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The Latest News in #NY26

10 Feb

Within thirty minutes of Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation from Congress, my phone began buzzing with texts and calls from political insiders, hacks and hangers-on with updates on the behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy in the race to replace Lee.

According to the law, the candidates to succeed Lee are chosen by a weighted vote of the county party chairs in the district. The 26th district includes parts of Erie, Niagara, Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming and Orleans counties. It is a far-flung district that was drawn as a Republican safe haven for former Rep. Tom “Boss Hogg” Reynolds.  For the Republican Party, Erie and Niagara County hold 51% of the weighted vote in the designation vote by the county chairs.  I can’t seem to find the weighted vote breakout for the Democrats in this district but I recall that it is similar or higher.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the formalities…lets get to the feeding frenzy.  I spoke with several Republicans and many Democrats both local and statewide in the last twenty four hours and this is what I’ve gleaned from those conversations.

Not Running Nor Under Consideration:

Carl Paladino

The former NY GOP Gubernatorial candidate is not even remotely under consideration for the designation.  Under no circumstances would the local, state or national Republican Party support his candidacy in this race.  Carl is a proud, lifelong resident of South Buffalo (NY-27) and would need to move into NY-26 to run, which is doubtful.  He is absolutely toxic and since Lee just committed political suicide with topless email photos, it is unfathomable that Carl “Horse Porn, N-Word Email” Paladino would garner any demonstrable level of support.

Chris Collins

The reports are that the current Erie County Executive is not interested in the race.  Several sources close to Collins tell me that the he is focused on running for re-election and a future run for Governor.  While he has a formidable war chest for a Congressional campaign, Collins will continue his laser-like focus on taking things away from “the poors” and destroying the urban fabric of WNY.  As an aside, Collins does not possess a legislative temperament.  The very idea of being just 1 of 435 voices in Congress must sicken him.  The daily compromising, the mixing with the hoi polloi, and the good-nature tickle fights with guys like Eric Massa would drive this egomaniac insane.

Kathy Konst

Former Erie County Legislator has been hard at work trying to get her name out as a candidate.  Reporters who aren’t in tune with our petty local politics might remember Konst as an up and coming reformist legislator. However, that’s no longer the case.  During her ill-fated 2008 state senate campaign against Republican Dinosaur Dale Volker, it was revealed what an enormous train wreck her husband was financially and she was publicly hung out to dry and beaten like a filthy carpet by Volker.  She never recovered.

She turned on the local Democratic Party and basically handed her County Legislature seat to the Grover Dill of local politics, Dino Fudoli.  She was immediately appointed as Commissioner of Environment and Planning under Chris Collins in the least transparent political sellout in recent local memory. She is persona non grata with local and regional Democrats.  In fact, I think it’s more likely that Jimmy Griffin (deceased former Mayor of Buffalo) would win this seat.  Since Konst would need to secure certificates of authorization from Erie County Dem Chairman Len Lenihan and Niagara County Dem Chair Dan Rivera (who share the majority of the weighted vote) Kathy doesn’t have a chance in hell.  All done with that rumor, okay?

The Republican Frontrunners

George Maziarz

Maziarz has been in the New York State Senate since 1995 and is an entrenched Albany politician who maintains appeal with the tea party lunatics and centrist Republicans.  Sources say he has the full support of former Rep. Tom Reynolds who is still a local kingmaker in Republican circles.

During his time in office, Maziarz has demonstrated the kind of tone deaf leadership which has made Albany famous for its epic level of dysfunction.  His “government reform” sensibilities have been on display in recent years.  For example, Maziarz spent $906,831 of our tax dollars on staff expenditures between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.    In 2009 and 2010, Maziarz raised campaign funds with tutti di tutti scumbag of the New York State Senate, Pedro Espada.  Maziarz is also the leader of a chorus of legislators who denounce “downstate” interests while accepting massive campaign donations from public employee unions, downstate interests, and lobbying groups.  He has been a proponent of generic Republican causes like “lowering taxes” and “lowering taxes”, “protecting the sanctity of marriage”.  Also, “lowering taxes”.  He likes that idea.

Recently, Maziarz was appointed to a cush “lulu” position in the State Senate as Vice President Pro Tempore and serves as a lynchpin of the narrow Republican majority in the senate.  If Maziarz were to accept the designation for NY-26, it would alter the balance of power statewide.  Jimmy Vielkind of the Albany Times-Union has more on the potential side effects of a Maziarz designation.

Jane Corwin

State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin represents the Fightin’ 142nd Assembly District, which covers parts of Erie and Niagara Counties.   Corwin has experience following disgraced Republicans into office, so she has that going for her, which is nice.  Jane defeated Assemblyman Mike Cole in the 2008 primary after Cole was formally censured by the New York State Assembly. He admitted to drinking excessively with a student intern and then spending the night in her apartment.

After a career of working at her father’s company, inheriting money and serving on charitable boards, Corwin served as the Assistant Treasurer of the Collins For Our Future campaign and was rewarded for her support by being pushed into the Assembly seat by the aforementioned Collins.  Did that sound dismissive enough?  Good.  That’s what I was going for.  She has been a reliable conservative vote on issues close to the hearts of right wingers everywhere.  You can check out her ideological positions by clicking here.  Good news for you people who hate the environment, she loves hydrofracking!

Most importantly, as an entitled millionaire who earned her money the old fashioned way, she is the perfect choice for the designation.  She can self fund this special election and she has enough money in the bank to take on whomever she’ll have to face in 2012 when NY-26, NY-27, and NY-28 are collapsed into two after redistricting.

Democratic Frontrunners (Pretty short bench for this race)

Mark Poloncarz

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz has not stated privately or publicly that he is interested in the race, but he has the name recognition required to start the campaign.  In 2005, Poloncarz won a county-wide office that had been under Republican control for three decades.

Mark has a pretty solid record of fiscal conservatism and good government ethics while developing a reputation as a fighter after nearly four years of daily battles with the County Executive.  Not a lot to go on policy-wise as he is the beancounter for the Erie County and rarely stakes out positions aside from fiscal issues, but Mark is known to be a solid progressive and is popular with the netroots.  He polls very well in the outer suburbs of Erie County and would be a dangerous candidate for any opponent.

Kathy Hochul

In 2010, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won re-election to her office and is rumored to be interested in the Erie County Executive position as well as the designation in NY-26.  Recent polling data gives her very high marks for likability, name recognition, and credibility.  As Erie County Clerk, she hasn’t taken many positions on matters of public policy, but she has stepped out on occasion to assert herself in the public eye.  Most notably, Hochul challenged Former Governor Eliot Spitzer on his plan to to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.  Hochul is not viewed as a “progressive” by the netroots/activist class, but she is a qualified, professional government executive.  Can she raise the money for the race?  Can she put together the organization required to run in a district as large as NY-26?

Jon Powers

A 2008 democratic candidate in NY-26, Powers lost in a three way primary to local businessman/soup fanatic Jack Davis and environmental attorney Alice Kryzan.  Powers was widely seen as an ideal candidate due to his military experience, educational background and dreamy good looks.  However, after losing the primary, Mr. Powers quickly left WNY for a job with a progressive national security think tank in Washington D.C. and is currently employed as a Special Advisor on Energy to the US Army.

Powers also burned some bridges on his way out of town by not giving up his Working Families Party line to Kryzan after she won the Democratic Primary. This alienated local Democrats and WFP officials alike.  Powers faces a massive uphill climb if he is interested in the race.  Most notably, the perception that he was a “carpetbagger” who parachuted back into WNY in 2008 only to run for Congress, which was solidified when he immediately moved to DC after losing in the primary.  He would need to assemble an organization, raise six figures of money in a hurry and mend some serious fences.  An unlikely candidate.

The Backbench Candidates:

Let’s dispense with the candidates who are just happy to have their name included in the discussion; Assemblyman Jim Hayes (R, Williamsville) Erie County Legislator Ed Rath (R, Amherst), Erie County Legislator Ray Walter (R, Clarence) and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks (R, Fairport).

Due to the weighted vote favoring candidates from Erie or Niagara County, Brooks starts out with a massive disadvantage but she is a leading compromise candidate.

Hayes is usually rumored to be a candidate when positions open up, but it appears he likes his comfortable position as a high ranking minority legislator in Albany.

Walter and Rath are relative newcomers to elective politics, but if the Collins and Reynolds factions cannot agree on a candidate and Brooks cannot secure support, one of them could emerge as a potential compromise candidate.  Rath, by nature of his Mother’s name recognition and reputation and Walter by nature of his strong right wing fiscal positions, likability and ties to Collins.

Due to her fat bank account and relationship with Chris Collins, I suspect we’ll see Jane Corwin emerge as the Republican candidate and she’ll be difficult to beat.  It looks as if Kathy Hochul will emerge as the Democratic candidate and her only real limitation would be raising enough money to compete with Corwin.

If a respectable candidate is identified who can raise in the neighborhood of $200-500K on short notice, the DCCC will reportedly inject a serious amount of cash into this race.  Even in a right leaning district, a centrist technocrat like Hochul could steal the seat for the Democrats.  So, can Kathy turn around a quick fundraising operation to get the necessary national support?

Did I just write 1800 words about this race?  YOU’RE GOD DAMNED RIGHT I DID! If you read all the way to the end, you get a prize…an autographed picture of Marc Odien!  Please send a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to:

Self Loathing Political Nerds Anonymous

327 Niagara Street

Buffalo, NY 14201