Cuomo and his Malcontents

The Buffalo News’ mustachioed Pigeon transcription service advises that an effort is underway to unify the county Democratic committee by effectively overturning the result of the election of Jeremy Zellner as its head, and by pacifying and appeasing the Steve Pigeon faction of malignant malcontents, City Hall, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Remember when Illuzzi used to be the go-to guy for this crap, may he rest in peace? 

All of this is supposed to come to a pointless and idiotic head on Tuesday night when the various town Democratic committee chairs will meet in Lackawanna. There will be an effort mounted there to have the chairs consider and condemn Zellner with a vote of “no confidence”.  The story being peddled was that Dennis Gorski – from whose political machine Mayor Byron Brown and his Deputy Steve Casey arose – would take Zellner’s place as a “consensus” candidate.  Governor Cuomo supposedly wants Zellner ejected before the end of the year, but Zellner has absolutely no intention of leaving, regardless of the carrots dangled in front of him, or the sticks used to beat him.  

Frankly, why should he? Pigeon spent the entire primary calendar destroying many committee-backed candidates, and then did nothing during the general election season. Exactly one candidate whom he helped – Barbara Miller-Williams – won in November. 

I suppose Obama could resign because a lot of people are angry that he won re-election in 2012. I suppose the President could just leave Washington to placate Republicans who despise him, and who have sabotaged his every everything. But that’s not how it works.

Knowing Pigeon’s penchant for coup-plotting (see Albany 2009, Erie County 2010), elections apparently don’t necessarily matter to him; only money and influence do. He bundles money for Cuomo, buying himself some influence with the governor, and tells him everything is awful in Erie County Democratic politics because Zellner. 

That Cuomo buys into this is unbelievable. By demanding Zellner’s ouster, a governor who is already not especially well-liked in WNY, threatens  further to destabilize the perpetually wobbly Jenga puzzle that is the county Democratic committee. Instead of forcing dissident groups to get with the program, he is aiding and abetting their effective dismantling of the committee apparatus, and replacing it with people who deserve no reward for their tactical sabotage and substantive emptiness. People backing Frank Max and Steve Pigeon have Cuomo’s ear, and are making noise about  opposing Zellner. Cuomo likely wants the noise to stop, but these patronage-hungry manipulators have been actively and passively sabotaging committee-backed Democrats for years. This is the crowd that wore red armbands in support of Max’s failed candidacy last year, with no hint of irony.

The story, alas, is bullshit. Gorski isn’t interested. There’s no real authority to do this at a town chair meeting. It’s just more elaborate manure-stirring from the usual suspects, seeking to deflect from their campaign finance irregularities and failure to take control of the committee by normal means. It’s about trying to wrest control over the dwindling number of patronage jobs that exist to be filled. It may be part of a threat to hand the Republicans a de facto supermajority in the legislature. No one knows what Pat Burke and Barbara Miller-Williams are going to do come the January re-org, but the latter has displayed a profound willingness to sell her allegiance to the highest bidder

It’s downright tedious to write these sorts of pieces over and over again. It’s always the same story, with the same core group of players, with the same base self-interests, and I know that if I’m tired of it, average readers just don’t care anymore. 

But you should care. This sort of infighting is what helps shape the outcome of primaries, which helps to shape how general elections are decided. Candidate recruitment and selection is a key component of what a county committee is supposed to do, and when you have malicious dissidents in your committee, that’s going to be very difficult indeed. 


  • If corruption in the Independence Party means that fusion voting should be abolished, what structural reform is called for in response to the (much larger) corruption in the Democratic Party?

    • Strengthening of election law campaign finance reporting rules, and tighter enforcement with teeth.

      • That’s not quite a structural reform, but it’d be nice. It’s also hard to see how it would happen when power is guaranteed to the same two corrupt parties — the system works for them, so why would they change it?

        • We could have 300 political parties vying for election wins. The only part with which I disagree is that they cross-endorse each other’s candidates and aggregate vote counts across party lines. If you’re a Conservative, run as one. But you can’t also run as a Republican.

      • Good luck….our entire political system in inherently corrupt and will never be changed……to do so would mean that the CRIMINALS who run our politics/government would have to become lawful and that will never happen…..

  • And in other news, they’re pouring concrete at HarborCenter today.

  • Pigeon spent the entire primary calendar destroying committee backed candidates?

    Might I ask exactly when and where the Democratic committee convened to select their nominees for County Legislator in LD-7 and LD-8? How many committeemen attended that gathering? Who were the nominees? What was the outcome of those proceedings, the final tallies based on the weighted vote of each duly elected committeeman in their respective election district?

    Having been involved in the Zydel campaign, I can tell you that we pleaded for MONTHS, via calls, letters and emails to ECDC that they do the right and responsible thing and convene an endorsement session. Nothing. Call these people who appeared on the ballot anything you want, but naming them “committee backed candidates” is inaccurate and misleading. “Zellner BFF Candidates” would be more appropriate.

    I am very grateful for the return of Barbara Miller-Williams here in LD-1. Say what you want about her past alliances and political moves, but I can tell you this from firsthand experience .. she insisted on people who work on her staff concentrate on performing government work on government time. Her chief of staff saw to it and vigorously enforced the rules when he ran the floor. Meanwhile, the outgoing incumbent turns a blind eye while the ECDC chair occupies a “chief of staff” slot on the payroll, collects a box car public salary, yet does little or no real work involving governmental assignments. That, folks, is direct thievery of the public treasury. Taxpayers should be outraged.

    I am very grateful for the election of Pat Burke over in LD-7. I have never met the guy in person, but he seems to be stand up type of guy and I have a real man crush on him when I hear him discuss his urban based agenda and his stand on consolidating ECC into a unified central campus. He will be a terrific legislator for sure. And for you people in South Buffalo and Cheektowaga… when I think of who you could have had as your “committee backed” legislator, and knowing what I know… folks, you dodged a bullet!

    • This is all terribly important.

    • Yes. Thank God she’s back. Broadway-Fillmore might have gone downhill without her.

    • Andrew, your Democratic credibility was compromised when you helped elect the Republican county clerk and Republican county comptroller, and now you chime in over the leadership of the Democratic Party. Perhaps your two cents should be directed to your new home: the Republican Party.

      • For what it’s worth, my involvement with Team Stefan had to do with familial ties between my family and his family, us growing up together in the Fillmore/Oneida neighborhood, St Nicholas parish, the Ukrainian bonds, Saturday night bingo. and absolutely nothing to do with the Republican agenda.

        As a young, newly minted committeeman just cutting my teeth in this business in the late 70s, I was at the table and working so hard and so passionately with Dick Slisz and the Cheektowaga peeps to flip the ECLeg to Democratic. Standing in the Avant banquet room this past election night, and watching the raucous GOP celebration unfolding around me, all I could feel is a profound sadness how we Democrats threw it all away.

        And sadly, there will be more pain, dysfunction and an endless string of more losses come 2014.

        • No sign of Andrew Kulyk at the Maria Whyte campaign announcement…

          Or, was Andrew hiding out of camera view so his Republican friends in the county clerk’s office won’t be sore with him?

          Funny about the Avant party, two years in a row for Andrew at the Erie County Republican election night rally. Also goes to credibility, Andrew.

          You sure have every right to attend as many Republican events and support as many Republican candidates as you like, Andrew. However, such Republican collusion does take away your moral authority when you tell Democrats how to run their party.

          I bet you were the only person at the GOP party this year to have “profound sadness” for the Republican win. Says a lot, too.

  • When I moved to Erie county almost nine years ago the supposedly majority party, the democrats have been conducting a feud-like power struggle amongst themselves most often resulting in what in reality amounts to two separate parties, splitting the difference and throwing things to the republicans.
    Zellner should resign. He has been unable to unite the party and every indication is he will be unable to do so in the future.
    Max should just quietly go away. He has no interest beyond his own personal power in the party. Having previously owned a house in Cheektowaga and witnessing the effort and work of the Town Department he is in charge of tells me if he can’t manage garbage collectors any better than that he is certainly not qualified for any position of responsibility.
    The town committees for the most part should resign. Many are involved in this never ending power struggle. The party members…all the party members should demand new elections for committee posts, demand new candidates for those posts and insist on some acceptable level of accomplishment.
    The ECDP is a rat’s nest. Time for a big dose of warfarin and clean the vermin out.

  • The one thing that would end this nonsense once and for all is if grassroots- oops, bad choice of words there- ordinary Democratic party members started petitioning for, and winning, non-beholden-to-headquarters positions on their town committees. You’d think the parties would encourage rank-and-file participation, but instead they resist it, sending their shills out to get enough signatures to ensure HQ power and challenging petitions of anyone not given Dear Party Leader’s imprimatur.

    My own town district committee was one of these. A nice couple came to our door and asked us to sign their petitions. I asked if they were affiliated with HQ and they said, no, they’re just a reggular guy and a reggular gal like me. Then I saw the petition, authorizing Lenihan, Ward (I forget which one) and another boatload of the usual suspects as my proxies at the nominating meeting.

    The State Supreme Court nominating conventions are even worse in terms of rigging the deck. I am biding my time until January, and am then going to mosey on down to West Eagle Street and ask for petition forms for my Assembly District to run as an unendorsed Democratic judicial delegate. I will then watch as the patronage-pit hire at the front desk frowns and runs to his or her boss, who will then get on the Hot Line to HQ in a sheer panic over what might be going on- and then I’ll count the seconds until my car is towed.

  • run for committeeman next year and make a change if you can

  • Alan, I hope you continue to write about this matter. You’re the only one standing up for what’s right. What the malcontents want is for you to just get so fed up with this continuous bullshit that you stop writing about it.

    McCarthy is a joke and an embarrassment to journalism with his constant promoting of Pigeon year after year after year. I’m glad you call him out here. I only wish the leadership at the News would catch on and remove the biased McCarthy from political stories. He has become nothing more than a crackpot.

    The other blogs are even worse. (the old Illuzzi site) is a cobweb now that is so full of inaccuracies and bias that it’s not even fun going there anymore. Do I dare say Illuzzi was more accurate about the political state of affairs around here than what is on there today? YES! (the old Gramigna site) has turned into the malcontents’ new centerpiece of hate. Town of Wales Democratic Chairwoman Mary Julian is said to have been at Gramigna’s deathbed not out of a sense of love for Glenn, but rather to get the password for the site. NONE of the malcontents were ever friendly with Glenn until Illuzzi died and they descended on the poor guy like sick vultures, heaping TONS of unneeded stress on Glenn over the summer and fall. They were driving him crazy and affecting his health, especially Steve Pigeon and Frank Max with calls to Glenn all day and night, seven days a week.

    Speak Up Western New York only wants to bash Democrats over and over and over, year after year after year. And should you out yourself on that site as supporting Democrats, scores of members pummel you with bullshit.

    The Amherst Times is crazy with their twisted bias against Democratic Headquarters even though HQ people helped elect Democrats in Amherst and the Amherst Times was giving aid to Republicans by bashing Amherst Democratic candidates all year long. The owner of that site wants to become Chairman of the Amherst Democratic Committee, yet he is in bed with Amherst Republicans.

    Alan, you are the only one who makes sense about politics around here. Your articles cut right through all the crap these others sites put out there and that drives them absolutely crazy. Please keep up your good work!!!

    • Wow.

      Double Wow.

      On this day of profound sadness within the Democratic political family on Dan’s sudden passing, you just can’t give it a rest can you. Even. For. One. Day.

      Let me tell you about Mary Julian… this remarkable and selfless and inspiring woman gives of herself to anyone who is lucky enough to know her. She raises money for countless charities; She is an absolute terror when it comes to advocating for homeless teens via her work with Compass House; she helps the poor and the less fortunate in her home town of Wales. And she has given of herself, her time, her money and her effort towards Democratic candidates too many to list here.

      When Glenn got sick, Mary was there, at his apartment, at Roswell, and for a short time even took him into her home. This poor and sad man had nobody and was indigent. She fed him, she bathed him, she tended to his toilet needs. Were YOU there, Know Saint? Or any one of your cohorts over at Larkin Exchange? Did YOU give this man any comfort when he was sick and alone and scared? Did YOU maybe step up even one day and go visit him, bring him food or books, read to him, help clean his messy apartment or show even a shred of human decency, to a man who was the catalyst and ersatz online spokesman for issues supporting the ECDems? Did YOU help with his burial arrangements or deal with the prayers and the scattering of his ashes?

      And you think Mary’s act of love and kindness had something to do with a WEBSITE???

      Every time I think the attacks and the rottenness can’t possibly get any worse, the bar is lowered even further.

      We lost a great Democrat and a great friend today. Hearts are heavy no matter what side of the divide we are all on. Can we all please stop. Please stop. PLEASE.

      • I have no problem standing behind my comment, Andrew, especially in light of your ridiculous reply.

        • Not surprising that Andrew Kulyk does not respond when it gets serious. That has been his modus operandi on here.

          But, I’m glad Kulyk brought this up because it does raise some serious legal questions about Glenn’s website.

          Seems to me that Mary Julian and the other malcontents are retooling the site into some kind of battleship that will strike hard at their many political enemies. And knowing these players, it also seems that they have gained control of the website under less than legal means.

          How about some transparency from Mary Julian about how and why she gained control of this political website?

          Shouldn’t the transfer of ownership of be subject to scrutiny of Erie County Surrogate’s Court due to the nature of the transaction?

          Will political candidates who advertise on the site next year be accused of advertising on a website that arguably was hijacked from a man who has died?

          Oh, wait, I forgot and am so sorry, because probably Steve Pigeon is involved. Opps!! Again I am sorry. I forgot! New York State laws do not apply to Steve Pigeon, even routine Surrogate Court estate matters like this one, just like Campaign Finance Law, so everything is “A-Okay” with this shady ownership scheme.

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