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Erie County 2013: Ds, Rs, Is, Cs, Blanks, and EmoDems

1 Aug

Who’s who, what’s what, and what to think about it all. The background is as follows: Jeremy Zellner defeated Frank Max last year in a hotly contested race for chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee – a win that was ultimately challenged in court, where Zellner’s win was upheld. Since then, Max – more often than not aligned with former chairman Steve Pigeon and his small but vocal team of Republicans nominally Democratic contrarians has been cultivating alliances with Republicans and Conservatives, and at times creating chaos for its own sake

The Republican committee is run ably by Nick Langworthy, who has a lot of big-ticket names and hard-fought races under his belt. More importantly, the outnumbered Republicans have aligned themselves in most races with both the Erie County Conservative Party, run by Ralph Lorigo, and the New York State Independence Party, which does not let any local IP organization decide on endorsements. Having three lines, including two cleverly named minor fusion parties, is the only way Republicans can win races countywide, and in certain parts of the county. 

But the most dangerous person for Democrats in western New York is Stefan Mychajliw. The eye-chart name, the boyish good looks and charm, for years you let him into your homes via the teevee, where he donned a red coat and asked “tough questions” because he was on your side. He has parlayed that nightly visit into elected office, where he is relentlessly “reasonably sounding the alarm” on county spending, waste, fraud, and abuse. He knows full well that he has wide and deep appeal to voters, no matter what party affiliation. The comptroller gig is just part of a longer-term goal to attain executive office – Mayor or County Executive – and people know him and like him, regardless of how he’s doing his job. 

COUNTYWIDE

Erie County Comptroller (Stefan Mychajliw, incumbent)

Democratic Regionalism and downsizing activist Kevin Gaughan has taken the place of Lynn Szalkowski, who dropped out of the race shortly after petitioning ended. Gaughan will compete on the Democratic and Working Families lines. Mychajliw will have the Conservative line, but he is being challenged on the Independence Party line by Anthony Dorazio, Jr. 

The venom directed by the chaotic Frank Max EmoDems against Zellner’s recruitment of Szalkowski should be of particular concern. Szalkowski was, on paper, the dream candidate; she is an attractive, youthful female with an ethnic name from the suburbs, whose CPA made her remarkably more qualified for the position than the incumbent. It’s not her fault she dropped out of the race – by all accounts, she is smart, bright, and knew what she was getting into, but personal stresses got in the way of an effective campaign and she had to drop out. It’s frankly none of anybody’s business what those stresses were, but there was a great deal of hatred spewn at her and at Zellner when she departed the race – and it was done by people who are either named “Mychajliw” or so close to his campaign that Zellner could have recruited Jesus Christ, CPA and they still would have backed Stef. “Disingenuous” isn’t strong enough for their wailing. 

But more importantly, Szalkowski is exactly the sort of person any political party should want to attract to public office. Smart people who enter politics know they’re in for a tough go, but she was unfairly and viciously attacked. Suggesting that the party perpetrated some sort of petition fraud is laughable. They really wanted her.

Now, we have Kevin Gaughan – a person who, unlike Mychajliw, has a genuine record of accomplishing the unthinkable – shrinking of the size of government in western New York. A lawyer, Gaughan has devoted years to make the region and city run smarter and more efficiently. Would Gaughan run his office by press release, and send auditors to trick custodians into unlocking rooms to grab DSS records from a secure subbasement location in the Rath Building to score political points? Doubtful. 

Dorazio is a local IP member who is sick of the downstate people selecting Republicans (almost exclusively) to run on that line. 

Erie County Sheriff (Tim Howard, incumbent)

Richard Dobson is a former deputy, and is backed by the Max/Pigeon EmoDems faction. Bert Dunn is scion to the Bert’s Bikes empire, formerly the Dunn Tire empire, and is a current Sheriff’s Deputy. It’s been alleged that the EmoDems have teamed up with incumbent Tim Howard to use Dobson as a pawn. Dobson is similar in almost every way to the last two Democrats who challenged Howard and lost.

By contrast, Dunn is young, he’s currently on the force, knows the issues that exist on the force as it stands now, and is a centrist Democrat who has crossover appeal. Republican Tim Howard, who is running for his third term as county sheriff, has endured a string of high-profile embarrassments and scandals from the Department of Justice review of the holding centers, the Ralph “Bucky” Phillips escape from a county jail, the botched search for Joan Diver, etc. Howard will have the Conservative and Independence line, and Dunn will have the Working Families Line. 

COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one. That one seat doesn’t necessarily mean a Republican pickup, by the way – there are at least four nominal “Democrats” vying for a seat, any one or all of whom would gladly strike a deal to share power with the Republicans, just like under Barbara Miller-Williams period of dysfunction and collaboration

District 1 (Timothy Hogues, incumbent)

Hogues will have the Working Families line, but he is being challenged on the Democratic line by… 

…wait for it…

Barbara Miller-Williams. No joke. No one has the Republican or Conservative nod. Miller-Williams has backing from people close to City Hall, and the chaotic Max/Pigeon EmoDems. Hogues defeated Miller-Williams last time around because she used her position to align herself with Chris Collins and the Republicans on the legislature, effecting a Republican coup of that body. The result was devastating for her constituents, as Collins defunded clinics and other resources on which the community depended. Hogues is chairman of the public safety committee and has helped to restore all the Collins cuts to libraries, rodent control, and a soon to open clinic on Broadway. Hogues is a rising star in the party and someone to watch. 

District 2 (Betty Jean Grant, incumbent)

Democrat Grant came extremely close to upsetting Democratic State Senator Tim Kennedy during last year’s primary, mostly thanks to an aggressive write-in campaign. It shows that Grant has a very strong and motivated base of support. Joyce Wilson Nixon is challenging Grant for the Democratic line in September. Betty Jean will have the Working Families line.  No one has the Republican or Conservative nod. Nixon’s husband works in City Hall, and she runs the National Inner Cities Youth Opportunities nonprofit, which receives public money to help at-risk youth. 

District 3 (Lynn Marinelli, incumbent)

Attorney Jennifer Stergion is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Marinelli has the Democratic and Working Families lines. The two will square off in September in an Independence Party primary. Marinelli is one of the hardest working people in county government, and is an effective, likeable, relentless candidate. 

District 4 (Kevin Hardwick, incumbent)

Hardwick will run on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party lines. A Democrat named Bill Conrad is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. Conrad is a relative unknown outside of Kenmore and Tonawanda, but he is a teacher at Ken West, an unenrolled voter, and is very active in extracurricular sports in the town. He is very smart and will need to work extremely hard to unseat the well-known and popular Canisius professor. 

District 5 (Tom Loughran, incumbent)

Loughran has staked out a bit of a reputation for independence during his legislative tenure, and will be challenged in November by Republican Amherst Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson. Anderson and Loughran both submitted petitions for the Independence Party line. Anderson will have the Republican line, while Loughran has the Democratic line. Someone submitted “opportunity to ballot” petitions for the Working Families line, and a Christopher Fellows is challenging Loughran in a primary for the Conservative line.  Loughran will have to run hard, as it is a tough district, but his independent streak and no-nonsense demeanor should do well for him. 

District 6 (Ed Rath, incumbent)

Rath will have the Republican, Conservative, and Independence nods while Clarence resident Alan Getter submitted Democratic petitions. Getter is unenrolled and needs a Wilson-Pakula to run on the (D) line. A Clarence resident, Getter is a CPA and small business owner who is active in the community. Ed Rath is Ed Rath. 

The Frank Max Faction MascotDistrict 7 (Tom Mazur, incumbent)

Mazur is not seeking re-election, and he has endorsed Democrat Lynn Dearmyer to replace him. Dearmyer primaried Mazur in 2009 and lost. Former Cheektowaga town councilman Rick Zydel is challenging Dearmyer for the Democratic nod.

Zydel has the backing of the Max/Pigeon chaos faction. In fact, Zydel announced that he would run a primary campaign against the incumbent Mazur, the legislative majority leader. Obviously, that’s not going to go over well at Democratic HQ. So, when Mazur decided not to run – mere days before petitioning was to begin – HQ wasn’t inclined to call an endorsement meeting, and an open primary ensued. Zellner says, “not one committeeman” has called him to “express outrage at this.” Incidentally, as to Zydel’s alleged popularity in Cheektowaga, he most recently lost re-election to the town council to (of all things) a Republican. 

Pat Burke, a South Buffalo native who recently ran for a seat on the common council – and lost  – is also running as a Democrat, leaving a 3-way primary in September.  Elias Farah, who appears to be a tea party type, is running on the Republican and Independence lines. Zydel has the Conservative nod, and also submitted petitions for the Working Families line.  

District 8 (Terry McCracken, incumbent)

McCracken is not seeking re-election. Democrat Wes Moore is backed by the Frank Max / Steve Pigeon Democratic faction. Ted Morton is running on the Republican line. Wynnie Fisher is a teacher who is also running as a Democrat, and Morton has the Conservative line.  As in the case of Zydel, Moore announced before McCracken decided he was out. Moore never contacted Democratic Headquarters or Jeremy Zellner directly, except to send an email to a generic “info@” email address asking when his endorsement meeting would be held. None was held. It should be noted that WGRZ 2-Sides cohost Kristy Mazurek is Moore’s and Zydel’s campaign manager. Query why Mychajliw would have felt the need to abandon the show when he ran for public office, yet the Democrat on the show feels no similar ethical obligation to do so, going so far as to attempt to ridicule an opponent on Facebook who wasn’t interested in going on the show. 

Like Zydel, Miller-Williams – and to a lesser degree Nixon – are potential candidates to flip the legislature to one that is friendly to the Republican minority, resulting in a de facto Republican majority. Anyone who remembers the Barbara Miller-Williams legislature knows what that would look like. The only difference now is that Chris Collins is nowhere to be seen. 

District 9 (Lynne Dixon, incumbent)

Former WGRZ journalist Dixon is a member of the Independence Party who caucuses with the Republicans in the legislature. She is being challenged by Democrat Mike Schraft, who also has the Working Families line. Dixon has the Conservative line, and is being challenged by Brian Burke for the Independence Party nomination. Schraft is a military guy with a background at the State Department, specifically dealing with development and budget issues in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Washington. Burke is related to Pat Burke, as seen above in the 7th District Race. 

District 10 (Joe Lorigo, incumbent)

Lorigo is a member of the Conservative Party, led locally by his father, who caucuses with the Republicans in the legislature. Lauren M. Gray is a young law school graduate awaiting her bar exam results, has the Working Families line, and is challenging Lorigo for the Independence nod. Democratic Headquarters is proud to have five female candidates, three of whom have never before run for office. Lorigo is seen as vulnerable and a possible (D) pickup, due to the fact that he doesn’t enjoy a wide base of support and has done little. 

District 11 (John Mills, incumbent)

Mills is running unopposed. Can you believe that? 

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