Tag Archives: Democratic Party

Maxed Out

2 Oct

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul

They brought in allies and operatives – many of them festooned with red armbands, without a hint of irony or historical perspective. They demanded that the vote be overseen by an outside observer – Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. They enlisted the assistance of Governor Cuomo, who used surrogates to cajole and persuade the members of the Erie County Democratic Committee to replace outgoing chairman Len Lenihan with Frank Max of Cheektowaga. 

Max’s support came not just from the governor’s arm-twisting, but from two breakaway party factions. City Hall told the governor that it could work with Max, but not with Lenihan #2, Jeremy Zellner. The Steve Pigeon faction has a reasonably consistent alliance with city hall, because they share an anti-Lenihan sentiment. 

How did it work? When a committeeman arrived at Saturday’s reorganization meeting at the Hearthstone Manor, she was handed a ballot upon check-in. The ballot was turned over after the committeeperson had shown an entrance card and ID, and then signed a receipt acknowledging its receipt. 

Before you hop on the “Democrats are hypocrites” with respect to voter ID, voting for the chairman of your regulated private club isn’t the same as voting for an elected official. The latter invokes constitutional rights, the former does not. 

Each ballot contained the committeeperson’s name at the top, and weighted vote at the bottom. The list of candidates was printed in the center. The attendees ripped the top off, removing their name from the ballot, ticked the desired box, and dropped the ballot in a container. Each container was being watched by Max and Zellner representatives to ensure that there was no ballot-box stuffing. 

The weighted vote is more complicated. It was all calculated based on the number of people within a given election district. Some suburban voters had weighted votes of under 200, while some city voters had weighted votes in excess of 900. 

 Max claims he won more ballots cast, that isn’t how the winner is calculated – Max and his faction knew this full well. One insider who was in the room tells me they didn’t even tally who received how many ballots cast in the counting room. Not only that, but they knew how the weighted votes were allocated and could have – but didn’t – file an objection of some sort in advance of the reorganization. The court case that’s being filed seems to center around the redistricting and reapportionment of the weighted vote in the Town of Amherst. Amherst’s town committee is led by Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward, who is a Lenihan/Zellner partisan. But it’s not clear whether the allegation is that Ward did something wrong. Even Max attorney Peter Reese acknowledged to the Buffalo News that, “[Ward] used an arcane provision of election law to redistrict in Amherst to his advantage.” Election Law section 2-104 is “arcane“? 

Even arcane statutory provisions are valid, though, aren’t they?

Ward rightly argues that the redistricting was done well in advance of the reorganization, and Max’s people had an equal opportunity to run people for new committee seats earlier this year, but didn’t.

The charges of ballot-stuffing are vague and don’t name names – the police were not called, no one is being haled into court over it, and in this smartphone age, no one took so much as a snapshot. By failing to pre-emptively challenge the Amherst redistricting, and by calling in the state party committee to don a blue helmet and oversee the process, the complaints from the losing side seem to be nothing more than soreness and sour grapes. 

In fact, Miner – whom Frank Max asked to attend and oversee the process – was in charge of the counting room. If she did not raise an objection (and there’s no report that she did), the count was fair on its face. If part of their strategy was to challenge the procedural legitimacy, it flew in the Max camp’s face. That explains why the allegations of counting improprieties are relegated to rumor and won’t be part of the litigation. 

It would be great if the Democratic party in Erie County could be unified, but any such unity is a three-way street. Conspicuous in their absence were any mouth-noises from the Pigeon or Brown camps about pledging to work with the ultimate winner. (Zellner and Max pledged to work with anyone, to their credit). To Pigeon and Brown, this is part of a decade-long effort to wrest control of the party apparatus back even though Lenihan found it in debt and utter disarray. Over ten years, almost always fighting a war on two fronts – against Republicans and breakaway Democratic factions, Lenihan navigated the party ship to a scandal-free path of successes that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. 

It would be great if the party could now unify behind Zellner, but no one’s holding their breath. Zellner is more pitbull to Lenihan’s likeable teddy bear, and has alienated many party stalwarts. The likelihood of these people shrugging off their personal bias in favor of party unity is slight. The Cuomo camp will have to reassess how wise it was to attempt to cajole and bully party loyalists to do something they couldn’t do in good conscience. The governor is alleged to have held up big civic issues such as the Bills lease over this idiotic party battle. If accurate, holding the entire community hostage over a party squabble is rank governmental malpractice. 

Party politics is by its very nature a massive battlefield of competing egos, and Erie County Democrats have proven time and again that these egos are most often unreconcilable. Maybe that conflicted status quo is better than the alternative. 


The Erie County Executive Race Today

13 Oct

1. Mark Poloncarz’s first TV ad is up and on the air. Check it out:


2. In concert with what I wrote on Monday, Collins and his fumbling divisive crew have exposed their central electoral strategy of suppressing the vote in the City of Buffalo.  The Buffalo News’ editorial page is not amused, calling it “dirty politics”,

We can find nothing good to say about this practice. It is cynical and sinister. Party hierarchies that play this game— and candidates who go along—show they are not about democracy and fair elections but about subversion as their means to an end. They lose any moral authority to demand fairness elsewhere or to claim the high ground.

3. Rod Watson also addresses suppression of the city vote, but instead of targeting Collins, he goes after Mayor Byron Brown.  Addressing Brown’s apparent reluctance to endorse Poloncarz, Watson asks incredulously,

Given how bad incumbent Republican Chris Collins has been for poor and working-class people, how can the Democratic mayor of America’s third-poorest city not come out strongly for the Democratic alternative?

Good question. But when it comes to just about anything not involving a ribbon-cutting, his name on a sign, or a photo op, Brown routinely shrugs off his power and responsibilities as a leader.

Even Collins’ reaction to the poll highlights his disdain for the city. First, the GOP strategizes to suppress turnout in Buffalo, then his minions complain that the poll is off because city residents won’t turn out. This takes “brazen” to a whole new level.

Watson basically calls Brown out as a chump who is more interested in settling age-old, idiotic political scores than doing what’s best for his city and his constituents. Brown’s critics have, of course, known about this since about 2006.

4. Tonight at 9pm, Collins and Poloncarz face off in the only debate between the two that is likely to be televised. We’ll have some sort of live blogging here at WNYMedia.net, so stay tuned.

5. On the issue of money, a commenter very aptly stated,

Is it only me? The media keeps reporting that Collins has $1.2 million and Poloncarz has raised $225,000. If Collins loaned himself $800,000 and got the rest from his appointees and millionaire friends that is saying something. 1st Collins only raised 2 x’s as much as Poloncarz and a very select few of the wealthy want to control our county government with Collins at the helm. 2nd Poloncarz has about the same ratio of funding to run a campaign as Hochul did in defeating Corwin another well to do friend of Collins. Maybe the rich can’t always buy an election.

Indeed, that’s often omitted from the reporting on fundraising. Collins’ campaign is overwhelmingly self-funded.  Now that the Siena poll shows that Poloncarz is well within striking distance of winning this thing, expect the fundraising and big-money campaigning to accelerate for the Lackawanna Kid. The UB Spectrum is reporting that the UB Foundation – a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation – is listed as having donated over $2500 to Chris Collins’ campaign in apparent violation of federal law, threatening its charitable status. The head of the foundation claims it was a minor accounting error, but the record speaks for itself.

6.  Would you consider this to be an “indirect” disclosure of polling data by the Collins campaign to promote Collins’ success or Poloncarz’s defeat? According to Paladino/Collins ally Rus Thompson, Collins sent him a text message that read as follows:

54-37. News oversampled City , union households and under sampled suburbs. We are wining suburbs by 20, Republics 85-15, independents 67-33 and winning 30% of dems. If you want a tight race go to the city which is 7:1 but doesn’t vote in CE races. It’s all BS to help Poloncarz.

7. By way of full disclosure to the Bob McCarthys of the world, I have not been paid a cent of money from the Poloncarz campaign – directly or indirectly – to write favorably about him or his campaign. I have been friends with Mark since the Kerry campaign of 2004, and I support his candidacy because he is the better, more competent candidate, and because his opponent has raised taxes, engaged over and over again in petty politics, has played make-believe with “running government like a business” and “getting government out of” certain businesses, pitted the city against the suburbs and vice-versa, set back regionalism by leaps and bounds, hired his cronies for do-nothing 6-figure jobs while blaming the county’s rank and file for being too greedy and lazy, implemented Six Sigma at enormous taxpayer cost with absolutely zero quantified, proven taxpayer savings.