Election 2017: Takeaways



The Democrats lost all three countywide races; Mickey Kearns defeated Steve Cichon for clerk, Tim Howard just barely bested Bernie Tolbert for Sheriff, and Stefan Mychajliw dispatched Vanessa Glushefski 55-45. Democrats can take some comfort in the fact that they were competitive in all of these races, and that two newcomers did pretty well against people who are household names. It is funny that we elect the clerk and the sheriff, as these are positions that require their incumbents to be good administrators and little more. The deputies and assistant clerks do the real work, and neither Mr. Howard nor Mr. Kearns will have “setting policy” included in their respective portfolios. It ought not be forgotten, however, that Mr. Howard goes out of his way to sell himself as the guy who will disobey the NY SAFE Act, and will enable his deputies to inquire of people’s immigration status.

The activist groups like SURJ who have worked tirelessly to inform the public about Mr. Howard’s record, with their #fireHoward hashtags and protests and pickets ran into a harsh reality last week. When Tim Howard says he’s going to extra-Constitutionally break the law, or pledges to harass suspected immigrants, or is accused of mismanaging the jails: It’s not just that some Democrats don’t care, but that they like it. 

One major takeaway is that registered suburban Democrats are more conservative than their counterparts in the City of Buffalo. Although Democratic turnout was higher this year than in 2013 and 2015, that did not inure to our countywide candidates’ benefit; waking up “lazy” Democrats—2s and 3s—didn’t necessarily help. And when I say “suburban”, I don’t just mean Clarence or Orchard Park. In Lackawanna, Bernie Tolbert won 2,123 to 1,745; but look at wards 3 and 4, and Howard defeated Tolbert 1,198 to 1,042. These are predominately working class white areas where Democrats like Mark Poloncarz easily secure 70% of the vote. In Cheektowaga, Howard defeated Tolbert 9,533 to 7,910—this is a town where 30,000 Democrats outnumber 12,000 Republicans. It’s quite possible that every vote brought out for Democrat John Bruso in Cheektowaga for the 8th Legislative District probably went for Howard three times out of four. In Buffalo’s South District, which is Mickey Kearns’s base of support, Tim Howard defeated Bernie Tolbert 3,399 to 3,010. In this district, Democrats outnumber Republicans by an incredible 10,795 to 2,369. 

I can give you some reasons why Tolbert underperformed in those districts, and none of them are pretty. There is a cancer in Western New York, and Trumpism has done a lot to invigorate it. 

Mychajliw has crossover appeal, Howard played to prejudices with his pro-guns, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and I honestly don’t know why Cichon lost; that one I don’t get. My first instinct was to suggest that it would make sense for Democrats to appeal to suburban voters by highlighting qualifications and competence, but if that was the case then Cichon—who did just that—would have won. It should be added that Cichon has similar name recognition to Mychajliw, having been a WBEN reporter for many years. 

People are looking at city turnout, which was lower than it could have been, and pointing fingers at Democratic HQ and especially at Byron Brown’s machine, which they accuse of not being as aggressive in turning out people to support his former primary opponent, Tolbert, as they could have been. I saw Tolbert on TV on Election Night sporting that “22” button and, at WGRZ, had to explain to people what it meant. Translation:Tthat wasn’t communicated well at all. Tolbert won Masten 4,253 to 189, which sounds like a blowout until you realize that there are 15,198 registered Democrats and 569 Republicans there. If Masten came out 50%, Tolbert almost certainly closes his gap with Howard. In the University District, Tolbert received 4,102 to 573 with a Democratic enrollment advantage of 13,294 to 1,121. GOP turnout was better despite there being zero turnout effort. 


Ted Morton’s horrible, lying, racist direct mail didn’t work. His use of the American flag as a wedge issue didn’t work. One reader analyzed the numbers in the Bruso vs. Ted Morton race in the 8th Legislative District, and comes up with some hopeful news. In 2016, LD-8 was “Trump Country,” and Trump received 57.3% to Clinton’s 36.4%. This district includes all of Lancaster and Alden, and some of Cheektowaga. If Morton received only 48% of the vote, he underperformed Trump by a almost a full 10%, and this speaks to how significant that win is. The Democrats regain (for now) a majority in the legislature. 


The desperate last-minute Republican efforts to smear newcomer activist Michelle Schoeneman prove she was scaring the crap out of someone. Incumbent Joseph Lorigo, son of Ralph and Conservative fusion Party gadfly had his first real competitive race since easing his way into office, and it was closer than most expected. West Seneca is the epicenter of the Lorigos’ political influence, so you should know that Schoeneman beat Lorigo there 6,318 to 6,160, and 2,193 to 2,120 in Aurora. Lorigo’s margin of victory is thanks to Elma, Wales, Holland, and Marilla. Schoeneman lost, but she put up an incredible fight against an outrageously influential political dynasty. 

Amherst Town Races

In sleepy Amherst, Democrats swept the town council and supervisor’s races. Here, Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy’s wife, Erin Baker, was running in her first election. Her fundraising for a town council race is simply jaw-dropping. In her July disclosure, Baker reports receipts between March and May 2017 of $50,679 in individual and partnership donations. Another $4,474 came from corporate donations, including $2,000 from “Stirling Lubricants” of Rochester. Another $6,943 came from PACs and other local campaign treasuries. Baker’s husband, ECGOP Chair Nick Langworthy, made an approximately $800 in-kind donation by fronting the cost of some campaign swag, and attorney Jeff Bochiechio provided $1,600 in food for Baker’s May fundraiser, totaling $2,488. Finally, the Eden and Buffalo GOP Committees contributed $150. The tl;dr is that for an Amherst town council race, Ms. Baker raised an astonishing $64,700 in her first ever financial disclosure, and had spent about $8,000 during the first seven months of 2017. This includes the cost of her fundraisers, her $250 payoff to secure the “Independence” fusion Party line. 

In her 32-day pre-primary report, Baker’s campaign bought her lawn signs, bought some ads in the Elma Review, and made some contributions to various non-profit fundraisers, totaling about $5,000. She also transferred $5,500 to the county GOP committee, and $2,500 to the Amherst committee. An August 22 fundraiser netted Baker’s campaign $9,654 from individuals and partnerships, $500 from corporations, $1,005 from PACs and other campaigns, and $500 transferred in from the Niagara County GOP Committee. Expenditures were a mere $1935, mostly to secure the Williamsville Anchor Bar for the fundraiser. Eleven days before the primary, Baker had $53,620 on hand. 

In her 10-day post-primary report, about $1,050 trickled in from individuals, and $350 from corporate and campaign donors. Her campaign sent $12,250 to the Erie County Republican committee, and spent only $544 on some other campaigns’ fundraisers and meeting expenses. Going into the general election, Baker had $42,226 on hand for her Amherst town council race. 

In her report 32 days before the general election, Baker only reported $1,950 in various contributions, and expenditures of $1,593, leaving $42,582. Things pick up, however, in the 10-day pre-general report, with an October 13 fundraiser bringing in a total for that period of $9,532, and spending just over $15,000; $13,000 of that went into the coffers of the Republicans’ county committee. In the last report before the election, Baker had just over $37,000 to spend. 

She lost, and although she came in third in a field of five, she was the lowest recipient of Republican votes; that $250 spent for the “Independence” fusion Party line got her 750 votes. 

Here’s why the money in Baker’s race is so incredible: Let’s look at the largest recipient of votes, Jacqui Berger. In July, she reported just under $3,000 on hand. Her pre-primary reports show her balance topping out at around $4,200, and dropping to $1,100 right before the primary. Her 10-day post-primary report shows she raised another $1800, and she had a total of $2,774 on hand. Berger raised another $2680 and spent just under $2000, according to her 32 day pre-general report, leaving a balance of $3473. In the 11 day pre-general report, she added $3392, spent $8,000, leaving $2,338 going into election day; in her last disclosure, she had less than one tenth of the money Baker had. 

Erin Baker raised $89,270, spent $52,178 (including over $33,250 she transferred out to various other party committees), and received 13,121 votes on all party lines. Jacqui Berger raised $17,877, spent $14,538, and received 14,418 votes on all party lines. Neither Berger nor her Democratic counterpart, Shawn Lavin, received the Conservative fusion Party line, which this year in Amherst was good for about 2,700 votes in total. So, Jacqui Berger’s campaign spent a little over $ per vote while Erin Baker’s campaign spent $1.44 per vote if you don’t include the transfers out. She spent $4 per vote if you do.

By the way, town Conservative fusion Party chairman Bill Kindel kept the C line from Joe Spino, keeping it for himself. Had Spino received that C line, he’s not likely to have won, but he’d have at least outperformed Baker. Neither the C nor I lines in Amherst did anything for anyone, and no one in town government owes those two entities anything. Town patronage hires are likely looking to get their affairs in order. 

Now What?

I don’t know what the answer is for the Democrats’ issues. It has nothing to do with “OMG pwn the librulz” or the red rose brigade or Hillary or Bernie. Some point to city turnout, and I’ve seen quite a few people on Facebook opine about the need for some new party to launch competitive races in the November election. We have plenty of parties already, and everyone can ask Mayor Sergio Rodriguez—not to mention Anita Howard or Terrence Robinson—all about that. We have to come to that reckoning that we have two Democratic parties in Erie County, and we have to figure out how to appeal to them both. The Poloncarz example is illustrative here: Mark is great at his job, he is smart, and whether you agree with him or not, you are likely to at least think that whatever he does is motivated by a sense of doing right by Erie County’s taxpayers. Mark is also not afraid to get into it with hecklers and take strong opinions, and then back them up. This isn’t, in the end, a challenge of ideas. 

The campaign run on behalf of Republicans in Erie County this past year was outrageous and obnoxious. None of these races was about patriotism or respect for cops or the flag or the troops/ It’s not enough to link Republican candidates in suburban races with Trump and Paladino, because, frankly, Trump and Paladino are pretty popular, whether you like that or not. Linking Kearns with Paladino drew a shrug from voters. Turning out “lazy” Democrats also, as it happens, turned out a lot of reactionary registered Dems. 

Is the solution to this to go even further to the left? I don’t think so, and ditto some shift to the center or right. This isn’t about ideology, but about marketing. Yet Kearns won even with that comical ad in the boxing ring, where he’s going to “fight” whilst filing people’s paperwork .

Finally, if we are to have electoral fusion, then Democrats need to be aggressive with it. Republicans and Conservatives are busy registering as Greens and Independents to influence those lines. Democrats can, generally speaking, rely only on the Working Families Party, a sort of labor imprimatur. For so long as fusion exists in New York, Democrats have to learn to play the game with creativity and ruthlessness.

Amherst showed that money isn’t always the number one factor, and that sometimes the impossible can happen. The people of Western New York deserve good, responsive government that provides a good balance between taxation, services, and getting out of our way. 

About the Referendum Questions


Shown above is the flip side of your SAT-formatted Scantron New York State ballot. Be sure to flip over the ballot and mark these three referendum questions. 

These are not endorsements by the staff or editors of the Public: these are my opinions alone. 

Question 1: Constitutional Convention

Every 20 years, the electorate is asked whether it wants to convene a Constitutional Convention. Practically every single influence group in Albany – especially the public sector unions – are calling for a “no” vote, and so has Governor Cuomo. Yet here’s what Cuomo said at the Democratic Convention in Rye Brook in 2010: 

Now he says he’s against it. So is every person and group that has an interest in preserving Albany’s status quo. I believe Albany is broken and this hurts New Yorkers in every region, of every class, race, and political persuasion. 

I have been writing about Albany dysfunction for over a decade, and literally no one in Albany has really undertaken any serious reform of the way in which that town works. (See: Moreland Commission). Dissolving that Moreland Commission wasn’t illegal, but it was disgusting to me that its existence could be ended so cavalierly as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. I consider anti-corruption reform to be important enough to carry through without regard to day-to-day political expediency. NYU’s Brennan Center pretty much provided a roadmap to reform years ago, to no meaningful avail. 

I tweeted this last week: 

Even the guy you like is part of the problem in Albany, and there exists no political will to change it. Albany is a place incumbents generally depart only in chains or disgrace. Things like three (four?) men in a room, the way in which Albany’s legislative bodies are seldom genuinely deliberative, unfunded mandates, the abuse of public Authorities in order to render opaque public funding and borrowing: all of these things contribute to New York’s difficulties, especially upstate. 

I have written countless times about the fundamental corruption of New York’s electoral fusion system, whereby microscopically small political “parties” cross-endorse major party candidates to fool the populace and/or to secure patronage favors. It’s enough: no more Wilson-Pakulas, no more fusion, no more tricking people who want to register as “unenrolled” to register for the rudderless, meaningless “Independence Party”. 

There is a lot of propaganda scaring people about how awful the Constitutional Convention would be, but don’t forget

If a majority statewide votes “yes,” a constitutional convention will be set for the spring of 2019. The convention would be made up of elected delegates, with three provided from each state senate district — there are 63 in total — plus fifteen statewide. Elections would occur next year, and anyone can run to be a delegate.

These delegates would come together with unlimited abilities to propose amending the constitution in any and all ways they can agree upon. Any amendments approved by delegates would need to be ultimately approved by the voters. This is important to remember: No changes can occur to the constitution without statewide approval at the ballot box.

2019 would be the first Constitutional Convention since 1967, and nothing came of that – voters rejected every proposal that came along. 

Good Government group Citizen’s Union has advocated in favor of a Constitutional Convention. I once wrote a series of articles advocating for New York to adopt a Nebraska-style non-partisan, unicameral legislature. I still think that Albany needs to serve its constituents better, and that Albany needs to stop relying on county and local governments to raise taxes to pay for its mandates, and figure out ways to fund its own plans from the state at-large. I believe that state service entities such as the DOT, the MTA, and Thruway Authority need to be more transparent and modernize in order to better serve the public. 

A Constitutional Convention cannot – by law – take away union members’ pensions or benefits

If there was a genuine movement to reform Albany and the way it does business, I’d probably think that a Constitutional Convention was unnecessary. There isn’t, so I don’t. 

Question 2: Felony and Pensions

This proposal asks you whether you think it’s ok that a public official who is convicted of – and removed from office – for a felony relating to the performance of his official duties should lose his rights to a state pension. Think Sheldon Silver taking over $4 million to influence his actions as a legislative leader. I’m for it, but it’s just window-dressing. Sheldon Silver’s and Joe Bruno’s convictions were overturned on appeal because the Supreme Court in a 2016 Virginia case made it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to successfully prosecute these types of bribery cases

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, narrowed the definition of what sort of conduct can serve as the basis of a corruption prosecution. He said only formal and concrete government actions counted — filing a lawsuit, say, or making an administrative determination. Routine political courtesies like arranging meetings or urging underlings to consider a matter, he added, generally do not, even when the people seeking those favors give the public officials gifts or money.

That still leaves prosecutors plenty of room to pursue classic bribery and kickbacks. But there was widespread agreement among prosecutors and defense lawyers on Monday that the decision would make it harder for the government to prove corruption.


New York’s massive forest preserves (Catskills, Adirondacks, e.g.) have a mandate to preserve wild land but also accommodate people and businesses who live and work there. It’s a delicate balancing act, but this creation of a land bank would make it easier for municipalities to make changes for health and safety. From the measure’s summary: 

New York State’s Constitution protects the State’s forest preserve as wild forest land and generally prohibits the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment will create two new exceptions to this broad protection of the forest preserve to make it easier for municipalities to undertake certain health and safety projects.

First, the proposed amendment will create a land account of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land. A town, village, or county can apply to the land account if it has no viable alternative to using forest preserve land for specified health and safety purposes. These purposes are (1) to address bridge hazards or safety on specified highways; (2) to eliminate the hazards of dangerous curves and grades on specified highways; (3) to relocate, reconstruct, and maintain highways; and (4) for water wells and necessary related accessories located within 530 feet of a specified highway, where needed to meet drinking water quality standards. The State will acquire 250 acres to add to the forest preserve to replace the land placed in the health and safety land account, subject to approval by the Legislature,

Second, the proposed amendment will allow bicycle paths and types of public utility lines to be located within the widths of specified highways that cross forest preserve land. The work on the bicycle paths and utility lines must minimize the removal of trees and vegetation. The proposed amendment will allow a stabilization device (such as a guy wire) for an existing utility pole to be located near the width of a highway when necessary to ensure public health and safety and when no other viable option exists. The proposed amendment prohibits the construction of a new intrastate gas or oil pipeline that did not receive necessary state and local permits and approvals by June 1, 2016.

Sierra Club urges a “yes” vote on Prop 3, and so do I. 

Polls are open until 9pm, and I will be on WGRZ Channel 2 tonight to provide commentary. Turnout is key today, so make sure you and everyone you know gets out to vote. 

Litigious Lorigos


Since everyone has a short memory nowadays, what with your iPhones and e-devices, here’s a little trip down memory lane. 

It’s 2011, and Joe Lorigo is running for County Legislature against Christina Bove. Bove was an acolyte of federal indictee Steve Pigeon’s who flipped her allegiance during the Erie County Legislature mini-coup of ’09 to enable the minority Republicans to have a de facto legislative majority in order to help propel Tim Kennedy to the State Senate, and to sell out to then-County Executive Chris Collins. 

Within the context of the outright lies Lorigo’s campaign is saying about Michele Schoeneman right now, here’s the text of a press release that Joe Lorigo sent in response to something Bove must have said about his father, the way-too-powerful chairman of the Erie County Conservative Committee: 


(WEST SENECA, NY) – Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate for Erie County Legislature Joseph Lorigo has had enough. After running a campaign based entirely on issues important to the voters in the 10th District, he called out his opponent today after she placed newspaper ads, mailed letters and organized anonymous voter calls – all mocking his family.

“Christina Bove has crossed the line in this campaign by insulting my family over and over again,” Lorigo said. “I have not and never will bring her family into this race because I know voters want to hear about the issues, not the malicious carping we’ve all grown so tired of in Erie County politics.”

Bove holds no job except her part-time employment as a County Legislator. In stark contrast, Lorigo is a respected attorney with an MBA and law degree from the State University at Buffalo. He is a family man devoted to working for the taxpayers as a public service.

“Bove is a career politician who does nothing but connive behind the scenes to advance her career at the expense of Erie County taxpayers,” Lorigo said. “The voters of the new 10th District are far more interested in Bove’s 154 votes to raise our taxes – and my commitment to hold the line on taxes – than in my family or hers.”

“I am proud of my mother, my father and all the members of my family. Christina Bove may not respect family values, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love, guidance and devotion,” Lorigo said. “Bove waited until the final days of this campaign to attack my family because as a career politician she will do or say anything to get re-elected.”

I will not stoop to the low-level tactics of Bove’s low-class campaign, now or ever,” Lorigo said. “The voters of the 10th District can rest assured that after they vote for me on Tuesday and elect me to the County Legislature her mean-spirited political games will end and the work of the people will begin.”

A lot of that 2011 press release hasn’t aged well. 

So, Schoeneman accused Lorigo of lying and defaming her, and filed a “summons with notice” commencing a lawsuit against him for defamation. A summons with notice is missing a key component of a lawsuit – a formal complaint. In New York practice, a defendant served with a summons with notice demands that the plaintiff serve a complaint, which they have 20 days to do. In Schoeneman’s case, she particularized the alleged defamation within the summons with notice

Lorigo’s response

“This is nothing more than a stunt,” said Lorigo, the Legislature majority leader, adding that Schoeneman has made personal attacks against him and his family and false accusations about him. “If anyone is defaming anyone it’s Michelle Schoeneman.”

Is it a campaign stunt? Most assuredly. That doesn’t, however, mean it is without merit. Libel is a written defamation – a false statement of fact. In this case, alleging that Schoeneman said in a public forum that she wants to put publicly funded heroin shooting galleries near schools or the “cider mill”. She didn’t.

No one would know whether this is a “stunt” better than Lorigo himself. 

In 2011, when then-candidate Lorigo accused incumbent Christina Bove of being mean about his mom and dad, he didn’t just issue the press release shown above. He had his dad file and serve a summons with notice agianst Bove for defamation. From my 2011 Endorsement column

District 10: No Endorsement: I will not endorse Christina Bove, as she helped create the de facto Collins majority in the legislature as a consummate follower and “what’s in it for me” type politician. On the other hand, the Lorigo name should be drummed out of our collective body politic, firstly by abolishing the family nest egg that’s built upon the hyper-corrupt electoral fusion system. Lorigo’s efforts to bully Bove by having daddy file a $3MM defamation suit over an ad in – of all things – the f’king PENNYSAVER, takes pettiness to a whole new level – the fact that this prominent law firm can’t even be bothered to actually file and serve a Summons and Complaint, with the alleged libel plead with the requisite particularity, instead relying on the lazy lawyer’s “Summons with Notice”, which gives them indignant headlines and nothing else.

Ralph Lorigo and Bryan Young filed the Summons with Notice on November 7, 2011 against Tina Bove, Dale Clarke, and the West Seneca Pennysaver. Election Day 2011 was November 8th that year. This SpeakupWNY thread is the only evidence of this lawsuit I can find nowadays, but it appears to stem from something Bove wrote about Ralph Lorigo’s representation of Young in connection with some real estate development. By January 12th there was no evidence that Lorigo had served the Summons on the putative defendants; ditto February 12th. They were so eager to pull a stunt on Election Day that they threatened a $3 million lawsuit, but never followed through. 

So, their whining today about Schoeneman’s “stunt” is delightfully hypocritical. Now Lorigo’s campaign is sending out a mailer – part of which is visible above – that purports to be from Schoeneman’s campaign and solicits recipients to harass her over a wholly manufactured, made-up lie. 

Bonus points for Joe’s mom defending him in the Buffalo News’ putrid comments section in this now-deleted post: 

LOL at the wife of the chairman of a local fusion party calling anyone a “puppet” of anyone. At least Schoeneman brought her own lawsuit, and didn’t have a family member do her dirty work for her.

I will not stoop to the low-level tactics of Bove’s low-class campaign, now or ever…[t]he voters of the 10th District can rest assured that after they vote for me on Tuesday and elect me to the County Legislature her mean-spirited political games will end and the work of the people will begin.”

Happy voting!

The Erie GOP Goes White Nationalist


Whoever is designing the literature for the Erie County Republicans is a white nationalist. Any candidate whom this propaganda is supposed to benefit should publicly reject and denounce it. 

This new alt-right “white nationalism” for which Donald Trump is the figurehead has now afflicted western New York like an aggressive cancer. Our region is segregated and racist enough as it is, so for one political party to deliberately and blatantly exploit that is worthy of nothing more than contempt. 

This racist anti-immigrant hysteria is the opiate of the WBEN listening masses. We’ve gone from wink-wink dog-whistles to something much bolder and more overt. Legislature candidate Ted Morton demagogues over welfare queens and makes sure his constituents know that his opponent is, in almost as many words, a ni**er-lover. The state GOP sends around lit about how a candidate for clerk, sheriff, and comptroller are magically going to protect you from black athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police killings and brutality. 

They have no record to run on, no positive agenda to give people a better or safer life. They aren’t even going after tax and spend liberals. Now? It’s all race-hate, all the time. They want you to know that the candidates for clerk, sheriff, and comptroller are going to protect you from those damn Messicans. 

Here’s the newest piece of literature. Remember how Donald Trump started his entire Presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans and calling for the construction of a border wall? We’ll start with an unintentionally hilarious image of what appear to be migrants thwarting that wall by climbing it

The image is copyrighted by the Associated Press and shows Mexican immigrants climbing over a border wall in Tijuana in 1991. Hope they paid to use it!

The premise is that Trump’s border wall – a device obsolete before it’s even built – is going to protect a community 2,000 miles away that doesn’t have a big problem with illegal Mexican and Central American immigration. If anything, we complain about the decline in our population, and contrary to what WBEN and the Republicans tell you, there is no “invasion” of WNY by long-haired Mexican kids from 1991 who are going to come here and take those menial dishwashing and farm jobs your white kids in Lancaster covet. 

It also demagogues the issue of Erie County being a “sanctuary county”. As it stands, local, state, and county law enforcement are already prohibited from asking someone for their citizenship information. You’re not required to carry your passport around, and the only time a cop can ask to see your papers is when he has at least a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, or it’s a traffic stop. Under neither circumstance is a regular cop empowered to detain anyone over immigration status. We leave that up to ICE and other Federal agencies. Convict/Sheriff Joe Arpaio tried to do it, and was shut down

Erie County (and Buffalo) is not a “sanctuary county”. Ted Morton introduced a resolution in the legislature, which died in committee, to preempt any attempt to turn Erie County into one. Sanctuary status would also allow undocumented immigrants to assist law enforcement with the investigation of crimes without fear of deportation or arrest. 

To put it bluntly, neither illegal immigration nor the presence of undocumented migrants is a pressing problem in Erie County. This is a non-issue that these people are bringing up in order to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment in a region that struggles with its post-industrial transition. 

So, literally no “liberals in County Hall” have proposed making Erie County a “sanctuary county”. Again – take a look at the WBFO article from last December: “Ted Morton aims to Ensure Erie County Maintains Non-Sanctuary Status“. Here’s what Legislator Pat Burke said in response to Morton’s proposed resolution: 

It’s awful. Everybody knows it’s awful. He used statistics cited from the Center for Immigration Studies, which was founded and funded by a white supremacist. It’s a disgrace, and it has no business in this body.


Sanctuary cities are pronouncements from elected officials who are encouraging their law enforcement not to follow through on certain rules, but it’s not set policy. So you can’t have an anti-policy of a policy that doesn’t exist. Also it’s a resolution so it’s not binding. It literally makes no sense at all.

It’s just white supremacist propaganda. It’s bullshit. By the way, the “Center for Immigration Studies” was founded as a spin-off from a Holocaust denier

The Republicans’ white nationalist lit suggests that this non-existent liberal push to turn Erie County into a “sanctuary county” would lead to increased crime, loss of jobs, pressure on school districts, and an “explosion” (nice imagery) in costs of welfare and Medicaid. Them against us. Invasion. Crime. They took our jobs. They’re sending their kids to our schools. They’re going to collect welfare. This isn’t directed, by the way, at one subset of immigrants – this is an attack on all immigrants, regardless of visa status or country of origin. 

Again, I don’t know how Mickey Kearns is going to direct his file clerks and DMV workers to set federal immigration policy, and I don’t know how Stefan Mychajliw is going to comptrol these Mexicans away, but Sheriff Tim Howard has weighed in on this. When Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order reiterating that state, county, and local police can’t inquire into someone’s immigration status, Howard said he would affirmatively and deliberately disobey the Governor’s order. The job of the sheriff is to enforce the law, not to set – or thwart – policy. A sheriff’s deputy has no authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Being in the country without proper documentation or visa is not a crime defined in any municipal or state statute; it is a violation of federal immigration law, and anyone apprehended by ICE goes to the immigration detention center in Batavia, not to the county lock-up. 

This is an issue where the sheriff has pledged to disobey the constitutional order of New York State, and our federalist system whereby Washington and its agents set and enforce immigration policy. 

But all of that is nuance. What’s really going on? The Republicans in this region are doubling down on the anti-immigrant sentiment and outright racism that Donald Trump stands for. If western New Yorkers reward this sort of behavior, we can take that “City of Good Neighbors” thing and relegate it to the nearest landfill. You flirt with this sort of white nationalism at your peril.