Chuck Swanick skulked back into the private sector and out of government in the aftermath of the epic disaster that was the county fiscal meltdown of 2004 – 2005. He went back to his job with CSX, but saw an opportunity last year when State Senator Mark Grisanti voted in favor of same-sex marriage.
The opportunity was that Swanick could be the conservative Catholic homophobic Democratic candidate and challenge Grisanti. He enlisted the help of local scheissmeister Steve Pigeon, fresh off of a cush State Senate job under his protege-turned-convict Pedro Espada. This means that every hack with a (D) after their name who has a beef with Len Lenihan’s Erie County Democratic Committee had been enlisted in the Pigeon/Swanick cause.
Swanick, in expressing his disgust and opposition to same-sex marriage, quickly received the endorsement of execrable Ralph Lorigo-led jobs club known as the “Conservative Party” (which is famously inconsistent in its supposed automatic withholding of support for candidates who back same-sex marriage – see Kennedy, Tim).
What’s so conservative about Swanick? His opponent, Mike Amodeo reminds us of that, as Chairperson of the Erie County Legislature, Swanick requested $4.78 Million for the Legislature’s 2004 budget. Included in Swanick’s bloated budget request were funds for 50 patronage employees. In addition, the Legislature stashed away another $2.7 Million for member items, more commonly known as pork projects. In comparison, the County Legislature’s 2012 budget is $2.96 Million, with no money allocated for member items. The Legislature staff has also since been right-sized to almost half the employees of the Swanick era.
“On the eve of the Red/Green Budget Crisis, Chuck Swanick’s focus was on pork and patronage for his political fiefdom,” said his challenger, Amodeo. “Voters have no interest in returning to the days of wasteful spending.”
During Swanick’s tenure at the Legislature, Erie County’s cash reserves dwindled down to a paltry $4 Million. In addition, Swanick helped squander $250 Million of proceeds from the County’s tobacco settlement. Swanick also voted to allow Erie County to sell the Erie County Medical Center to itself, incurring another $200 Million long-term liability in exchange for an approximately $85 Million short-term benefit. New York State eventually determined that Erie County needed “adult supervision” and implemented a control board.
“When Chuck Swanick left office in 2005, County finances were in complete shambles,” concluded Amodeo. “Chuck’s decision to campaign as a ‘fiscal conservative’ is an insult to every Erie County resident that had their library closed, services cut and taxes raised.”
Remember all that? You should. It’s what sparked a reasonably serious civic discussion about the future direction of the city and county, and started a local tax revolt of sorts as the county’s share of the sales tax inched up to avoid catastrophe.
Swanick – a former Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat recently accepted two donations totaling $7,000 from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-equality organization based out of Princeton, New Jersey. Since 2007, NOM has spent millions of dollars across the United States to restrict the rights of LGBT Americans, whom NOM Chairman John Eastman has referred to as ‘barbarians’.
Swanick, a 26 year career politician, also received a contribution of $16,800 from Sean Fieler of Princeton, New Jersey. Mr. Fieler, a major Republican donor and hedge fund manager, is chairman of the American Principles Project, whose founder is chairman emeritus of NOM.
“I am deeply troubled to hear of Chuck Swanick’s taking of campaign funding from NOM, a hate group designated as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said Bryan Ball, President of Stonewall Democrats of WNY. “Mr. Swanick’s blatant disregard for the equal rights and protections of every Western New York family he seeks to represent is an offensive assault on the right to freedom we value as Americans. The Democratic Party has always stood to aid the civil rights movement, and hate such as Mr. Swanick’s has no place in our great Party. I am proud of all who stand united against such divisiveness. Never should any part of our great Party support his actions.”
According to NOM’s own press release, the organization “intends to participate in legislative contests throughout the state as part of its $2 million commitment to make sure the voters of New York are able to vote to restore marriage in New York”.
Mike Amodeo supports same-sex marriage. He pledges to take on NYPA to ensure that western New York’s waterfronts continue to improve. He is against hydrofracking and the environmental risks that come from injecting bedrock with water and noxious chemicals to extract natural gas from it. (Swanick essentially supports fracking). He supports term limits and changing Albany’s careerist culture. (Swanick is the opposite).
Swanick isn’t a Democrat, and I don’t understand his return to politics, except by noting how he differs from the mainstream Democrat running against him.