Awful Endorsements for an Awful Primary Day: #WNYVotes

Greetings, citizens of Goodenoughistan, where good enough is good enough! First things first.

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. All endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.

Secondly, here is audio of a podcast I recorded with Artvoice editor Geoff Kelly and Trending Buffalo‘s Brad Riter. In it, we discuss the primary, the state of (mostly) Democratic politics in WNY, and how we got to this awful place.

Thirdly, here is some background. Jeremy Zellner defeated Frank Max last year in a hotly contested race for chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee – a win that was ultimately challenged in court, where Zellner’s win was upheld. Since then, Max and a group of dissident Democrats commonly affiliated with former party chair Steve Pigeon have turned their dissidence from passive neglect to active sabotage; chaos for chaos’ sake, as there is very little chance of success and barely any upside whatsoever.

The Mascot for the WNY Progressive Caucus PAC (not real)

In just the last two weeks, the Pigeon faction has created a brand new political action committee called the “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC“. It is operated by Kristy Mazurek, funded by Steve Pigeon, Frank Max, and Senator Tim Kennedy, and has as its spokesman a young Pigeon protege originally from Genesee County.

Typically, these sorts of things used to fly well under the radar, but this year it got blown wide open when a Buffalo News freedom of information request traced inflammatory mailers in two county legislature races to this new entity. Since then, the organization has been effectively outed, as it has begrudgingly (and arguably incompletely) disclosed donor and payee information, showing over $100,000 going in and out of the PAC in just about a week in support of certain Democratic candidates not backed by the party committee.

In addition, the PAC was found to be behind mailers that were sent throughout Niagara Falls in support of one city councilman who is working to halt progress on a prospective hotel project that Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister has proposed. The defamatory mailing went so far as to accuse Hamister of being a criminal.

If you want to get into deep background, consider this: when Max and Zellner squared off against each other for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee, conventional wisdom was that Governor Cuomo was backing Max. When Max lost, conventional wisdom was that Cuomo’s people were continuing to back Max against Zellner, and that relations were chilly between Zellner and the Governor.

But a lot has changed in the last year, and the Governor is just fine, thank you, with Zellner, and Max has not been seen with Cuomo as much in recent months, if at all.

To make matters worse, the PAC’s mailer in the Falls was so inflammatory that Hamister was about to pull out of the deal altogether until Governor Cuomo called all parties to intervene and save it. I wonder what Cuomo thinks of Frank Max now that his PAC almost destroyed a development project in a city starved for them?

So, we turn to the races. These are Democratic primaries, mostly in Erie County. I don’t really care about the fusion parties, or whatever the Republicans might be up to.


Erie County Sheriff (BERT DUNN)

None of this matters if we don’t first come to an agreement on what incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard is. He is looking for a third term, and has been nothing but a bitter embarrassment and disappointment. When he wasn’t screwing up the Joan Diver search or letting Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape from custody, he was catching the attention of the federal Department of Justice due to conditions at the county holding centers. Howard needs to go.

Bert Dunn is the scion to the Bert’s Bikes empire, and his family also founded Dunn Tire. This means he can operate a campaign that is completely self-funded and reliant on nobody. Why is this important? Because Richard Dobson – a nice guy who retired over a decade ago – has no money at his disposal, and there won’t be a lot coming his way. The only way Howard goes is against a credibly well-funded challenger.

The last two Democrats to take Howard on – Fieramusca and Glascott – lost because they were retirees with little money and no political experience. Dobson may be the best guy in the world, but he is exactly like the last two challengers. Democrats need to try something different this time, and Bert Dunn helps them accomplish that.

Dobson allies will point out that Dunn wrote something mean about Obama and Cuomo in a text message to a friend. Who cares? Being Sheriff isn’t about partisan politics or whether Obama is great. It’s about competence, justice, and professionalism, and I have no reason to doubt that Dunn could bring that to the table.


Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one. That one seat doesn’t necessarily mean a Republican pickup, by the way – there are at least four nominal “Democrats” vying for a seat, any one or all of whom would gladly strike a deal to share power with the Republicans, just like under Barbara Miller-Williams period of dysfunction and collaboration.


Tim Hogues is the incumbent. Hogues is chairman of the public safety committee and has helped to restore all the Collins cuts to libraries, rodent control, and a soon to open clinic on Broadway. Hogues is a rising star in the party and someone to watch. Barbara Miller-Williams sold out her party and her community to do Chris Collins’ bidding back in 2009. The de facto Republican legislative majority over which she presided was devastating to her constituents, and she was so politically inept that she approved the redistricting plan that ended up costing her re-election. She is being materially supported by the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC, which has launched a vicious smear campaign against Hogues for having the audacity to act in exactly the way a legislator in a regional governmental entity should act.


Rumor has it that Tim Kennedy’s $45,000 donation to the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC is revenge for Grant coming very close to unseating him in the state Senate through a write-in campaign last year. Democrat Grant is still smarting over how Kennedy conspired with Steve Pigeon, Barbara Miller-Williams, and Chris Collins to deliver Collins a de facto Republican legislature. Betty Jean is a great advocate for her community, and deserves re-election.

District 7 (LYNN DEARMYER)

This is the Tom Mazur district. This is ground zero for the battle between the Democratic factions. The Pigeonistas are backing former Cheektowaga Councilman Rick Zydel. Zellner (although not the county committee) is backing Lynn Dearmyer, who ran for the seat in 2009. I went online to look and see what the candidates stand for. Zydel doesn’t even have a website where one can look at his platform. That by itself should disqualify him in this day and age. Dearmyer makes much of her personality and biography, and that stuff is all messed up and stuff, but doesn’t really explain what she’d do to change anything, or how she’d be different. Pat Burke also has a website, and it touts his background and achievements, as well. The “issues” section is pretty light, though. He definitely identifies some serious problems, but doesn’t quite get into specifics of any solutions.

Based on that, I would back Dearmyer or Burke. I think I would lean Dearmyer because the outgoing rep is backing her. But for the love of God, people, put some damn ideas up on the internet.

District 8 (WYNNIE FISHER)

So, again – the Pigeon people are backing Wes Moore. Remember that thing I wrote up a few paragraphs about not having a website? Sheesh, neither Moore nor Wynnie Fisher have any significant web presence. They are on Facebook, though. On Fisher’s page, I see her with Mark Poloncarz and Maria Whyte. On Moore’s page, I see an August 28th post from Kristy Mazurek thanking people for coming to a Moore shindig, indicating some form of involvement in the campaign. The problem with that is that Mazurek’s PAC came into existence on the 22nd, and she shouldn’t be coordinating between the PAC and the campaign. I suppose the definition of “coordination” is subject to some debate, but this sure as hell smells like it.

I don’t want another turncoat legislature that hands the body over to the Republicans. Fisher it is.


I’ve never endorsed Byron Brown before, and I’m not about to start. While Brown hasn’t delivered on the “progress”, as he claims, his challenger Bernie Tolbert has been all over the place in this race. Tolbert’s effort has been so weak that he didn’t just fail to define himself, he was such a nonentity that Brown didn’t find a need to try to define Tolbert, either. Tolbert said people “Believe in Bernie” but didn’t explain why, or for what. Tolbert offers up a choice without a rationale – yeah, Byron is terrible in a lot of ways; a caretaker mayor, but Tolbert only went as far as pointing that out, never giving voters a positive reason why they should choose him instead.

For me, President Obama’s visit – and the way each campaign used it – said it all. While Tolbert got out a quick one-liner about Obama mixing up Higgins and Brown, the Mayor used glowing things Obama said about Buffalo’s recent successes as the template for his own, positive, ad. It was as if Obama was not only endorsing Brown, but telling people that Brown was behind them all. It was the last nail in a coffin that only needed maybe 3.


Seriously, I hope all of the fusion parties go straight to hell, but you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want. Sergio Rodriguez is the Republican candidate who is also vying for the Conservative Party line. I would love for him to have it, because the only thing conservative about Byron Brown (whom that committee has endorsed) is his quiet passivity as mayor over the last two terms. I apologize for omitting this originally, but this is an excellent way to send a message to the “politics as usual” crowd that money and jobs don’t always rule the day. 


If you are fortunate enough to live in the Cataract City, and unfortunate enough to deal with its ever-crisis, then do yourself a favor, Democrat, and vote for Andrew Touma, Kristen Grandinetti, and Charles Walker. (It’s a vote-for-any-three election). I don’t know the first thing about them, but I have seen enough about Sam Fruscione in the last week to know that you should never, ever vote for him again for anything, ever.

Questions/comments & hate mail: buffalopundit[at]

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  • Alan…
    I am sort of perplexed that the Cheektowaga Democrats and their Chairman are so awful, so horrible, so morally bankrupt, yet that didn’t prevent you from coming into our town in 2007 and soliciting organizational support for your run for ECLeg in then Dist 4, a small portion of which meandered into the Northeast section of Cheektowaga.

    The committeemen and townspeople were more than gracious and welcoming to you and embraced your candidacy. We got you some signatures, we distributed your lit, we got your signs up. You actually virtually TIED Ranzenhofer in the Cheektowaga portion of your district, while getting swamped in Amherst, Clarence and Newstead.

    So on behalf of Cheekdems everywhere (and I am still one in spirit even though I am now a city dweller), let me just say “You’re Welcome”. And that message also comes from then Councilman Rick Zydel, who was your running mate in 2007, whose name and image appeared on Cheekdems lit next to yours, and who supported your candidacy.

    Cheers, and good luck to the candidates tomorrow!

    • Thanks, Andrew.

      I’m always grateful for the help the Cheektowaga Democrats gave me in 2007 – about 6 years ago. That was, alas, a different time.

      I’ll start by recommending that you re-read the post. If there’s anything there that isn’t factual, please let me know. As far as I can tell, you’re not upset because I lied, but because I’m not supporting the candidates you and Frank like. Well, that’s all well and good, but hardly the epic betrayal you’re suggesting here.

      I’ll continue by noting that I didn’t call the Cheektowaga Democrats “awful” or “horrible” or “morally bankrupt” anywhere. Nope. Don’t see it. (Actually, I made a larger point that everything everywhere is awful).

      Then I’ll segue into the point that I haven’t written a word about the Cheektowaga Democratic Committee except to note (a) that Frank Max lost the county chairmanship to Zellner; and (b) Frank Max is now affiliated with a PAC that is being run by a person who is not at all nice or good – she is anathema to good government – and funded by people who are not about good government but something else completely.

      In fact, I went far out of my way to not criticize anything about Mr. Zydel except the non-existence of any meaningful web presence whatsoever. I have nowhere to go to find out what the man thinks or wants to do. I also criticized both of his opponents for the same thing.

      However, I am extremely concerned that Mr. Zydel and Mr. Moore might do in the legislature what your friend Tim Kennedy did a few years ago – betray the Democratic party, stage another mini-coup and hand the Republicans a de facto majority where a new chairperson is named who acts as Igor to Collins’ Frankenstein (although Collins is now gone, so it would just be whatever Langworthy says).

      These are serious concerns – by my thinking, Kennedy and Miller-Williams should have been expelled from the party for what they did. Now, she has the audacity to call her successor a “Republican”, without a hint of irony, and Kennedy is burning some pretty big bridges by giving Mazurek’s Pigeon Action Committee or “PAC” what appears to be $85,000, half of it coming from an account that the NYS BOE says was terminated in 2011.

      I actually beat Ranzenhofer in Cheektowaga, if I remember correctly, and I will always be grateful for the help I received. But please don’t try and pull a guilt trip on me when I point out that some of the people who helped me 6 years ago are now actively trying to sabotage the Democratic establishment for sabotage’s sake.



    • You merely have to see the mailer that the “so awful, so horrible, so morally bankrupt” Cheektowaga Dems and their Chairman sent attacking a woman running for the town board today, Diane Benczkowski, who Max labels “TOXIC” about five times in huge bold type. And this not even from the WNY Progressive Caucus.

      This mailer will most definitely go down in history as one of the worst in Cheektowaga politics for it’s viciousness. Fortunately, it appears to be back-firing.

      Frank Max has had a hard time with women, either he’s beating them up physically (POS Max), or bashing them in these types of mailings. He should be run out of town on a rail, with apologist Kulyk running after Max and begging him not to go.

      POS, this whole sickening Cheektowaga group, POS!!!

      • Know Saint… not that I owe you any explanations, but I am supporting Diane in today’s primary, and in fact sat down with her at a lunch meeting here at Avant 16 months ago to advise her and help get her started. Don’t believe me, ask her yourself.

  • As I said on a Buffalo News post, I hope DA Sedita’s head is spinning over the blatant disregard for any and all rules that apply to election law. Sedita has been sweeping everything under the rug since he took the reigns at the DA’s office in 2009. He buried an ongoing investigation and walked away scott free. It’s about time Sedita and Pigeon get trapped by their lies.

    Special prosecutor – bring one on!!

    • If a formal complaint is filed by someone, I would think the task first goes to the Board of Elections. The board is empowered to:
      — Subpoena individuals and documents.
      — Compel the production of documents it deems relevant to its investigation.
      — Hold public and private hearings.
      — Hire special investigators at state expense if it opts to not use the State police.
      Historically, investigations have lacked muscle. It will take a lot of prodding to get anywhere. Several have been sent to DAs in other counties, who seem to have put them in the circular file.

  • Can’t disagree with you more on Grandinetti. On a dysfunctional council, she votes in lock step with everything Mayor Dyster puts out there, even the bad stuff. Not a shred of independent thought. Hell, not even the appearance of independent thought.

    Tough to find 1 to vote for at all up here, let alone 3.

    • It’s about better choices, not best choices.

      • Alan I understand your point regarding “better choices” but my problem with Mr. Dunn is that he is a Republican running as a Democrat. He does not, admittedly embrace Democratic ideology, he just switched so that he could run against Howard in the election. A true Republican would have primaried Howard and run as a true Republican.

        • Then again, so what? What’s “Republican” or “Democrat” about being Sheriff? At this point, Don Knotts would be a better Sheriff than Tim Howard, you know?

          • Then again, whats Republican or Democrat about being in any elective office….what is your point? Tim Howard is an abysmal fail. No doubt about that. Maybe they should all just run as independents…..?

          • I think it matters in, say, the Legislature. Democrats stand for and believe in different things from Republicans. Democrats fight for workers and the little guy while Republicans fight for the wealthy to stay that way and for the poor to get less from government, if anything at all.

            The job of a Sheriff is to competently and professionally oversee a law enforcement entity. Policy doesn’t really enter into it, and I’d back a Republican challenger to Howard, regardless of which party/ies endorsed him or her.

          • Apparently you are unaware that Sherriff Howard has said that he will not enforce the new state gun laws………

          • All the more reason to vote him out, and pick the most likely person to be able to do it.

          • Then Howard should RESIGN his post, along with all of the other county sheriffs who have made similar statements. He, more than anyone, should be aware that unless and until a court overturns the law it HAS to be enforced. You cannot pick and choose what laws you will enforce.

          • DysfunctionalEquivalent

            Grrrr …

  • All the stories on here, and in your print edition, certainly fueled the exposure of the WNY Progressive Caucus, and you should be commended for this. I would think other media outlets, too, have returned here over and over to read the latest on this scheme.

    Of course, Tim Kennedy and the others are probably squirming now, having hoped all this would come out after the primary, not a full week of story after story before Primary Day. Ha!

    Sen. Pigeon Kennedy will probably need a million next year, and still lose. HeHe!

    Seems like it’s all haunting him now.

    Thanks mostly to Artvoice!!!

    Sen. Pigeon Kennedy spending a fortune attacking women in Cheektowaga!
    Sen. Pigeon Kennedy spending a fortune on racist mailings in Cheektowaga!
    Sen. Pigeon Kennedy spending a fortune attacking True Blue Democrat Betty Jean Grant!
    Sen. Pigeon Kennedy spending a fortune endorsing Miller-Williams’ return!

    How could he possibly win next year???

    It’s kind of weird, seeing Sen. Pigeon Kennedy on TV all the time protecting babies, sponsoring playgrounds, helping veterans, and on and on. Yet, it seems like he goes home and turns into an almost zombie wretch of inhumanity figure who has an unchecked lust for power, attacking women, promoting racism, breaking the law.

    He surly is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type. Very sad.

  • HIM could do it. Da da daaaaaa!

  • The crappy thing for Buffalo mayor is that there was a race to be run against Byron Brown, and Bernie Tolbert just didn’t do it. Everything about his campaign screamed amateur hour, which wasn’t even good enough for Goodenoughistan

  • I wonder if the Dunn campaign will have a ‘dry’ headquarters tonight…or at least have a few cabs waiting out front.

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