Winners and Losers as #WNYVotes
Dick Dobson: He appears to be the winner of the Erie County Sheriff’s primary against Bert Dunn, pending counts of absentees, etc. Dunn learned that money alone doesn’t buy you an election – you have to get out there, and you have to spend it. Dobson out-ran Dunn from day one, and he squeaked out a victory with only 500 votes or so separating them. Now, it’s on to defeat the anti-professional incumbent. (Micropolitically, this is a gold star for Frank Max and a bruise for Jeremy Zellner).
Wynnie Fisher, Betty Jean Grant, Byron Brown: all of them defeated their opponents by more than 10 percentage points. Fisher and Grant were up against Steve Pigeon / Kristy Mazurek candidates and earn Jeremy Zellner gold stars. Indeed, Zellner’s clever effort at unifying the party through his unqualified endorsement of Byron Brown also earns him a gold star. Moore may be a headache in November assuming he’s on the Working Families line.
Pat Burke: From South Buffalo bartender to winner of a legislative primary. No one gave Burke a serious shot until the day of the election, and it was all centered on turnout – if the South Buffalo portion of the district came out for Burke in a big way, he could eclipse Dearmyer and/or Zydel, the Cheektowagans. That’s exactly what happened, and while Dearmyer had a lead through the first half of the night, Burke came charging out of nowhere to take a pretty convincing lead. Chances are this won’t be over today, as all votes get counted, but credit goes to Burke, who ran without help from either the Pigeon faction or Headquarters, and claims to be independent of all of them. That’s great, so long as he doesn’t sell out to the Republicans.
Barbara Miller-Williams: Quite possibly the worst transactional legislative horror show ever to jump out at you is leading incumbent Tim Hogues by just 20 votes. This is the woman who sold out to Chris Collins for a big chunk of money for the Colored Musician’s Club – her husband is on its board. With paid-off silence, she collaborated with the Republican dismantling of health clinics and other critical services for her poor urban constituency. She became the de facto head of a Republican legislature that was little more than a Collins marionnette, and if you watched Collins last night, he is one of those right wing scumbags who has nicer things to say about neofascist autocrat Vladimir Putin than his own country’s President. This race is going to be litigated, so it’s not over yet, but simply by making it competitive at all, Miller-Williams shows that she shouldn’t be counted out yet. Query why she’s still a Democrat, though. That’s what tens of thousands of dollars from Steve Pigeon and Tim Kennedy will buy you, though.
Mary Giallanza Carney and Deanne Tripi: won the Family Court race. I generally stay out of judicial races.
The residents of Niagara Falls, Governor Cuomo, and Mark Hamister: See below.
Jeremy Zellner: Sure, he seems to have lost the Sheriff’s race, and the Hogues race is way too close to call – and Dearmyer didn’t pull it out against Burke. But Zydel, Moore, and Nixon all lost to HQ candidates, showing that he has political clout his opponents kept saying he didn’t have.
Sam Fruscione: Niagara Falls voters had to select three, and they had four choices. Fruscione was the “beneficiary” of an inflammatory mailer that called Buffalo developer a “con man” – a criminal – and Fruscione skulked away from blistering questioning from Mary Alice Demler about it. He lost last night – lost big. He blamed it on anti-Italian “racism”. Someone should explain to Mr. Fruscione two things: 1. “Italian” is a nationality – not a “race”; and 2. You don’t get to glorify the mafia and mob violence by selling La Cosa Nostra paraphernalia and Stefano Magaddino t-shirts and then get to complain when people call you out for retaining the services of convicted loanshark extortionists. Chutzpah doesn’t even begin to explain the idiocy here. This guy was trying to play Mark Hamister, and when the Governor out-strong-arms you, your political days are numbered.
Bert Dunn: As I mentioned above, he had all the money in the world and the backing of HQ, but you can’t force him to go out and spend it and do the work necessary to combat a hard-working opponent. I’m a prime dem and I got one piece of lit from Dunn, nothing from Dobson, but it came about 2 weeks ago, and the lackluster ads from Dunn showed up on TV just in the last few days. He waited too long and didn’t do nearly enough to secure what he apparently thought was a sure thing. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but here it never really began.
Rick Zydel: This was Pigeon’s and Max’s and Mazurek’s big, marquee race – the one they were going to embarrass HQ with. Zydel came in to unseat longtime incumbent and legislative majority leader Tom Mazur. Mazur decided to bow out. Well, HQ may have a bit of mud on its face this morning, but not from Zydel – from Pat Burke, who came out of nowhere with the apparent win. Zydel was Zy-done from minute one, and Lynn Dearmyer was consistently ahead of him all night until city results started gushing in.
Wes Moore: Another hand-picked Pigeon guy, Moore was setting up to challenge the sleepy incumbent, Terry McCracken. McCracken dropped out, Moore had a head start, yet an unknown from Alden named Wynnie Fisher trounced him – a win for Zellner and HQ.
Kristy Mazurek, Steve Pigeon, Frank Max: Ask anyone Mazurek has come into contact with in the last year or so, and they’ll tell you that soon after her candidate David Shenk lost dramatically to Stefan Mychajliw in last year’s Comptroller’s special election, that she was going to go to war with HQ and Zellner. She was there earlier this year, unironically sporting a red armband as the Max people tried to strong-arm their way to a chairmanship victory. She told anyone who would listen that she was going to single-handedly run candidates for the legislature that she picked, and that they would all win and embarrass Zellner and HQ. She threatened to blackmail and bully opponents, and that she would release embarrassing information about them. She set herself up as a kingmaker without a kingdom. She latched on to Frank Max first, because they had interests in alignment with each other. Steve Pigeon came into the picture with gobs of cash. Stories have already come out about how questionable the sources of cash are – and more stories are coming. In the last week or so of writing about the “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC“, I have heard several remarkably similar stories from completely unrelated people, explaining how even a hint of disagreement with Mazurek invites a blistering “do you know who I am” and “do you know who my father is” response from her, with demands of “who are you working for”, harassing phone calls, and even firings over social media. You don’t build an army by burning bridges. Pigeon proves yet again that his negativity crosses a line and ends up helping his target, more often than not. It happened in the Falls, and in the Zydel, Moore, and Nixon efforts. Steve Pigeon is exceptionally good at formenting chaos and stirring shit, but he is palpably bad at the whole “winning elections” thing, at least locally – and the people who end up aligned with him turn out to be just horrible, more often than not – not sure if that’s organic or learned. As an aside, I’ll note that the one Democratic candidate for Cheektowaga town board whom Max’s organization did not endorse – Diane Benczkowski – received the most votes last night.
Bernie Tolbert: A campaign that was relentlessly negative once it started up way too late to gain any traction. It was clear that the people advising Tolbert weren’t paying attention to the polls that showed widespread contentment with Byron Brown and the job he was doing, because they kept hitting him with negativity and pointing out minor things like Brown’s sudden attention to vacant eyesore buildings or having cops walk a beat in Allentown. Tolbert never got a chance to define who he was, and so Brown didn’t have to pay him any attention. People couldn’t “believe in Bernie” because they didn’t quite understand why Bernie was running, or what he’d specifically do differently from Brown. Brown pretends like he ran a clean race, but he had surrogates go out and hit Tolbert. In the end, Tolbert’s campaign seemed reactionary and petty while Brown was cool, calm, and collected.
Tim Kennedy: Through his affiliation with the Mazurek PAC, and his apparent $85,000 in reported donations through two campaign committees – one of which has been closed since 2011 – he lost big-time last night. He has pissed of HQ, Higgins’ people, South Buffalo, the Governor, and some other very powerful people. He is up for re-election next year, and he is about to get called out for apparent election law violations. There will be a coalition of entities united against him next year, and he’s going to need a lot of money and a lot of luck to win re-election as a Democrat in his district in 2014.
You: Because really, no matter who wins or loses, everything ends up being transactional nonsense and little of it ever translates into good government.