People, many of them with beers in hand,
have been questioning me for the past couple of weeks.
"Will Sherry run again or will he retire?"
The political future of Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, one of the most
senior congressmen in the United States, has been the subject of much
speculation in barrooms and political backrooms during recent weeks.
Why anyone asks for my prediction on such matters is beyond me. I'm never
right. I thought George Pataki would run again and that Hillary Clinton
would be branded a carpetbagger and defeated for the Senate.
I told all who asked that I believed Sherry Boehlert would run one more
Say what you want about me. Just don't ever say I'm inconsistent. Sherry
Boehlert announced his retirement last Friday.
Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part. I wanted Sherry Boehlert to run
It isn't that we agree on all the issues because we don't. It isn't because
we like each other, although we do. The reason I wanted him to run again can
be summed up in one word, a word driven home to me by a pilot friend of mine
the other day.
This pilot, who happens to be a Democrat, voted for Sherry Boehlert in the
past two congressional elections and wanted him to keep on running.
"Congressmen and airline pilots have one thing in common," the pilot said to
me. "Do you know what it is?"
"Both fly through storms?" The pilot shook his head no.
I tried again. "Does it have to do with crash landings or turbulence?"
"Negative," the pilot said. "Much of what both congressmen and pilots do is
dependant on seniority. Seniority makes all the difference in what you can
get and what you can't get. With Boehlert we had a congressman who had
seniority. Without him we won't."
Sherry Boehlert was first elected to the Congress in 1982. Many people who
will vote in this year's election hadn't yet even been born.
But his contacts and D.C. savvy started way before 1982. He was chief of
staff to the previous congressman representing Oneida County, Don Mitchell,
and to the congressman before that, Alexander Pirnie. All told, Sherry
Boehlert has been in and around Congress for more than 30 years.
As the pilot said, that kind of time on the job is more than a little
important when it comes to contacts and what you are able to get.
Sherry Boehlert's retirement will, of course, generate a trickle down that
will impact many of the area's politicians. I call the chain of reaction to
the congressman's retirement the "Sherry Shuffle," and the shuffle is well
underway. His retirement is causing things to happen in the halls of
Congress, in the state capitol, in the Oneida County Office Building and
If politicians are anything, they are opportunists, and they see an
One thing in all this is clear to me. In my lifetime I don't expect to see
another area congressman achieve Sherry Boehlert's record and, knock on
wood, I expect to live a long time.
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and