Endorsements: State Senate Primaries
Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as such. They have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. Any endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.
The primary elections are taking place this Thursday. Please vote, if you can.
State Senate District 60 (Mark Grisanti (R) incumbent)
Democratic Primary: Mike Amodeo
Mike Amodeo is a progressive Democrat who wants Albany term limits, a ban on hydrofracking, reducing the red tape the state imposes to create a business, and you can read the rest of his campaign platform here. It’s solid, smart, and full of things Democrats should be supporting. So, I’m at a loss to explain why it is that we need a “Democrat” like Chuck Swanick to run against him with the express support of homophobic, fundamentally transactional bad actor, Conservative Party boss Ralph Lorigo.
If you’re a registered Democrat in the district, you should be voting for Amodeo. Period.
In what way is Chuck Swanick more progressive on anything than Amodeo? I will grant you, he’s more progressive in terms of, e.g., becoming a Republican, cozying up with Joel Giambra, earning personal perks, privileges, patronage, and pay. I will grant you that he’s more progressive in terms of looking out for #1 above all else, that he is without peer in the business of “protecting Chuck Swanick” and “looking out for Chuck Swanick”. I will also concede that he is unique in that his bad-government bona fides are unparalleled, and that he and his supporters are undeterred by them. If ever there was an advertisement made to highlight “how government and politics in WNY are horrible things populated by horrible people”, Chuck Swanick’s name and image would be plastered all over it. He should be perpetually and serially unelectable – not just unelectable, but the mere suggestion of his election should send average citizens screaming.
Democrats in this region are obsessed with our perpetual, counterproductive, ill-considered factionalism (e.g., Lenihan vs. Pigeon; City Hall vs. everybody). But the net result of that is hatred and failure. Chuck Swanick isn’t a Democrat any more than he is a Republican. He is an opportunist, and a corrupt one, at that. He is a member of the Swanick party, and Christ alone knows why any self-proclaimed Democrat wouldn’t back a perfectly reasonable Democratic Party candidate in Mike Amodeo. No one on Earth has given a single, solitary reason why Swanick is preferable to Amodeo on the merits, or – more to the point – why Amodeo is unacceptable. (Except for factionalism and some bizarre, unproven opinion about Swanick’s “progressive” bona fides). How much easier would it be if we had Democrats united behind the singular Democrat who (a) isn’t a patronage whore; and (b) isn’t a careerist.
Some argue that Swanick’s backing by the execrable homophobes at the National Organization for Marriage is beside the point; marriage equality is settled, they say. But it isn’t. Here you have an opportunity to have a Republican (Grisanti) and a Democrat (Amodeo) run in November, both of whom would be unwavering supporters of marriage equality. Yet instead, some supporters of same sex marriage are backing a Democrat who won support from Vomit (Ralph) Lorigo and NOM, thus putting the issue of marriage equality back in the race. If not for factionalism, and the promise of future hack job, on what merits does anyone select Swanick against Amodeo? In what way is Amodeo unacceptable as a “progressive” Democrat? How, precisely, is someone funded by NOM acceptable to anyone as a “progressive” Democrat. This primary is about Chuck Swanick, money, patronage and factionalism, full stop, end of story.
I’m not a Dem committeeman – not for the county committee, and not for my town committee. I have no say or stake in who becomes ECDC chair. However, I think that once the committee selects a chair, the party faithful should default to supporting the committee’s activities, absent some compelling reason not to. Instead, we have factions who openly and relentlessly challenge the committee, but don’t have the balls or the votes to actually change its makeup. (Who showed up to vote for Sundra Rice?) Now, you’ve successfully deflected the argument away from my question to you, which is – why do you support the Conservative Party’s candidate, Chuck Swanick? Democrats should run screaming from Ralph Lorigo. All Democrats.
Al Coppola is also running. So what?
tl;dr: AFAIC, Democrats should stop backing candidates who seek and obtain the Conservative Party endorsement, full stop.
Republican Primary: Mark Grisanti
Last year, Mark Grisanti, in a massive and systemically uncharacteristic display of balls, bucked his party to vote in favor of same sex marriage. For that alone, he deserves re-election. His opponent has a track record of questionable campaign tactics, and is running almost exclusively on the “Grisanti said he wasn’t going to vote for same-sex marriage” platform, such as it is.
What that amounts to is, “Grisanti broke his promise to do the wrong thing, and did the right thing instead“.
Grisanti’s vote was a real-life, contemporary profile in courage.
Grisanti’s vote wasn’t influenced by phone calls or internet chatter. Instead, he performed legal research on the matter, finding out that civil unions don’t really work, and that married couples enjoy 1,300+ rights and privileges that unmarried couples don’t. He had to compartmentalize his faith and examine the issue purely on the facts and the law, resulting in a conversion. However, he would not agree to vote in favor of this law without strong religious exemptions and an inseverability clause, which would render the entire law null and void should a future court change so much as one word. Grisanti said that the clergy to whom he’s spoken since his vote appreciate that language.
At the time, traditional media were intensely interested in the “betrayal” angle, and whether Grisanti had committed “political suicide”. Grisanti smiled and replied that he’s new to politics and didn’t make his decision under pressure. He said it was going to pass anyway, but he could not in good conscience refuse to extend basic civil rights to his taxpaying constituents. He said he doesn’t know – or care – whether he committed political suicide with this vote. He didn’t get into politics to be re-elected, but to do good by his constituents. If they decide he should leave Albany, so be it.
I guess in western New York politics, we’ve become so cynical and jaded, expecting our electeds to be dirty, dishonorable deal-makers that when we see true leadership, hard work, and conscientious research and analysis, we really don’t know how to react and assume we’re being played. Grisanti wasn’t playing anyone.
Furthermore, people who may or may not be on Grisanti’s opponent’s payroll have been engaged in an utterly disgusting, obscene campaign against the incumbent – so bad that it serves only to enhance Grisanti’s standing. That Grisanti’s opponent expressly or tacitly permits this to happen reflects poorly on him and should be punished.
If you’d like to know the genesis of that “mailer” emailed around by a conservative “committee” (i.e., by polterpol Matt Ricchiazzi) and the anti-Grisanti animus behind it, it all has to do with a reason and a pretext. The reason is that Grisanti refused to hire Ricchiazzi. The pretext is that Ricchiazzi is somehow insulted by an uncorroborated account of Grisanti’s behavior in that bar fight up in the Falls. Click below to see a series of text messages that Ricchiazzi sent to Senator Grisanti and members of his staff around the time of the bar fight. Note his initial offer to “help” Grisanti sue the Senecas, and quickly degenerated into a demand for a job.
State Senate District 58 (Tim Kennedy (D) incumbent)
Democratic Primary: Tim Kennedy
I am a big fan of Betty Jean Grant’s, and I think she would make a fantastic State Senator. She is a tireless advocate for the poor and disadvantaged, and doesn’t cut deals with horrible Republican technocrats for political gain. I am a huge fan of the symbolism of her run. I don’t mean the fact that she’s an African-American or a woman – I mean the fact that Kennedy very deliberately and openly betrayed what should have been a Democratic county legislature majority in 2010 – 2011 and handed the reins of power almost unchecked to the execrable Chris Collins. The so-called “reform coalition” reformed nothing and brought little more than strife and hatred to the county legislature – a body that is about 90% uncontroversial ministerial work, and 10% visceral combat.
However, I won’t be guided by factionalism here any more than I will be in the 60th. As much as I like her, Betty Jean hasn’t articulated specific policy reasons why she would be an improvement over Kennedy, so I’ll reluctantly give it to the incumbent. While Kennedy touted his no-brainer work on cyberbullying and texting-while-driving statutes, I’d like to see him get out front of more controversial issues and stick his neck out for important reasons. So far, his tenure has been adequate, not excellent.