was a great experience and then we won the general election as well. It was my first campaign; it was the most memorable of all the campaigns. Of all the things I’d done that was the most memorable I think as far as my personal life.

NS:
How did the successive campaigns for reelection compare?

AC:
I was quite fortunate for most of the time after that, I was not opposed. I used to think it was because I was doing a good job, then somebody pointed out one day that nobody else wanted the job. [Laughing] That was the joke of the day. No, I took my incumbency very seriously. It wasn’t campaign mode; it was public service for me. But I made myself readily available. I did things for constituents – services then that I thought were very important. Number one: my office phone actually rang in my home, so I could answer the phone whenever I was there and take calls. My family would take the messages for me. Remember now, this was before voicemail [laughing], this is before cell phones, way before the Internet, obviously. So the telephone and mail were the two primary forms of communication. I like to tell people that when I first started in office that the only equipment we had were electric typewriters. We didn’t even have a correcting typewriter. Eventually we were able to get a correcting typewriter, then we got what’s called an automatic typewriter, we could repeat mail. By the time I left, we had computers. And it was interesting because in the old days I would have to go to my district office, say in Herkimer, pick up and schlepp the mail to Albany to be mailed out of the assembly mailroom once a week. By the time I left, they were able to actually prepare the correspondence at the Herkimer office, transmit it by computer, I would sign it in Albany the same day, and mail it the same day. So that was just one major change because of technology. But our entire incumbency was based on constituent services. I had an office in Oneonta initially, and an office in Herkimer for the constituents to come into, and then I did office hours. I would go as far north as Old Forge, which was the northern part of Herkimer County. I’d go up there a couple times a month. I’d be here in Cooperstown a couple times a month, the county seat. For regular office hours, I’d see constituents, and then in between we would attend meetings and functions all over the county whether it be health care, education, transportation, whatever the issues were. That was my first four years, and then in 1982, there was a re-districting where the bottom half of Otsego County was removed from my district. I kept the northern half of Otsego County, all of Herkimer County. Then my district went all the way to the Canadian border. I had a huge district. And again, we relied on transportation, motor vehicles to travel around and did a lot of one-on-one but it was different with that size difference, of course. But we would make an effort to get there. And we did that for ten years, and then my district changed again. But wherever I was, wherever my district was, I based it on accessibility and service. And it was great. It worked out very well. I didn’t have much of a campaign problem because we were always available to people.

NS:
How popular were those office hours?

AC:
People would come in regularly. And we’d see everyone from local officials with problems in their community, to individuals with personal problems, you know – we were the conduit between the average person in the district and state government so if you had a problem with your driver’s license not being renewed on time, or your business needed something from the government, or there was a road problem, a state highway problem in your town, you’d come to us, and we would help put you in touch with the right people who could get your problem solved. So the constituent services, what’s commonly called case-work, was a big priority with us. And a lot of people took advantage of it.

NS:
Did that popularity decrease at all over time?

AC:
Popularity of the office hours?

NS:
Yes.

AC:
No, we went strong right until the very end. We had people coming in, our district offices used to hum with business. When my district changed again and I acquired Fulton County, I put an office in over there. So I always had at least two offices. And my Albany office worked full-time. Actually, it was funny because of the size of my district going north, part of my district was easier to get to Albany than it would be to get to Herkimer. So I had an Albany office at the State Capitol. I had a Herkimer office all the time I was in office, and then other offices depending on which counties I represented. And then we did the door-to-door stuff. I did the office hours a lot. What I would do was, I’d call the local supervisors and ask if I could use the space in the town hall, for example. And I’d make myself available in town halls to meet the people, mostly one-on-one.

NS:
How has your family influenced your career?

AC:
Well when I started, I had two children. And they were young; the oldest was just starting kindergarten. And I realized that why I was doing this was because I wanted them and other young people to have a better life in New York State. Now to a degree, we succeeded. And I will say to my chagrin, that I think New York State has gotten away from... you know, with the over-taxation, the over-regulation by the state, the business climate has suffered. The one thing that bothers me the most is the number of young people who have had to leave New York State in order to make a good living and find a job. But we did it to provide, hopefully, a better environment, better education, safer communities for the young people. I did it for the next generation, hopefully, the best we could.

NS:
What do you think has been your most meaningful work in your career?

AC:
Several things that I did in education I think were very important. I was a strong proponent of both public and private higher education. I was instrumental in some of the expansion that went on at Herkimer County Community College. I worked very closely with the then-president of the State University College at Oneonta to ensure that that campus stayed strong. I did some work with all the other schools. I represented at one time due to size of my district a number of both public and private schools. I also worked to try to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education in the public schools in New York – provided resources for teachers hopefully. We had teacher resource centers going in those days. We did a lot with the regional boards of cooperative education – the BOCES programs. I believe very firmly, that we still could do a better job, not so much consolidating and merging school districts, but providing centralized services to cut the overhead out of education. The more money we spend at the top for administration and the cost of operations, overhead, the less money you have to put into the classroom and to the students. We worked quite heavily in the field of education. We did a lot of that work, and in economic development – trying to create a framework for providing jobs and incentives for businesses to either grow in New York or to create jobs in New York.

[TRACK 1, 25:55]

NS:
What are your thoughts on the Common Core in schools today?

AC:
I think like everything else with education, it’s become very bureaucratic. I used to have a running joke that my office at one time overlooked the State Education Department building in Albany. And I used to point to it when constituents came into the room and say, “See that building over there? That’s the State Education Department. There’s thousands and thousands of your dollars being spent in that building everyday, and I don’t see one student walk in and out of it.” I always argued that the money should be disseminated down to the local level. That was the biggest frustration I had when I was in government.

NS:
Can you tell me a little bit about your time in Washington D.C.?

AC:
Yeah, I was there, as I say, full-time for about a year and half. And then went back and forth working for Congress. And I still do a lot of work in Washington, both for clients and for the political parties I help. I enjoyed working in Washington. I think but for the fact that we were upstaters and New Yorkers, and kind of wanted to be close to family – my wife’s family and my family both live near each other. We wanted our kids to grow up around grandparents and we moved back, but we could’ve probably stayed there and been very happy there as well. I’ve always enjoyed Washington. Again, this is back in the day when there was a lot of comradery, we had a strong delegation. The one thing that chagrins me a bit, I mentioned working on a congressional campaign. Now, as you know, the districts are apportioned by population and as your population goes down, the number of districts decrease, or vice versa. When I worked on the 1972 congressional campaign, we were in the middle of New York State and the district number was 31. And today we only have 27 districts in the whole state. So it has really gone downhill. That’s the one thing that’s bothered me the most – that our delegation has shrunk because the population has shrunk. And the reason the population has shrunk is because New York State, as you know, overcharges, overtaxes, overspends. And it’s been a continuous problem here.

[TRACK 1, 28:14]

NS:
What thoughts do you have on the current leadership of the New York State government?

AC:
[Laughing] I thought this wasn’t going to be partisan. I’m not at all impressed with our current governor. I served under his father. His father, even though we disagreed philosophically, his father was always very sincere. His heart was always in it. He was good to work with. He was an honorable guy. I got things done with the Mario Cuomo administration because you went in with an argument; you went in with a request that had merit behind it, and he would respect that. I think the current governor is just so consumed with his own self-importance and his own political agenda that a lot of things are not getting done properly in this state. Now I don’t want to be partisan about it. It’s not a partisan thing because I think one of the finest governors we’ve ever had in the state was a guy named Hugh Carey, Democrat, who actually saved New York City back in the mid-70s from ruin. I first worked under Governor [Nelson] Rockefeller. I tell people I worked from Rocky to Pataki. And Nelson Rockefeller, he spent a lot of money, but he spent money on things that really were tangible – the State University system, improving our state’s waterways, improving our state’s highways and infrastructure. And then I say, it was Governor Carey and Governor Cuomo, both Democrats, opposite party, but people you could talk to. I got to know Governor Carey after retirement – we were both living not too far from each other, got to know him a little bit better. But the current governor just doesn’t impress me at all.

[TRACK 2, 0:00]

NS:
How did you get involved in the environmental conservation committee?

AC:
Remember what is now environmental conservation, was originally the old conservation department, which was mostly fish and wildlife and land management. What was solid waste management existed in the health department, and there was a pure water program. The environmental conservation movement began in New York State in 1970 with something called “Earth Day.” And that’s when the Department of Environmental Conservation was created. I happened to be an intern then, and I was literally there when Governor Rockefeller signed into law the creation of the Department of Environmental Conservation. So I’ve always had an interest in keeping our environment safe, but also in providing natural resources for people – hunting, fishing, hiking – those types of activities. And then when I got to the legislature, I was asked to serve on the Environmental Conservation Committee, which I did. And I was the ranking member of that committee, the ranking Republican, and worked very closely with the then-chairman on several issues, one of which was to create a solid waste program for New York State. Up until the early eighties, every community, every town, every village, was responsible for its own solid waste disposal. Some places it was done privately, some publicly. A lot of communities had what in those days was called the town dump. There weren’t landfills as we know them now. And it became very apparent that this had to be corrected. First, you just can’t bury everything. You don’t put toxic waste in the ground, for example. You don’t put household cleaners and solvents and paints – that’s what we were doing in those days. The other way of getting rid of it was to burn it, and everybody knows that’s bad for the environment as well. So there had to be a comprehensive approach, and the legislature created something called, the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management – a bipartisan, two-house commission I served on to put together the long-range planning and we did. We came up with the [inaudible] Solid Waste Act in the mid-1980s which created what is now in law today, where we allow for regional approach or county-wide approach to solid waste. And we allow for both public and private enterprises to collect and dispose of household garbage, household waste; to dispose of toxic waste; to dispose of construction debris; all those things we have now. If you look around now, we have in this county for example, the transfer stations, then the landfill. There’s not a town landfill to which products and garbage or trash is taken. So we were very involved in that. But we also were involved in what we called the hierarchy of solid waste where you start with the notion of “reuse” and then “recycling,” and then you get into “reduction.” “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” and then the rest of it has to be disposed in a proper fashion. So we were very involved in that back in the eighties, and it was a great experience and I think we accomplished something.

[TRACK 2, 3:22]

NS:
What are your thoughts on the current environmental issues?

AC:
Well I think we have to be continually vigilant when it comes to protecting our water and our air. But I think we go overboard sometimes with over-regulation. We’re never going to have a hundred percent, perfect anything in this world. Nothing is perfect. And there’s always going to be people who will shirk their responsibilities for the environment. And that’s where government comes in, where you have to set the framework, develop the rules, enforce the rules, and penalize those who break the rules. At the same time, you can’t put all the... for example, we put most of the burden on the backs of businesses, for example. And we stymy, I think, some economic growth in the name of the environment, but it’s not really environmentally sound what we’re doing, or it’s not effective. So I think like everything else in life... I believe in two things in life: a balance and moderation. Whether it be your personal diet, or whether it be your lifestyle, anything in moderation is fine as far as I’m concerned. It’s when you go to excesses. And just like you can’t have excessive abuse, you can’t have excessive regulation either. So we just need to find a balance there. I think we live in a very safe environment here, a very clean environment. The local community here spends a lot of time working on things like the quality of the water. I have a lot of respect for what they do at the Biological Field Station here in Cooperstown, and what people do here on Otsego Lake to keep it clean, to keep it safe, and to preserve it for future generations. So I believe in all of that and I support that, but it has to be done within the proper framework.

NS:
How have you seen the nature of the political parties change over your career?

AC:
Well first of all, New York State is one of those states that allows something called fusion voting, where you can have multiple lines and add them together. We’re only one of about three or four states that do that. So we have a proliferation of political parties. Years ago, we had the Republican Party, obviously, and the Democrat Party. And then there was the Conservative Party – really it was a wing of the Republican Party – formed a party, and we had a Liberal Party. So between the two parties, and the two philosophies, there were four parties in New York State, and there would be spin-offs here and there over the years. There was a Socialist Worker Party; there was even a Communist Party one time here in New York. And to get on the ballot and to be a political party, you must have a candidate on that line for governor garner at least 50,000 votes, which isn’t a lot of votes. But right now, we have the Republican Party, the Democrat Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party, Independence Party, Reform Party, the Green Party... So we have a proliferation of political parties, which makes it a little bit confusing for the voter. There are more parties than we really actually need, but that seems... and then everybody has the right to form their own independent party if they want and create their own label. That used to be true mostly in local governments, but now statewide too. But the central political parties are not as strong as they once were. Many, many years ago it was the central political party that was responsible for nominating the candidates, marshaling the resources and then helping to support candidates, and then getting out the vote. Today, individual candidates, almost all of them – every member of the state legislature, every member of Congress has their own fundraising mechanism, their own committee if you will. And then from there, they spend an inordinate amount of time raising money and spending money. But political parties can provide an infrastructure for the state law – first, for example, only a political party can nominate you for office, unless you want to go with the Independent route which is much more complicated. There are certain expenditures that must run through a political party – certain benefits. A lot of the data we talk about with the social media and using microtargeting and other types of data – most of that is done through central parties. Although there’s individual vendors now providing it and a candidate with the resources can buy their own. But political parties, I think, are important to provide the infrastructure and the framework for campaigning but they’re not as strong as they were 50 years ago, 100 years... 60 years ago.

NS:
How do you feel about the two party-system, strictly the Republican and Democrat Parties having the majority?

AC:
Well, that’s been that way for a long time, I don’t quite understand what the question is. I believe in a two party system, I believe in the party structure. But we have more than a two party system, we have a four... Oh at the national level?

NS:
Yes.

AC:
Yeah, well again, I think that provides a framework, and that provides the mechanical structure for getting people nominated. The major role of a party is at each end of the spectrum – getting them nominated and getting the vote out. In between, it’s the candidate’s responsibility to sell himself or herself to the voters to get a message out; to convince people to vote for that candidate. Then it’s up to parties to get people to the polls. So I believe in the two-party system, yeah.

[TRACK 2, 9:25]

NS:
What are your thoughts on the most recent Presidential campaign?

AC:
It was the most interesting election cycle I’ve ever experienced. And I am a Republican, and I did support the Republican nominee, and I support the Republican President, but I will tell you, when Donald Trump first came down that escalator – that famous announcement, first announcement – every political pundit, every long-time poll was just shaking their head saying, “this experiment’s not going to work, I mean, this guy’s not going anyplace, he’s so nontraditional.” And yet the most nontraditional person won. He beat out ten or eleven, maybe twelve candidates, other candidates for the nomination, and he beat the person who was never supposed to lose in November. I respect the results of any election, and I wish everybody would. And getting back to our earlier discussion about the change in politics, I don’t think that the first word out of people’s minds when you lose an election is “impeach the guy.” Either side – I wish it would all go away. The “lock her up” stuff I did not really agree with, the impeach him stuff, I don’t go with that either. I think we should just allow our government to function. And when it stops functioning, you elect somebody else.

NS:
Do you have any concerns about the next three years under the current leadership?

AC:
My concern is that Congress and the President have to work together to get something done. I know they’re trying to work as we speak today on a tax bill. I don’t think they’ve gotten their act together yet, but I think part of it is the divisiveness within the country, which is then evidenced by the actions in Washington. And it goes both ways. I remember when the Democrats passed the so-called Obamacare. They did it without Republican votes. And now they’re complaining because the Republicans are trying to pass a repeal without their votes. The days of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan are what we need today – a little bit of bipartisanship, a bit of comradery is lacking sorely.

[TRACK 2, 11;50]

NS:
What do you think brought about this divisiveness?

AC:
I’m not sure. I don’t know if it began in 2000 with Bush v. Gore. I don’t know if it began before that. There seems to be a lack of civility in society, generally, and maybe that’s part of it. I’m not really certain about one factor, but when you add up the fact that there’s constant campaigning, lack of civility, there’s kind of a “me first” approach by a lot of people, you know, “I’ve got mine.” People are not concerned about other people anymore. They’re not looking to take care of each other like we used to do, and that’s very troubling to me.

NS:
Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing now in politics?

AC:
Basically, I’ve lived long enough to be a burden to my friends [laughing]. And by that I mean that I help people... I’m not a kind of person who can retire and just sit around and read books and go fishing all day. But I’m at a point in life where I take time off when I feel like it now. I don’t have to go to work if I don’t want to, but I like doing what I’m doing. I like being in the community. You know, we’re sitting here in my one-room office. This is international headquarters for my entire effort, I tell people. But I live in a town where I can walk to work, and I can walk to Main Street, and I can go next door to the coffee shop if I want. I have five grandchildren, and three of them do not live too close. I get in the car and go down and see a football game, or a dance recital if I want. My wife and I spend a lot of time in the winter in the warmer climate, but basically I’m an advisor. I help advise people. I try to give my best advice and guidance. And I like the kind of work where I don’t have to physically be present – I don’t have to be in an office every day, I don’t have to be on the road every day. And this is where I, personally, really appreciate technology, because a lot of what I do today, whether it be on the private side, you know, helping people with their government issues and their problems – we do a lot of work with administrative and regulatory agencies, helping people, their businesses – or, whether it be with the political side, where I advise candidates. We provide a lot of advice and guidance. A lot of it can be done over the telephone, conference calling, video conferencing, and emailing, which is very effective. So basically, I want to offer my experience to others to assist them in their goals, whether it be running for office, governing, or running a business. So business development, government relations, public policy is the kind of stuff I’m looking at right now, am involved in.

NS:
Are you working on any campaigns currently?

AC:
I don’t do campaigns. I do advise the New York State Republican Party chairman and work with him on strategy and solutions for party matters. But when there’s campaigns going on as there just were in the local cycle, again, I advise people, but I don’t manage campaigns, I don’t run campaigns per-se. That’s not what I do. I basically give advice and guidance, give strategy – strategies and solutions, I like to say.

NS:
Can you tell me a little bit more about your time in Florida?

AC:
Yeah, I was, as I said, I had about thirty years in state and federal government and politics, and got a phone call... Well, I had befriended a gentleman who started a small college in Florida, and grew it. But he also had an operation in upstate New York, and he and I got to be friendly, and one thing led to another. I had been involved in education as a supporter, both as an alumnus of my alma mater, as a legislator helping higher education, and elementary and secondary education people, but he came to me one day and said, “you know, I need somebody with administrative skills.” I had run a state agency. “I need someone with administrative and community relation skills to help me do some restructuring here.” So he invited me to go down to Florida and help him operate a small school, Lynn University, which is based in Boca Raton, Florida. And we had this school which this man had taken over about thirty-five years before and grew it into a medium-sized university from a small, two-year school to a full-blown university. And I went in and did the corporate structuring for him, and did all the community relations stuff for about eight years. It was a great experience. First of all, when you’re dealing with young people every day, it’s vibrant. You don’t get old and you don’t get tired. Obviously the environment in Florida was excellent – working in that environment. I remember the first day on the job, I started on the first of March. I was in my office and we had to go to a meeting. So I was looking for my coat, and I realized I don’t need a coat, it’s Florida and I can go outside right now. I worked with a number of good people, got to meet a lot of wonderful people from academia and from the local community. But it was a good experience, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance.

NS:
What brought you to make the decision to switch from your role in politics in Washington D.C. and move to higher education in Florida?

AC:
I had had thirty years in government, on a government payroll, and I wanted to try the private sector. It was a chance to go into the private sector. I have three segments of my life. I’ve been a public sector employee, I’ve a been a private sector employee, and I’ve been self-employed. So I wanted to run the gamut during my life, and I was able to do all three. I was very fortunate. I’ve been very fortunate.

NS:
And what brought you to move to Cooperstown?

AC:
When my wife and I were living in Florida, we wanted a presence in upstate New York. We never really never left Upstate, we were always back and forth. I still had business interests here in this region, and we wanted a place in upstate New York closer to kids and grandkids and family. We wanted a place in a small town; we didn’t want a big city, and a place where we could walk every place; I didn’t want to live in suburbia. And we always liked Cooperstown, so it was actually my wife who found this small home here in town, a little – I call it a cottage. Small little house that we bought, and at first it was going to be a summer place, and then when the job in Florida ended, we both decided that Cooperstown was the place we wanted to live. So we moved here and I opened a small office. I actually have an office so I don’t hang around the house all day. That would not be very nice, it wouldn’t be very pleasant for me or my wife to be in the house all day working. But Cooperstown has been good for us. It’s a good place. It’s close to the valley. We still have a lot of things up in the valley in the Herkimer area. We’re close to Oneonta, we have friends there, and we do lots of shopping and a bit of business there as well. And some of my business has been helping local business right here in town. I’ve helped a lot of local businesses either get into business or expand their business – with the regulatory issues, administrative issues, business development issues – and that’s been a lot of fun.

[TRACK 2, 20:15]

NS:
Alright, we’re approaching the end of our time limit here. I just have one more question. What are your thoughts on the community here in Cooperstown?

AC:
I think as a community, as a place to live, Cooperstown has a lot to offer. It’s vibrant, it’s active. We are an oasis if you will, in the middle of a county that is primarily rural, and unfortunately, not economically strong. So we’re very fortunate for that. I do get concerns sometimes, living in a community that seems to want to overthink and overregulate everything, which happens sometimes. But on the other hand, when you look around other places, you say, you know, this is a pretty nice environment – it’s clean, the infrastructure is being improved, the overall appearance is good. But mostly because of the people here, and I know a lot of people from the old days, and I’ve met some new people here. We have a blend of long-time Cooperstown people, long-time New York people, and a blend of newer faces, a lot of whom are brought here by the hospital, some by the program you’re in, some by just the nature of retirement, and of course it brings in the summer crowd. And some of that summer crowd really have been here longer than some of the natives have been. So it’s a nice blend of people. We live on a beautiful lake, we have great amenities. We have tremendous restaurants. We have high quality restaurants. We’ve got almost all of the services you need. We’ve got tremendous healthcare obviously, living where we are. There are some disadvantages – we’re a little bit remote sometimes. You know, we’re an hour and a half from an airport; we’re an hour, hour and a half from some of the major shopping areas, but there’s enough here. But it’s a clean, safe, friendly environment, which I think is very important.

NS:
Alright, well thank you very much for taking the time.

AC:
Thank you, thank you very much. This worked out very well.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
22:43 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 7:02 - Political Campaigns
Track 1, 14:17 - Media
Track 1, 25:55 - Education
Track 1, 28:14 - New York State Government
Track 2, 3:22 - Environment
Track 2, 9:25 - Modern National Politics
Track 2, 11:50 - Political Polarization
Track 2, 20:15 - Cooperstown

Files

Citation

Nathan Samoriski, “Anthony Casale, November 15, 2017,” CGP Community Stories, accessed July 19, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/311.