Tag Archives: Sen. Mark Grisanti

The Grisanti Situation

29 Jun

The last several days have been a whirlwind for NY State Senator Mark Grisanti, but that’s what happens when you make history. After casting a crucial vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State, the Senator has found himself featured on The Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and in media outlets across the country. He’s held press conferences here in Buffalo and done numerous interviews. He’s kind of a big deal.

With that sudden notoriety also came some serious questions from local officials in the Republican and Conservative Parties who were not happy with Sen. Grisanti’s decision to vote in favor of marriage equality. There have been local stories all week about how disappointed the members of those parties are with Grisanti’s actions.

When contacted for comment, Erie County Republican Chariman Nick Langworthy said, “As I’ve said a few times, I’m disappointed with Mark’s choice to vote in favor of gay marriage. He went back on his word to support the institution of marriage being between one man and one woman.”

But what are the political consequences that Grisanti now faces after “disappointing” his party chairman and senior members of the party? Yesterday, we heard a rumor from three different sources that Langworthy had arranged a meeting of at least some of the members of the Erie County Republican Executive Committee to determine what the roadmap would be for dealing with Grisanti. The sources reported that Langworthy and other Republican leaders were considering a move to sever political ties with the Senator. When asked, Langworthy said that meeting was not happening and added, “I’m not out rattling cages about this, but I think Senator Grisanti should spend some time with his constituents.”

The rumor of a secret Republican cabal to kick Grisanti out of the party, as it were, seems unlikely. After all, the decision to force Grisanti into the arms of an eager Democratic Party is not Langworthy’s alone to make. A decision like that has tremendous statewide consequences that would affect redistricting and the overall balance of power in the state senate. Any move on Grisanti would need approval from the state party chairman and other members of the party apparatus. Langworthy may be a lot of things, but a move like that would be politically tone deaf.

With that said, Democratic party regulars are chasing Grisanti like hormonal tweens chasing Justin Bieber at the airport. Pulling Grisanti back into the Democrat party from whence he came would be a massive coup. When asked for comment, Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Len Lenihan said, “There are always informal discussions locally and in Albany over issues like this, but nothing formal or direct has happened. I have not spoken with Senator Grisanti about this.” Lenihan continued, “Senator Grisanti was a lifelong Democrat until this past election and he is now a hero in this party after voting his conscience.”

Senator Grisanti’s Chief of Staff, Doug Curella said, ” Right now we are dealing with real issues like creating jobs, lowering taxes and bringing people back to the Western New York area. We have never really thought about running on the Democratic line in 2012, it’s a year in a half away, we are interested in the policy, not the politics of government.”

The stakes are high for a first term Senator who earned praise not only for his marriage equality vote but for his entire body of work during his first year. An independent report done by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) shows Grisanti was one of the state’s busiest and most effective lawmakers, according to a recently released study of legislation that passed this session in both the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly.

Grisanti sponsored a total of 103 bills and had 23 pass both houses ranking him 8th out of the 212 combined members who represent the state in the Senate and Assembly. These 23 bills also placed him 7th in terms of numbers of bills passed by senators. Grisanti passed the most bills of any first term senator or Assembly member. He also is the only first-year legislator among the list of 10 who passed at least 20 bills, with the other nine who made the list having served in office for at least five terms.

It seems to me that the battle for Senator Grisanti is just getting started. “The situation is ripe for discussion and Senator Grisanti essentially holds the majority for the Republicans in the State Senate.” said Lenihan.

To be continued…

Politics, Religion and #Atheism

28 Jun

Last week in New York State, we watched as several State Senators considered the role of their personal faith while making a decision about public policy. Most notably Senator Mark Grisanti who often spoke of the conflict between his faith and his belief in equal rights under the law.

However, the issue isn’t just about marriage equality, it’s about what role faith should play in our government and public life.  Last week, I posted a video of John F. Kennedy explaining to a group of protestant ministers that his Catholic faith would not compromise his ability to create and support policy independent of the Vatican. Imagine that, a President having to inform the public that his faith would NOT be central to the discharge of his duties.

Fast forward to the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate that was broadcast on CNN earlier this month. This question was posed to the candidates by the debate moderator, John King.

Just what role does faith play in your political life? Are there decisions, certain issues where some might you just, let’s meet with my advisers, what does my gut say, and others where you might retreat and have a moment of private prayer?

The answers are immaterial, because each candidate has at different times interjected their personal faith into the public discourse in Congress, their statehouse or in their frequent media appearances. The Republican Party of 2011 is firmly rooted in the social conservative circles of evangelical churches, creationism, faith based initiatives, home schooling, and praying to the heavens for guidance on what to do with the budget deficit. Is this really the kind of country we wish to live in? Are you comfortable with a President who truly believes that the world was created just 3,000 years ago and believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that men rode on dinosaurs (if they even existed, that is). Because every single candidate on that stage believes those thing. Every. Single. One.

Do you have any concerns at all that those “Answers In Genesis” and faith teachings might not be the sturdiest foundation for a nation that includes tens of millions of people who don’t share those religious points of view?

After all, unless a candidate professes his faith loudly and proudly, he or she is not welcome inside the tent of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party also has strong roots in the faith community, however, it’s not central to the party platform. Aside from Rep. Pete Stark (D,CA), there isn’t one national level atheist Democrat in office.

Which begs the question, what if an atheist ran for President? Is it even possible? Can a man or woman who professes an absence of belief in a higher power even be considered for public office? If not, why not?

Would you vote for an atheist politician? Would you cast a vote for an atheist Mayor of Buffalo? An atheist County Executive? Member of Congress? President?

How important is the faith of a candidate to your final choice in the voting booth? Should someone’s faith be part of their decision making process in matters of public policy?

Matthew Ricchiazzi : Ineligible for SD-60

9 Jun

The requirements to run for the state senate in New York are pretty clear. You need to be 18, have lived in the New York for at least 5 years (preferably not with your parents) and most importantly, you must have been a full time resident of the senate district you want to represent for the 12 months immediately before the election.

So, if someone wanted to run against Antoine Thompson in New York’s 60th Senate district, that person would have to have lived in that district since at least November 2, 2009.

Over the weekend, the Ostrowski/Coniglio faction of the local WNY tea party endorsed a handful of candidates for this years state elections. Among them was Matthew Ricchiazzi. You might remember him from such failed campaigns like last year’s Mayoral race and most recently, last month’s Buffalo School Board election.

His first two attempts at getting on a ballot having failed, Mr. Ricchiazzi is looking for a trifecta with his current run against Antoine Thompson.

WNYmedia has learned that Mr. Ricchiazzi could be considered ineligible to run for the New York State senate’s 60th district seat.

Ricchiazzi recently sent a “press release” out trying to paint WNYmedia blogger and Carl Paladino supporter Rus Thompson as a democrat:

Monday morning, Ricchiazzi blasted off an email to just about every local media email address he could harvest – even the kid who covers the online-bargain beat for the Channel 2 morning infotainment hour got an email. In it, (see it here in its entirety), Ricchiazzi pleases his new political ally – Ostrowski – by blasting Erie County Republican Party chairman Nick Langworthy for, among other things, endorsing “Democrat Rus Thompson”. (Ricchiazzi’s website is here).

Anyone who knows Rus, even if by name only, can tell you that despite his current BOE status, Rus is about the farthest thing from a Democrat out there.

When dropping out of last year’s mayoral race, Ricchiazzi wrote:

Let’s be honest–a 23 year old, openly bisexual, half-Indian, registered Republican running for Mayor of Buffalo was a long shot.

Like his self-described sexual orientation (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Ricchiazzi is just as undecided about his political affiliation.

Matthew Ricchiazzi was a registered Democrat for most, if not just about all his voting life (six years):

In January of 2009, before President Obama was even inaugurated, Ricchiazzi changed his party affiliation to Republican.

Yet in numerous interviews over the last two years, Ricchiazzi has claimed to be a fiscally conservative, socially liberal “Republican”. Know any of those?

Hell, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but also consider myself a fiscal conservative.  Do you know anyone on either side of the aisle that likes high taxes?

I digress.

In his attempt to run for Buffalo School Board and sometime in April 2010, the Erie County Board of Elections sent Ricchiazzi mail which came back undeliverable. At the time, it was discovered Ricchiazzi did not live at the address on Brinton Street he supplied:

Until this morning,  Ricchiazzi was considered an “inactive voter” by the Erie County Board of Elections. His voting record only tallied vote was in one Presidential Election back in 2004, which seems to also be the last time he was a legal resident of Erie County for the length of time needed to run for office.

After graduating from Sweet Home High School, Ricchiazzi attended Cornell University until 2008 and then Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, until a few weeks ago.

Obviously, it’s hard to be a full time student at Cornell and live in north Buffalo. Ricchiazzi’s Facebook status reveals that he was living in Tompkins County as recently as May 15th:

And back in March when he was coming “home to Buffalo Amherst” for spring break to collect petitions that would eventually be deemed invalid for the Buffalo School Board Election:

And in February when he was snowed in during an Ithaca snow storm:

 

Calls to the Tompkins County BOE confirm Ricchiazzi never registered at his most recent residence near Cornell University. When he filled out his Democrat -> Republican enrollment registration card in January 2009, he maintained his given address on Margaret Drive in Amherst, well outside the 60th Senate District.

Parts of the The NYS Public Officers law place a heavier burden on the residency of candidates as opposed to an average voter.  If challenged in court, Ricchiazzi would have a hard time confirming his residency in the 60th district for 12 consecutive months. Due to the district falling in both Erie and Niagara County, the issue would have to be brought before the State Board of Elections and to State Supreme court in Albany county.

Are we meant to believe that Mr. Ricchiazzi wants to go to Albany to be a legislator, yet cannot be bothered to properly register to vote? Cannot be bothered to vote at all in five years?  Are we meant to believe that he would well represent his prospective constituents, but cannot be bothered to meet (or research) the basic requirements to run for a particular public office?

While Jim Ostrowski denigrates his former allies, calling them “regular office seekers”, his coalition is busy endorsing a kid who in 2 years has run for 3 offices, doesn’t own a home, probably hasn’t paid a property or income tax, and who until today was not registered to vote, doesn’t vote, and quite possibly is now ineligible to run for the office he seeks to hold.

That’s not just sloppy.  It’s lazy and stupid.