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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

O'Reilly: I heart Stephanie Miner

Stephanie Miner address's her supporters after her victory

Stephanie Miner address's her supporters after her victory in the race for mayor of Syracuse in 2009. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS Dennis Nett

I'm in love.

It happened on Valentine's Day -- against my will.

Cupid's arrow arrived out of nowhere, wrapped in an opinion piece in The New York Times, and it plunged squarely into my Republican heart (yes, we have them).

The object of my newfound ardor? Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat.

One doesn't see real bravery in politics very often, but in Miner this week we saw it in spades. The first-term mayor did something no Democrat in New York has been willing to do -- few Republicans have for that matter: She took on the policies of popular Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. And she did it on the most widely read opinion page in the country.

Miner argues that Cuomo has effectively sold out municipalities in New York by ignoring the unfunded state mandates and soaring pension costs threatening to bankrupt her city. That is, she ratted on her own governor for not taking on the powerful public employee unions that have fixed the system in state and local government to their benefit. She called Cuomo out as a political coward.

It would be courageous enough for the freshman mayor of New York's fifth largest city to publicly challenge a sitting governor of her own party -- and one being talked about as a possible presidential candidate. But her mettle goes deeper than that, because Miner is not just a mayor; she's also the co-chair of the New York State Democratic Party. She was appointed to that position about a year ago by, yep, Andrew Cuomo. And Miner's political career began in the 1990s as a regional representative for Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor's father.

Miner is as steeped in the Cuomo political tradition as any elected official in New York, and yet she bucked it in the best interest of her constituents.

Where does bravura like that come from? How can we encourage more of it?

The mayor, as is standard protocol in polite politics, called the governor's office the day before her piece ran to alert them it was coming. "They weren't exactly pleased," was how she described the conversation to the Syracuse Post Standard. One can only imagine. The Cuomos are notorious for taking revenge on their political enemies.

It matters less to this New Yorker what the issue was that led Mayor Miner to challenge her own governor, and more that she had the chutzpah to do it. Let's hope her bravery is contagious -- pandemic!

There's a reason political parties circle the wagons in Washington and elsewhere. The rank-and-file system is often the best way to get things done. Without it, there is no structure -- no coordinated advancement of legislative programs. But at this point, where exactly is that coherent program on either side of the aisle?

Face it, we're frozen at best and drifting at worst in this country. Maybe we should declare a timeout for a while on the party discipline and say exactly what we all think for a change.

The last time I saw this kind of courage was from the Republican that Democrats like to hate most (at least they used to). Vice President Dick Cheney was asked in a 2004 vice presidential debate what he thought of gay marriage, an issue many liberal Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were some years from embracing. The staunch conservative Republican, whose daughter is a lesbian, replied that he would like her to have the right to marry.

Favor gay marriage or not, you've got to respect that.

I probably disagree with Miner on a whole host of issues. But I recognize political courage when I see it, and in her it is unmistakable. That's why on Thursday, flowers and chocolates in hand, I had to admit to my wife that I have a new love.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.