SARANAC LAKE - If lawmakers in Washington need a lesson in bipartisanship, they might consider consulting with Ray and Matt Scollin, a father and son from Saranac Lake who worked for opposing political parties throughout the recent election.
The Scollins said the experience of working for different campaigns was a challenging one, but when the dust settled they both felt it was rewarding. They sat down with the Enterprise for an interview at the Blue Moon Cafe on Saturday.
Ray is the Republican state committeeman for Franklin County. He managed Bob Bevilacqua's successful campaign for Harrietstown supervisor, and he was the Franklin County coordinator for Watertown businessman Matt Doheny, the Republican who lost to U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, in the race for New York's 21st Congressional District. Matt is a field organizer for the New York State Democratic Party who campaigned for candidates like Owens and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Ray Scollin, left, and his son Matt, seen here at the Blue Moon Cafe in Saranac Lake on Saturday, worked for different sides during the election, but they say the experience brought them closer together.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
Ray said that as a father, it was important for him to raise his children in a home where the family discussed national, state and local politics at the kitchen table. He said Matt and his younger siblings - Ally and Evan - grew up in an environment where political conversations were the norm.
"I wanted them to kind of get it about political action and community involvement, and then use ethics as a compass on how to steer your way through all of this," Ray said.
Matt would keep those conservations going into college, studying political science at the University of New Hampshire. When he returned to Saranac Lake after college, Matt lived at home briefly. Ray recalled spending mornings with his son watching MSNBC's "Morning Joe," a weekday morning talk show hosted by Joe Scarborough. MSNBC is perceived as a liberally biased news organization, although Scarborough was a celebrated Republican during his five-year run in the House of Representatives.
"It became like part of my day that I looked forward to," Ray said, "so when he got this job (with the state Democratic Party), I was already the Franklin County coordinator for Doheny. So when he told me he was applying, we both kind of just looked at each other and said, 'Well, this will be fun.'"
As soon as Matt began working for the Democrats, he and Ray agreed not to discuss the 21st Congressional District election since they were working for opposing campaigns.
"So that led to a lot of time on the phone talking about other races," Matt said. "We talked about the (Harrietstown) supervisor race a bunch; we talked about the presidential race a bunch ... the (115th) Assembly (District) race. We kinda danced around it (the congressional race) for three months without ever talking about it. And that was fun."
Matt said there were times during the congressional campaign when he wanted to call his father and ask for advice. But that option wasn't available to him, and Matt said he learned a lot as a result.
"It'll be fun, now that it's all over, to be able to drink a beer and have that long conversation we couldn't have for three months," Matt said.
Ray said he has discussed the congressional race with Matt since the election, and they still don't see eye to eye on it. But that's not the case across the board.
"He constantly moves me one way or another," Ray said. "We'll discuss an issue and I think I pretty much have understood it, and then Matt will bring up something I hadn't thought of, and we'll discuss it out. And that certainly happened on everything but New York 21.
"We continue to talk. ... I couldn't be more proud of him. I like who he is. I like the fact that he understands that politics isn't a dirty word."
For Matt, this election was an opportunity to put into practice some of what he's learned from watching his father over the years. He said he tried to build strong personal relationships with people regardless of their political beliefs, something he believes Ray has been successful at doing.
"At our little field office in Glens Falls, we had all kinds of people come in," Matt said. "Glens Falls is a pretty Republican area. I like to think I was able to put into practice a lot of what I learned from my dad as far as how you should treat people."
Ray and Matt both believe that politicians can get past the bitter partisanship that's kept Washington in gridlock in recent years, but they say it will take some soul-searching and compromise to get there.
"Personally, I don't like big government," Ray said. "I don't like the government in my bedroom, I don't like it in my church, and I don't like it in my doctor's office. I think that there are many Democrats who would agree with me. So when we have common issues like that, I think we can learn from this. I think the Republican Party took a beating (in the election). I think the Republican Party is going to have some difficulty turning this around, certainly in New York. But I think we will. I think eventually people will see that there needs to be more of a balance, and if you have one party in control, you'll never have that balance."
"I think that we have to maybe start being more honest with ourselves - everybody," Matt said. "You can always go find the news stories that you want to read, that play to your own opinions already. And unless we can start to figure out what's objective in terms of the information that's being delivered to us, we're going to keep on segmenting ourselves further and further into just this echo chamber."
Matt helped Ray when he ran for Republican state committeeman last year. Ray said he would return the favor if Matt ever decided to run for office.
"I would do that for him in a heartbeat," Ray said. "He's the kind of guy I do want in there, because I think he is thoughtful. Would I worry about some of his ideology? Yeah. But then, at least if I'm in his campaign, I might have a little more influence."
Matt said he'd work for his father again. He added that personally, he's not interested in running for office.
"It's exhausting," he said. "We had long days, but the candidates - they must have put 15, 20 thousand miles on their cars. I don't even know. It's so much time, and so much stress and pressure and cameras everywhere at all times. They do really hard work to get to that point."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.