County Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s birthday party on Saturday evening at the Metropolitan Lounge on Main Street was a showing of political force. It was a red carpet event that attracted elected officials, state and city court judges, congressional contenders, school board members, high level party officials, and some of the region’s most influential operatives.
For Grant, who is preparing to primary Senator Tim Kennedy, the event was a flexing of political muscle. Grant leads a powerful political apparatus — and she has proven her ability to mobilize tens of thousands of voters without the money or media buys that make most politicians. Few have as loyal a base of supporters, which makes her — perhaps — the region’s most potent political contender.
Two years ago, Grant challenged Kennedy in the party primary– spent nearly nothing — and almost ousted the incumbent. Kennedy spent $450,000 on that primary and won only by a few hundred votes.
For Kennedy, political observers expect that he will need to raise upwards of the $1.2 million that it took Senator Mark Grisanti to get through his primary two years ago in the next district over. Kennedy is likely to raise, perhaps, $2 million. Still, the area’s political operatives don’t know if he’s going to be able to overcome Grant’s liked-personality and broadly acknowledged popularity in the district.
Those same operatives say that even an underfunded Grant campaign would likely triumph. The sentiment that the victory was stolen from Grant in a month-long legal maneuvering (determining which votes got recounted), has only energized her political machine, making them that much more intent on claiming victory this year.
To the Senator-in-waiting, Happy Birthday!
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly implied that Ms. Grant had nearly ousted Sen. Kennedy in a general election in which she ran as a write-in candidate. She came within two hundred votes of the party’s nomination in the primary. She later earned a substantial number of write in votes in the general election, but did not actively run as a write in candidate. Apologies for the error.