Electoral Malpractice


There are some problems with local designating petitions. The lede in the Buffalo News exclaimed

Five women candidates looking to break the all-male hold on the Common Council charged Tuesday that challenges to their designating petitions stem from “the Erie County political machine” practicing “sexist politics at its worst.”

We definitely need more women to run for elected office, and we need more women to win elected office. So, it is especially galling that a group specifically designed to achieve this goal kneecapped these candidates so hard. 

“A series of frivolous and unwarranted petition challenges have been filed against our campaigns in what will amount to a failed attempt to knock us off the June primary ballot,” the five women said. “This is an effort to block five women from running for Common Council so that their five male opponents may sail smoothly to victory, unchallenged and unchecked.”

It is only inadvertently an effort to “block five women” from this particular run, because all five of them used a defective form of petition. If a “#clubformen” candidate had done the same, then the same challenge would be underway. In the 1985 case of Stabler v. Fidler, the New York State Court of Appeals wrote

Both the actual operation and public perception of the electoral process as one that seeks regularity and evenhanded application must not be distorted. The Election Law must have a neutral application unaffected by party affiliation, policy, position, incumbency, race, sex, or any other criterion irrelevant to a determination of whether its requirements have been met. In short, a too-liberal construction of the Election Law has the potential for inviting mischief on the part of candidates, or their supporters or aides, or worse still, manipulations of the entire election process.

Ballot access in New York State – like many things – is byzantine, difficult, and overloaded with traps for the unwary. Until and unless someone begins to take that problem seriously, these rites will continue to play out, year after year. It simply should not be a complicated or tricky matter to get your name on a ballot, and it acts as a disincentive for regular people to run for office. 

But, for now, it is tricky and byzantine. Unless Albany changes things, all candidates – men and women – have to play by the same rulebook. When a candidate relies on the advice and assistance of a political operative or consultant, she is entitled to competent, careful, and knowledgable assistance. 

New York State Election Law §6-132 sets forth the exact language that needs to be present on a designating petition for a party nomination. 

2.  I,………………… (name of witness) state: I am a duly qualified voter of the State of New York and am an enrolled voter of the………………….. party. I now reside at……………….. (residence address)

Again – the necessary language is right there in the statute. The Board of Elections even has a fillable PDF candidates can use. School board elections for the City of Buffalo, however, are non-partisan, and the “enrolled voter of the ___ party” language is omitted. An independent nominating petition, for instance, can be used. It does not contain the party enrollment language.

The Election Law does not screw around, and is hypertechnical. It is often difficult to predict what a court will find to be an “insignificant” petition flub and a fatal petition flaw. Petitions will be invalidated if you use a binder clip rather than a staple to fasten multiple pages together.  Election Law § 6-132 (2) requires that a subscribing witness to a designating petition be an enrolled voter in the same political party as the voters qualified to sign the petition – a petition-gatherer cannot simply change the witness verification to reflect his party membership if it differs from that of the signers. Petitions will be invalidated if the signers’ addresses are absent or incorrect, or if the subscribing witness omits his or her Assembly District. Signatures collected by a subscribing witness who puts down an incorrect address will be invalidated

The Courts will look to whether a defect in a petition is material or insignificant. Here, given that the actual language that must be present on the petition is included in the statute, there is little chance that a failure to include it will be deemed “insignificant”. 

So it is that the petitions submitted on behalf of several candidates backed by WomenElect and Eleanor’s Legacy are in jeopardy – as are their entire campaigns – over a small but hugely significant clerical omission. This all highlights the importance of proofreading, which is also gender-blind. 

Here is the top and bottom of one page from Common Council candidate Bernice Radle’s designating petitions (I have redacted people’s addresses): 

Note the red arrow. 

And here, by comparison, is the top and bottom of her opponent’s petition: 

Pay close attention to the highlighted text: 

Ms. Radle’s petitions do not include the “and am an enrolled voter of the Democratic Party” text under “Statement of Witness”. This is a requirement for a valid party designating petition, and the petitions submitted by all five WomenElect-backed female candidates for City Council reportedly omit this language. 

The problem is not sexism, but ballot access on the one hand, and following instructions on the other. I don’t know exactly who is challenging these petitions, but the paper appears to be facially, legally invalid. In a contested, adversarial electoral scenario, this is fair game, and if the candidates don’t know this, then certainly the people advising them do. 

These candidates are victims – not of evil men looking to maintain a male status quo, but of clumsy political consultants upon whom the candidates relied to send them into battle adequately armed. Not only did these consultants fail properly to arm these candidates – they didn’t even get them to the battlefield. The action is in Gettysburg, but these candidates are stranded by weather in Atlanta. 

That is the real tragedy here – that people “advising” candidates in an effort to elect more women in New York gave defective advice and materials that may be fatal to these campaign efforts. 

Literally, you had one job. 

Bad Old Days of Bad Old Ways: Pigeon Sine Pigeon


Dear Sir,

Thank you for your transmittal of April 8th. Evidently you were responding to a tweet from County Executive Mark Poloncarz that you failed or neglected to reprint in its entirety: 

As a preliminary matter, I do not know how my personal email address came to be added to your list. Secondly, reading and listening are both useful skills. 

You ask, “How would you define the “Bad Old Days”? 

As a matter of fact, Mr. Poloncarz both wrote and said “bad old ways”. 

Not days. Ways

Were the “Bad Old Days” the days when the Party Chairman appointed himself to one of the highest paying jobs in county government? Were the “Bad Old Days” the days when there wasn’t one person of color employed at party headquarters? Were the “Bad Old Days” the days where in the first 7 years of your administration you didn’t have one African American in a leadership role? Were the “Bad Old Days” the days where you ordered the re-appointment of a disgraced Water Authority Chairman, whose removal was recommended by a state oversight authority? No Mr. Poloncarz, these were not the “Bad Old Days”, this is your County Democratic Party of today!! 

I’m sure it will come to a surprise to everyone – especially party headquarters – that there is “not one person of color employed at party headquarters.” Call and ask for the Executive Director. Ask her about it. 

In any event, I would like to address the “concerns” contained within your intemperate rant.  

The “bad old ways” involved all those years when other disgruntled nominal Democrats spent a fortune in order to destroy and sabotage good Democratic candidates in order to harm party headquarters and to accumulate money, power, jobs, and influence. 

Pedro Espada says hi. From jail. 

The “bad old ways” were the times when a former Democratic chairman –  deposed for being a divisive failure – undertook a well-funded, two-decades-long political jihad to systemically weaken the party committee he hoped again to run, and scorched Democrats who were trying to better their communities. The “bad old ways” saw a former Democratic chairman open a business with notorious right-wing propagandist Roger Stone in order to destroy local Democrats. 

Pigeoning: pi·geon·ing ˈpi-jən-iŋ: (n) the action of using money and influence, oftentimes pushing the election law envelope, to actively sabotage and undermine the Erie County Democratic Committee.

Now, we have some people trying to Pigeon sine Pigeon, trying so desperately to cling to the bad old ways. 

The “bad old ways” were when your boy did the crimes, like felony bribing a Supreme Court Justice, and felony directing a $25,000 foreign donation to Governor Cuomo. 

The “bad old ways” were the times when Democrats cut deals with the homophobic Conservative fusion Party, and paid Joe Illuzzi for an ad to curry the favor of a Springville barber in order to secure for them the Independence fusion Party line. Never forget that the Conservative fusion Party is the party of Angela Wozniak and Joe Mascia. 

The “bad old ways” were the times when Conservative Party Democrats conspired with Chris Collins to undertake a Republican coup of the Erie County Legislature in exchange for a few dollars thrown at pet projects. The “bad old ways” even include the recruitment of three criminals to help ensure a Republican coup in the State Senate. 

The “bad old ways” were quieted after two brave politicians – People of Color, one of whom now works in the Poloncarz Administration – filed a complaint with the Moreland Commission against your friends in the the WNY Progressive Caucus, or “AwfulPac“. 

In a sense, the “bad old ways” according to Poloncarz includes the times when you and your associates had control over the Water Authority patronage pot

Mark Twain once said “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded”.

Query what the everliving f-ck you’ve done, kind sir, except help to weaken and sabotage the committee. If you don’t like Zellner, challenge him. Run. None of you ever do – full of sound and fury when it suits you, but helping no Democrats – not even Dobson – when November rolls around

Welcome to 2019. Pigeonism is over, and his bad old ways have been consistently rejected by Erie County Democrats.

Very truly yours, 


Mychajliw, Dixon and the Violence Brigade


It should not come as a surprise to anyone that in the era of Donald J. Trump, millionaire, American politics have become incredibly dumb and unconscionably threatening. There exists in the world zero excuse – none – to threaten violence or bodily harm on one’s political opponent. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or a member of some corrupt or washed-up marionette fusion party, under no circumstances is it ok to threaten someone over a political point of view. 

We come to learn this week that County Executive Mark Poloncarz has accepted a security detail from the Sheriff’s office due to threats he has recently received. The Buffalo News reports

On the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, a suspicious package arrived at his office addressed to him as “personal and confidential.” It had been hand-delivered to his office and had no return address. Nothing inside turned out to be dangerous, but the incident put building security on alert, he said.

Fair enough. I understand that county resources are limited, and I have no doubt that Poloncarz accepted the security detail reluctantly at someone else’s recommendation. In fact, he tells the News exactly that. 

He accepted police protection upon the recommendation of Buffalo police, Erie County Central Police Services and the Sheriff’s Office, he said. That includes special transportation measures and two sheriff’s deputies who travel with him to his scheduled events, among other security measures that he declined to publicly discuss.


He said he does not know how long he will continue to have the security. He hopes it is temporary.

“It’s completely changed how I have to go about my work routine and daily life,” Poloncarz said. “I’m not thrilled with it.”

Erie County Undersheriff Mark Wipperman said he could not elaborate on the details of the open investigation but confirmed the additional protection was recommended.

“Based off the recent threats made against the county executive, we believed a security detail was needed,” Wipperman said.

Also fair. I think that if an elected official received a credible threat of harm, he or she ought to implement whatever reasonable security measures law enforcement might recommend. Obviously he doesn’t need an armored car or a full motorcade, but being accompanied by deputies on the recommendation of the police seems reasonable for an elected official who by no means signed up to get threatened by Facebook trolls whose behavior escalates into potential assassin territory.

In that Buffalo News article, however, one prominent Republican and one member of the washed-up, marionette “Independence” fusion Party attempted to make political hay out of the protection of a fellow elected official. 

“If there is a credible threat to him and he is in need of security, then that’s fine, but I have questions,” said [County Executive candidate Lynne] Dixon, adding that she wants an update on the status of the investigation.

Ms. Dixon should have stopped at “fine.” Everything after that is irresponsible and macabre. 

Wipperman said the deputies, detectives and supervisors who are trained in dignitary and executive protection work come from different parts of the Sheriff’s Office.

“They are assigned on a rotating basis so that none of our normal operations and investigations are hampered,” he said.

On what basis is Lynne Dixon, a county legislator, in any position to demand an “update on the status of” a police investigation that does not affect her? Never fear, dear reader, because Dixon’s ghoulishness is dwarfed by Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw’s colossal grotesqueness. 

“I’m sure there’s a significant cost involved in removing these highly trained officers from their specific detail to protect the county executive like he’s the president,” he said.

Think on that for a second. Mychajliw is quite literally putting a price on Poloncarz’s head. This is professional-grade concern-trolling. I mean, is there a “cost” threshold that Mychajliw or Dixon can stomach to prevent a political rival, his loved-ones, and his staff from being harmed? If so, then why isn’t that being established? Why are the media dutifully transcribing these bloodthirsty sentiments without challenging them.

How much is too much, Stef? What is the most taxpayer money that can be spent to prevent the murder of the County Executive, Lynne? Somebody ask these questions. 

I call upon members of the Erie County Legislature immediately to introduce a bill that delineates the maximum amount of public money that can be spent to protect an elected official against whom a credible threat of violence has been made. 

From a practical standpoint, I believe that it’s smarter for Poloncarz to take security advice from professional members of law enforcement rather than from former journalists with no law enforcement experience who made names for themselves by wearing red parkas.

In February 2017, Mychajliw said he received threats from an inmate, believed to be mentally ill, who threatened to “exact revenge” against him with a gun. That led Mychajliw to apply for a concealed carry pistol permit and purchase a Glock at his own expense. The inmate has since been in and out of jail.

Poloncarz said Mychajliw should contact Central Police Services and the Sheriff’s Office if he has serious concerns.

Mychajliw said he contacted the sheriff when the issue first arose.

“I thought it would be silly to ask for 24/7 police protection,” Mychajliw said. “Our law enforcement should be used to fight crime on the streets, take drugs out of the community and fight the very serious opioid epidemic.”

Mychajliw here presumes that Poloncarz asked for police protection, and the very article in which he is quoted proves him incorrect. To put a finer point on all of this, Mychajliw amazingly does not consider the protection of elected officials from credible threats of harm to be “crime on the streets”. I’m pretty sure it is. His invocation of the “opioid epidemic” is clumsy politicization of all of this. Stefan Mychajliw’s office’s remit does not extend to telling law enforcement how to do its job. 

Wednesday morning, Mychajliw appeared on WBEN and took surprisingly pointed questions from Susan Rose on all of this. He parroted the propaganda he fed to the Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan, and demanded that the Rath Building’s security footage be immediately released so as to apprehend whomever delivered the suspicious package to Poloncarz’s office. 

Except there’s a problem with that. It wasn’t just the suspicious package. 

Five days [after the package was delivered], an incident occurred at [Poloncarz’s] house that prompted him to call the police. He declined to elaborate, saying he doesn’t want the information to harm the investigation or encourage copycats.

Mychajliw said nothing of that, completely ignoring so as to advance his sadistic narrative that Poloncarz is a spendthrift drama queen.

Mychajliw suggested that Poloncarz do what he did – get a concealed carry permit and then cross your fingers that cosplaying Hopalong Stef is better protection against lunatic cranks than foillowing the recommendations of law enforcement. Note that in Mychajliw’s case, he says he contacted the sheriff; the article does not go into any further detail, so we are left to wonder whether the department considered the threat against Mychajliw to be as serious or credible as the ones made against Poloncarz in recent weeks. Perhaps Mychajliw’s concealed carry permit wasn’t just some cynical political ploy to pander to the SCOPE/Abolish the SAFE Act crowd and was instead a well-considered and proportional response to the threat he received; by the same reasoning, perhaps Poloncarz’s reluctant acceptance of a security detail is a proportional and reasonable reaction to the threats he received. 

We are all just trying to be people in this society. If law enforcement had recommended that Mychajliw accept a security detail because some crazed leftist was making credible threats, literally no one would begrudge him that. When the security of public officials takes a back seat to cost, then the country is truly in a sorry state. If there is truly a “concern” about cost, then this could be handled quietly. The fact that it’s in the paper tells you that this is a political stunt and not a serious or credible concern at all. This is a Republican effort to make Poloncarz seem like he is taking something from taxpayers to which he is not entitled. Shame on Dixon and shame on Mychajliw. 

The only appropriate response to learning of a credible threat of bodily injury against a fellow public servant is to ask “what do you need”. These Republicans would sooner see Poloncarz harmed than spend a dime on his protection.

I think the media should stop “both-sidesing” stories like this and instead probe why Mychajliw and Dixon are so eager to see harm come to Poloncarz and his family, friends, and colleages.