Tag Archives: Chairman of the Conservative Party

Ralph Lorigo and the Conservative Party Endorsement (UPDATED)

16 Sep

It’s no secret that I detest New York’s archaic electoral fusion system, which enables platform-free, principle-free minor parties to exert undue influence on the political system.

In one of my recent posts about Clarence politics, I wrote this:

Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo was personally, directly involved in the now-abandoned plan to build a large Wegmans’ on Transit Road in Clarence, just north of Transit Road. Lorigo represents local developers like Benderson, but in this case Lorigo owned the real estate proposed to be used for the Wegmans project, half of which was zoned residential. The process was followed, the people (directly, and by & through their elected representatives) spoke, and Wegmans won’t be building there – that’s democracy how it should work. In less ethical places, the wishes of the politically-well-connected owner or developer might have taken precedence over the wishes of the public. Apparently, because Clarence went against Mr. Lorigo’s personal pecuniary interests, he retaliated against Mr. Bylewski by refusing him the Conservative Party endorsement; ironic, since following the law and democratic process is what one might expect a doctrinaire conservative to support.

This goes back to my entreaties to abolish electoral fusion because it’s rife with corruption from corruptables, and has very little – if anything – to do with political ideology.

I wasn’t talking out of turn there, either. I’ve heard from several sources whom I consider to be beyond reproach that Lorigo was proudly proclaiming that he’d withhold the Conservative endorsement from Bylewski because Wegmans didn’t go through. Beyond. Reproach.

Color me intrigued when Mr. Lorigo sent me this email yesterday:

I know you and I are politically on opposite ends of the spectrum but you have your fact wrong about Clarence . First it was the town committee that made the recommendations for endorsements and it was Wegmans that withdrew in the face of neighborhood opposition .

What I’ve learned is that, in politics, there’s the reason something happens, and then there’s the real reason.  Lorigo has just lost his best friend on the Clarence Town Board – Joe Weiss, who was trounced at the polls on Tuesday and abruptly resigned on Thursday (effective the 28th).  The local committee’s recommendation is often, and routinely, overruled by the county committee.

I asked Bylewski for his reaction to Lorigo’s email, and he sent this along:

I did not receive the local endorsement.  However, the County Conservative Party has stepped in the past in our Town’s local elections to either give the endorsement to someone else or open the line for a Primary.  This was recently done in a local judicial contest where the local committee endorsed one candidate and the County endorsed another.  This year, the Town Board race was opened up for all three candidates.

I had called the Chairman multiple times to talk with him.  However, he never returned the courtesy of the call.  When I saw the Chairman at a Conservative fundraiser, I reminded him of my calls and that I thought it would be best to meet and clear the air.  He agreed that it was a good idea and would call me.  At that same fundraiser, other high level Conservatives indicated they were working on my behalf.  Well, unfortunately, I am still waiting for that call.

As to the Wegmans’ project, we, as a Town, on multiple occasions wanted to and expressed a desire to work with the applicants.  However, it appeared that the applicants were unwilling to reconfigure their project more than a few feet.  This inability presented us with a project that would not work based on our Master Plan and extensive efforts internally to amend the Master Plan.  We provided detail developed by a UB Planning professor as to how the project could work on the existing site.  The applicants still refused.

I would receive calls from the applicant an hour or two in advance of a Town Board meeting.  Even though I was busy preparing for other matters, I took those calls because I wanted the process to work.

Ultimately, the process did work and the Master Plan has been adhered to.

If the Conservative Party was about conservative values, it wouldn’t hesitate to endorse Bylewski – a hard-working consensus-builder who has kept spending and taxes down, worked hard to promote the town’s best interests, and has expertly, calmly navigated some of Clarence’s biggest crises and development issues. A competent, meritorious Democrat in a Republican town is jarring to people who can’t see beyond labels. His opponent, meanwhile, is busy lying to the voters, treating them like uneducated, illiterate morons.

That the “Conservative Party”, which in the same breath endorses same-sex marriage proponent Tim Kennedy, and then heaps scorn and derision on same-sex marriage proponent Mark Grisanti, exerts any control or influence over our electoral politics in WNY is truly one of the reasons why this region (and state) is so rife with pay-to-play petty corruption and patronage. The electoral fusion system is perpetuated by the dealmaking that leaves both parties happy – the minor party gets favors and jobs, and the elected officials get re-re-re-elected with their help. It breeds cronyism and a dirty system in which the interests of the populace-at-large is left by the wayside.

Frankly, I won’t be fully convinced of Governor Cuomo’s reformist bona fides until he takes this dirty system on.

Ralph Lorigo may think he’s on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, but it’s not because I’m a liberal and he fancies himself a conservative.  Instead, it’s because I’m for competent, good, meritorious government and he (and his party) is (are) looking out for number one.

It’s. Enough. Already.

UPDATE: Wegmans statement

When Wegmans was interested in building a new store in Clarence, there were obstacles to us moving forward; while we worked to make progress towards that end, we discovered that a better option for us and our customers was to stay right where we were and expand the Wegmans at 8270 Transit Road instead.  We are still in the early phases of making that happen, but this is the direction that we are taking toward our goal of offering expanded service and products to our customers in that area.

Theresa Jackson, Consumer Affairs Manager, Wegmans Food Markets