#WNYVotes 2015

Mark_Poloncarz

Mark Poloncarz cruised to an overwhelming victory last night, defeating Assemblyman Ray Walter 65% – 34%. As a karmic aside, Poloncarz accomplished what Chris Collins couldn’t – re-election to that post.  In Lancaster, the town’s Republican slate – including thuggish incumbent supervisor Dino Fudoli – fared pretty horribly. Winning 58 – 42, Democrat Johanna Metz Coleman will become the town’s first female supervisor, and Democrat Diane Terranova will become town clerk. It was almost a clean sweep for the Democrats, and a humiliating rebuke for the Fudoli experiment.

What Fudoli seems to have learned from his erstwhile mentor Chris Collins is that western New Yorkers’ patience for obnoxious and thuggish political behavior has a short window.

Yesterday, an off-duty police officer coming in to vote at a fire hall in Lancaster overheard and accused Fudoli of muttering something about punching him in the face, and confronted him. It’s unknown whether Fudoli will be prosecuted, but it was emblematic of his ugly, bellicose, and childish behavior. The spectacle culminated in Fudoli and a representative from the Lancaster Police Benevolent Association calling in to Tom Bauerle’s show to explain their side of the story, Fudoli acknowledging he said something about punching the officer out, and that he had apologized. The gentleman from the PBA went on to explain Fudoli’s complaints about alleged police harassment by going into some detail about “suspicious vehicle” calls that prompted those incidents.

Western New York and Lancaster will be better off without Fudoli in elected office. I’m sure that “good government” and “good person” are not mutually exclusive.

Ray Walter – a good person – will go back to the Assembly and lives to fight another day. His campaign for County Executive was a bit quixotic, his sales tax proposal was fundamentally cynical, and he sell the idea of jettisoning a competent and hard-working incumbent. His inability to break 40% speaks volumes about Poloncarz’s continued political aptitude, both in policy and salesmanship.

We shouldn’t be electing judges at all, judicial candidates shouldn’t have to pander to an electorate, and cute ads with their kids hardly gives you an idea of a judge’s temperament or qualifications. Brenda Freedman defeated Kelly Brinkworth to go to Family Court, helped along by an ability to get her name on every fusion line while Brinkworth was only on the D line. No one voted for Freedman or Brinkworth on the merits, because no one had a clue about their respective merits. This was all about ballot placement and electoral fusion.

The County Legislature will maintain status quo, with Democrat Tom Loughran defeating challenger Guy Marlette, and Ted Morton easily defeated Democratic challenger Deb Liegl, in a hotly contested race.

On Grand Island, only two votes separate the two town supervisor candidates, so voting does matter. In West Seneca, incumbent Sheila Meegan defeated challenger Christina Bove. In something of a spectacle, apparent RINO Carl Paladino, in an email co-written by his dog, endorsed Democrat Meegan. The nexus of West Seneca shenanigans right now is that Scott Congel project by the Thruway near Ridge Road.

In Niagara Falls, incumbent Democrat Paul Dyster won re-election to become only the second three-term mayor in Niagara Falls history.

Finally, I watched with some interest that two TV stations use a Buffalo native but current New York City resident as a Democratic analyst. This person is a professional lobbyist and has been disloyal to Erie County Democratic Headquarters since Steve Pigeon was deposed from his chairmanship 15-ish years ago. (As an aside, this lobbyist wrote a book. At the book’s website, there were three glowing reviews; one from the author’s former boss, and the other two came from two newspapers the author co-owns). This person’s somewhat predictable analysis was that pretty much everything – any prospective result – was going to be bad news for Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner.

While the Democrats couldn’t seal the deal in the Liegl and Brinkworth races – in both cases due in part to the Republicans outmaneuvering the Democrats in setting up the minor fusion party lines – I think Zellner had a pretty good night, as his close confidant Mark Poloncarz won an overwhelming victory. Maybe WKBW and Time Warner Cable could find a more loyal, and local Democrat to comment on Democratic politics, they don’t seem to have a problem extending that courtesy to Republicans.

One Buffalo and the Resentment Industry

onebuffalo

When I moved to this area in 2001, WNY was economically and politically in peak “old Buffalo” malaise, treading water while the world largely passed it by. Since then, the region’s journey forward has been pretty epic. Old, intractable problems still persist, but the region has made amazing strides in terms of finding its way into the 21st century.

Except for the Peace Bridge. For some reason, we remain stuck on the question of improving access to our well-to-do neighbor.

At the beginning of the aughts, the city of Buffalo was the region’s financial basket case, lumbering towards an inevitable control board’s oversight while suburbia touted the seemingly miraculous financial stability of then-Erie County Executive Joel Giambra’s county government. He cut taxes and maintained services, even taking over the maintenance of city parks from the hurting city.

The 2005 red/green county budget fiasco blew up the county’s charade, revealing that our perception of its comparative fiscal stability was artifice, built with finite tobacco settlement windfalls. The county soon found itself with its own control board, and a region that really couldn’t afford the hit found itself brought to its knees.

Since then, both the city and county have righted their financial ships and things are looking up. Neither Buffalo nor Erie County hold an exclusive monopoly on prudent governance. The specter of 2005 still looms – no one is eager to repeat it.

Regionalism as an idea was killed due to politics – chauvinism, patronage, and racism. We hit rock bottom with two control boards before we could right ourselves, but the state recognized that a strong region is anchored by a strong city.

Erie County remains a segregated place where poverty and minorities are concentrated within distinct parts of the city of Buffalo. There remains a tendency to focus on what divides us, rather than what unites us. Racism still plays a huge role in our political reality, logic gets turned on its head as well-to-do white people play victim, and craven politicians exploit that.  It’s us vs. them; we pay our taxes while they get their Obamaphones and welfare and Medicaid and HEAP and SNAP and WIC. It’s downstate’s fault, so they demand secession.

Blame the poor, blame the immigrants, blame African-Americans, blame the city they live in. Here in Erie County, the artificial divide between city and suburb is best used to further inflame already toxic arguments about who pays, and where it goes. Proud city folks denounce the suburbs as homogeneous or racist repositories of boredom whose sprawl is killing everyone. While largely apathetic, suburban voters can easily become inflamed by rhetoric about socialism and redistributive financial policies.

It’s easy to hate the people you think are taking advantage of you. It’s easy to hate the “other” – people who don’t look or live like you. The easy way out is secession. Separation. It’s why we’ll never have a unified countywide school district or a metropolitan form of government to replace our current, corrupt menagerie of taxing districts.

I guess it makes political or strategic sense to divide and conquer, but it’s not leadership. Leadership is taking what divides us and finding common ground. Leadership is about listening to the people and implementing policies that will help as many as possible while doing as little harm as necessary. Leadership is rejecting the easy way out or divisive rhetoric and understanding that a County Executive, for instance, must serve the whole county; not just the ones that will vote for him. Leadership means finding solutions to intractable problems and not blaming the victims.

In a way, that’s what’s so brilliant about Ray Walter’s “fair share tax” plan, which would seek to abolish a 1977 agreement on how the 3% permanent county sales tax is shared. Campaign issues don’t get more obscure or wonkier than this. The pitch is that Erie County’s cities receive more in sales tax revenue per capita than the suburbs. The agreement can be modified wth consent of the parties, or canceled unilaterally with one year’s notice. Mark Poloncarz says that subsequent state control board legislation forbids the county from canceling the contract; Walter disagrees.

If you’re most people, you never even heard of this before. You have no idea who’s right. Nobody cares.

The whole thing has to be dumbed down literally to capture anyone’s attention, but suffice it to say that it makes sense that the county’s three cities receive a larger share of the sales tax revenue because the need is greater. If you want to parse and analyze Walter’s plan to redistribute the cities’ share to the suburbs, re-read Bruce Fisher’s piece from mid-September. There, Fisher noted,

…neither the Erie County executive nor the executive plus the legislature has the power to change the sales tax distribution. All the recipients would have to agree. Then the State of New York would have to agree.

During the debate between Poloncarz and Walter, there was some back-and-forth about Walter’s plan, and far from acknowledging that the scheme is anti-city, Walter would have us believe that cities would benefit.  Yet in one breath, Walter argues that the cities are making out like bandits, getting twice per capita what towns get from the 3% sales tax, but in the next, his plan “spreads prosperity to every corner of the county and does not pit communities against one another.”

Re-formulating the sales tax sharing plan isn’t conservatism; figuring out a way to abolish the sales tax altogether would be conservatism. This is just double hypocrisy: 1. Walter says Poloncarz only helps the communities that vote for him, yet Walter’s signature policy propsal does exactly that; and 2. Walter wants to avoid pitting suburb vs. city by robbing the cities to throw more cash at the suburbs. That’s not going to work. It will accomplish the opposite, and he’s stoking these divisions.

Put it this way: if Walter’s tax plan was fair, the mayors of the three Erie County cities would have lined up to support it. Their silence and absence is deafening. When I asked a Walter partisan on Twitter about this, here is the response:

Ultimatum. Hostage-taking. How does that meet the goal of “not pit[ting] communities against one another”, as Walter claims? It doesn’t. It’s a noxious idea borne out of a base desire to exploit suburban prejudices and anxieties; to punish the “takers”, who are the most vulnerable and needy in our shared community.

A conservative way to tackle tax equity and poverty and lifting all boats probably exists, but you won’t get it from this Walter campaign. This is the stuff that fuels the local suburban talk radio resentment industry. Setting up a re-do of Empire Zones to spur investment in blighted communities isn’t the problem – access to jobs and credit are the root problems.

By the time the debate was over, the two campaigns’ themes had become quite clear, and the difference between them couldn’t be more stark. Poloncarz was advocating for One Buffalo – the notion that we’re all in this together; that a strong city helps the whole region, and vice-versa. That we can do great things when we work together towards a common goal of making Erie County a better place to live and work. In the last 15 years, we’ve made incredible strides towards that goal – progress that would have seemed unthinkable to you in 2001.

On the other hand, we had a campaign that threatens the cities with ultimata over dramatically reducing their share of the sales tax despite the need for that revenue. Walter’s campaign wants no part of “One Buffalo”, instead very clearly delineating a pure vision of suburban “real” Buffalo versus the crime, blight, and poverty of the inner city. The aspiration isn’t unity, but division. It’s not too dissimilar from how, in the aughts, the suburbs condescended to poor, beleagured Buffalo, while burning through budget-balancing tobacco settlement one-shots.

We can do better in this community than to pit white against black, rich against poor, city against suburb. WNY’s resentment industry is perhaps bigger even than the Medical Campus and SolarCity combined. It’s time it shrank.

Waltergate

scandal

On Tuesday – on the eve of the WNED debate between incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz and his Republican challenger Ray Walter, City & State published this article:

That was it. Multiple sources were telling City & State that there was an ongoing investigation involving your typical western New York brand of petty corruption – bid rigging for road work projects. The article as it first appeared – reproduced above – didn’t go into many details, except to pre-emptively exonerate Poloncarz and his administration of any misdeeds.

The Republicans, however, pounced so quickly and so heartily, you’d almost suspect they knew it was coming.

Frantically trying to gin this up a bit more? Yep. But also giddy. They were giddy. Can you blame them? Whether you like or hate Poloncarz, his honesty as a political leader is his stock in trade. If he’s not likeable, he’s competent, and to poke holes in that perception would certainly help the Republican candidate, who is running to be County Executive of WBEN’s listenership (which is, on a good day, around 10% of all people listening to the radio at any given time). 

Literally within minutes of the City & State story being published, Ray Walter’s campaign was busy readying the hay, complete with an allusion to Watergate!

Ringing alarm bells isn’t serious leadership. It’s grasping for headlines and an effort to manufacture controversy and relevance. The meme was carefully crafted within moments of the City and State article’s appearance. Poloncarz is a crook! Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation! Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration? Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office? Why all the secrecy? Why the cover-up? What is he hiding? 

City and State later updated its original story several times, resulting in this newer, more complete version that includes quotes from various and sundry people, including Poloncarz and a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Getting Schneiderman’s office to respond must have been quite the feat, you’d think at first blush. After all, it has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. The trick here is that there is no ongoing investigation. It’s over. So, knowing what we know now, let’s examine the Republican quick-memes, and judge how well they’ve held up in under 24 hours’ worth of factual scrutiny: 

 

Poloncarz is a crook!

No, he’s not. 

 

This administration runs a clean administration,” Poloncarz said. “We became aware of certain potential improper actions leveled during the final years of the Chris Collins administration. We performed an internal investigation and we turned that information over to the state attorney general’s office for them to perform a more definitive investigation to determine whether inappropriate actions were taken in the Department of Public Works in 2010 and 2011.

 

 

Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation!

No, it’s not. 

 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday responded to a report of an ongoing probe, saying that the only investigation into the county Department of Public Works he was aware of stems from actions during 2010 and 2011, which predate his administration.

 

 

Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration?

He’s not. It’s not. 

 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has confirmed that it investigated alleged bidding irregularities at the Erie County Department of Public Works, but Schneiderman’s office also said that its probe of the county agency is now closed. 

 

 

Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office?

Easy! Because (a) the investigation didn’t involve anything that happened during Poloncarz’s administration; (b) because Poloncarz is not the Attorney General and has no business commenting on or publicizing an ongoing investigation being conducted by a state agency; and (c) it’s not being conducted because it’s closed. 

 

Why all the secrecy?

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013.

 

 

Why the cover-up?

 

On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

 

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

 

What is he hiding? 

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013…

…On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

What did Poloncarz know and when did he know it? He knew that a Collins appointee had acted improperly when it came to roadwork contracts, and he knew in 2012. He then contacted the proper authorities – the Attorney General’s office. Not just because it was a matter for law enforcement, but because it would be unseemly for Collins’ successor and rival to investigate these specific allegations. 

Every single allegation – every attempted smear – turned out to have been completely false. But not only was it all false, but the overheated, reflexive over-reaction from Walter and his surrogates seems nothing less than childish now. In less than 24 hours it went from them screaming bloody murder to Bob McCarthy explaining that it was a Democratic-led probe into misdeeds under the previous Republican administration, with which Walter was closely aligned

 

The attorney general’s statement contradicted the Walter claim that a state investigation was currently in progress, which he based on a Tuesday report in City and State magazine.

“We know an investigation is going on; it’s been reported,” Walter claimed at a hastily called news conference Tuesday afternoon in Erie County Republican Headquarters.

When asked if he knew for sure an investigation was ongoing, he replied: “I know what I read in the article.”

Walter also suggested Schneiderman was working with Poloncarz to cover up a probe he said had been kept “secret.”“Is he protecting a political ally?” Walter said. “He very well may be.”

 

and 

 

Poloncarz said he didn’t further pursue the investigation himself, or publicize it, because he didn’t want to influence or compromise the Attorney General’s investigation, he said, and he didn’t want it to appear as if he was “kicking dirt” on defeated Republican incumbent Chris Collins.

Poloncarz noted that he changed the top leadership of the Department of Public Works after he took over, though the change was not precipitated by the probe.

To his knowledge, he said, no one in the department has been disciplined or fired for improprieties related to the Eden Evans Center Road project because the Attorney General’s Office has issued no finding of criminal conduct, and the county did not have definitive proof of wrongdoing.

 

It is a palpable testament to the competence and professionalism of the current administration that the best Walter can do is jump the gun and falsely accuse Poloncarz of a Watergate scandal before the facts are in; to reflexively try and make up a controversy where none exists.

 

It’s not so much Watergate as it is Waltergate – a scandal only in his mind. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Primary Night 2015 in Goodenoughistan

goodenough“Goodenoughistan” is my term for western New Yorkers settling for whatever’s comfortable, convenient, easy, or familiar. It’s good enough, dear.

Thursday was primary election day, and the overwhelming winner was “staying home and not voting at all”. For the very few of you who are superprime voters and eagerly traipsed down to your local school, nursing home, fire hall, or church to vote, your choices were limited and races were won in some cases by a small handful of votes.

It all came down to energizing one’s base of support and getting that small superprime vote out.

Buffalo/Fillmore: We won’t have Joe Mascia to kick around any more, as he garnered just over 100 votes – someone on Twitter remarked that he didn’t realize that Mascia had that many family members in the district. Chalk up another loss for his comical spokesman. The win goes to incumbent David Franczyk, who only needed 490 votes to win.

Buffalo/Masten: Congratulations to Ulysses Wingo, who will have the coolest name in the Common Council.

Erie County Family Court: On the Democratic line, the Republican candidate garnered more votes than the Pigeon crowd’s candidate, Michele Brown. Congratulations to Kelly Brinkworth for that blow-out. Freedman has every other line for the battle in November.

Cheektowaga: A mixed bag, as the forces opposed to former chairman Frank Max won the race for Supervisor and Highway Superintendent, but lost 2/3 of the available council seats. It would be nice if Mr. Max’s group would deign to follow the rules of the New York State Board of Elections and make the proper disclosures regarding its activities.

Clarence: Huge blow-out of a win for Councilman Pat Casilio over incumbent Supervisor Dave Hartzell on the Republican line; completely lopsided win. Tough loss for town justice on the (D) line for Justin Kloss, as I’m at a loss to explain or understand how or why 87 more Democrats voted for the Republican incumbent over the Democrats’ endorsed candidate except to say: forget it, Jake. It’s Clarence.

Amherst: Deborah Bruch Bucki and Francina Spoth won and newcomer Hadar Borden lost.

West Seneca: incumbent Democratic Supervisor Sheila Meegan appears to have been very narrowly defeated by Christina Wleklinski Bove. Bove is a former county legislator who was an integral part of the Pigeon/Collins coup of 2009 – 2011.

Niagara Falls: Paul Dyster holds a remarkably narrow lead over Glenn Choolokian in the Democratic primary for Mayor. Only about 90 votes separate the two, with about 200 absentee ballots waiting to be tallied. Choolokian could win, but it’s mathematically unlikely.

It’s important to remind people that it’s important to get out and vote. You should aspire to be a superprime voter who gets all the calls and mailers, because it means that you – and the people who want to represent you – know and understand how important that franchise is. The alternative is no choice and no competitiveness or adversarial system, and I can tell you from experience that it’s not a good way to govern or be governed. If for some reason you’re unenrolled in any party, you may wish to re-think that, because you don’t get to participate in primaries, which can oftentimes be the deciding factor in many races.

If you’re enrolled in a major party, your vote can help direct how that organization selects candidates and the overall direction of the party and its platform. If you’re enrolled in one of the minor parties – fusion or Green – you hold disprorportionately great power, since there are so few of you out there. For instance, in Clarence, Justin Kloss secured a slot for himself in November, if he chooses, on the Working Families Party by virtue of the one vote cast in that primary.

The End of the Clarence GOP’s Hartzell Experiment

casiliokloss

In 2011, political newcomer David Hartzell (R) challenged and narrowly defeated the incumbent Clarence Town Supervisor Scott Bylewski – a rare elected Democrat in that Republican citadel. The Conservative fusion party had abandoned Bylewski, most likely because he wouldn’t violate the town’s master plan and push through the zoning changes needed to build a massive Wegmans on the Clarence side of Transit Road. To make sure Bylewski’s political coffin was securely sealed, the town’s right-wing establishment also mounted a campaign of personal destruction against him, which was as heartless as it was comically hypocritical.

In 2011, Clarence Republican Committee chairman Dan Michnik wrote this letter to the Clarence Bee in support of Hartzell’s candidacy:

As chairman of the Clarence Republican Committee, I am very proud that our committee unanimously endorsed David Hartzell for Clarence supervisor. His business experience, coupled with substantial volunteer work in the Clarence community, makes him uniquely qualified to serve the taxpayers and make decisions that will make our community a better place to work, live and raise a family.

His four children all graduated from Clarence High School, and one is now proudly serving our country overseas as a Navy Seal. As a fiscal conservative, he will hold the line on taxes and root out wasteful spending in town government.

As a successful businessman, he not only knows how to lead, but he knows how to listen also. His leadership is based on transparency and respect for others, and I fully expect Dave to continue these policies as Clarence supervisor. His record on the Clarence Industrial Development Agency is a pro-business, pro-growth agenda that seeks to make strategic investments in local businesses, with the ultimate goal of creating jobs. I would urge the taxpayers of Clarence to take a close look at Dave Hartzell’s private sector record and his platform and plan for Clarence. I know he will make a tremendous supervisor, creating jobs, growing local businesses and improving our quality of life.

Dan Michnik

Hartzell won, and the town board enjoyed its reversion to one-party rule.

For a time, anyway.

Along the way, something happened.

Fast forward to May 2015, when the Republicans shunned Hartzell in favor of town board member and local developer Pat Casilio. In July 2015, here’s what Michnik wrote to the Bee:

The Clarence Republican Committee is pleased to announce the slate of candidates chosen by the members at their endorsement meeting held May 19.

They are Patrick Casilio for supervisor, Robert Geiger and Christopher Greene for councilmen, Nancy Metzger for town clerk and Robert Sillars for town justice.

Casilio earned the committee’s endorsement for supervisor because of his integrity, work ethic, history of public service, and his commitment to always put the Town of Clarence first.

Councilman Robert Geiger earned our endorsement for another term because of his sound judgment, his ethics, and his hard work on behalf of all of the town’s residents.

Christopher Greene is a newcomer to the slate for councilman. His youth and enthusiasm to get things done will bring new energy to the board.

Nancy Metzger and Robert Sillars are seeking re-election to their current positions. Their experience, leadership and sound judgment also earns our endorsement.

Our committee believes in selecting candidates that put Clarence’s needs and best interests first. We want the best candidate for the job. We think that all of our endorsed candidates have the experience, integrity and dedication to the town that will guide us in the right direction for our future. We ask for your continuing support to elect the best candidates for the Town of Clarence.

Daniel A. Michnik

The Republicans kicked Hartzell to the curb, but don’t really tell you why or what happened. They don’t address why they so enthusiastically endorsed Hartzell over Bylewski in 2011, only to abandon him at the first possible chance. Put another way, in 2011, Michnik’s club picked Hartzell to oust an excellent, intelligent Supervisor; if Michnik was so drastically, fundamentally wrong in 2011, why should we believe him now? I don’t much know or care about the ins and outs of Clarence Republican politics, but I have to surmise that Hartzell must have really been just awful for them to have rejected him after just one term, no?

Maybe it was the raises that Hartzell gave himself?

Before election day 2011, outgoing Democratic Supervisor Bylewski had actually cut the Supervisor’s rate of pay for 2012 from $77,096 to $76,357.  Hartzell was sworn into office in January 2012, and reckoned that he deserved more. So in 2013, he bumped himself from $76,357 all the way up to $78,648. That’s a $2,300 raise – 3% – for a part-time job! Not satisfied, in 2013, Hartzell gave himself – with the Republican town board’s help – another $500 raise, from $78,648 to $79,148.

Maybe it was the 2014 audit of the town’s vehicle and fuel use? The state found that controls were lax, resulting in waste – not a headline that residents of any party were especially excited to see.

Some of us saw it coming, though. Here’s what I wrote in 2011:

The town race has been exquisitely ugly this year, thanks in no small part to the execrable Joe Weiss and his puppet, Dave Hartzell. Bylewski enjoys bipartisan support from people who truly care about the town and the direction in which it’s going. His opponents have proven themselves to be a dirty, hypocritical collection of fetid assholes whose idea of good government is to lie to town residents when they’re not berating them. Don’t be fooled by the lies and deception – Bylewski is working hard to keep the town on the right track, despite myriad pressures from many sides to go against the town’s land use constitution.

“Dirty, hypocritical collection of fetid assholes” has a nice ring to it, especially when you recall members like Joe Weiss.  In 2010, someone using Hartzell’s phone number (he denied it) sent out a horribly tasteless “Clarence offers to buy the City of Buffalo” April Fools Day prank. Hartzell opposed moving the Williamsville toll east towards Pembroke, inexplicably calling it Transit Road’s “golden goose”. There was also this, this, Hartzell’s comical behavior at the candidate forum, and a ton of picayune nonsense about stolen campaign signs. I even wrote about shady Republican fundraising in 2011 over the Hartzell race.

Now? Michnik writes – again – to the Clarence Bee demanding that Hartzell return contributions his campaign received from Michele Brown’s Family Court campaign committee. Not to be out-done, the 26-year incumbent town clerk – running unopposed yet again – endorses Hartzell’s opponent, Pat Casilio, who would be the eighth (8th) supervisor with whom she’ll have worked. It’s funny because Republicans are usually the very first and loudest to condemn career politicians. Here’s what she has to say:

I have worked with seven supervisors and have never experienced such disconnect from the operation of the town. The town has been running on autopilot for the last three and a half years without a dedicated leader.

Maybe you should have supported Bylewski in ’11. He was a very “dedicated leader”.

I should not have businesspeople tell me the supervisor ripped them off, or that he will only meet with them at a restaurant and they have to pay for lunch. Every applicant that comes before a board should not be solicited for a campaign donation.

Metzger supported Hartzell in 2011. You break it, you bought it.

Who else endorses Casilio? How about soon-to-be-former Councilman Bernie Kolber, whom the Republican committee shunned on the same day as they did Hartzell. Also publicly endorsing Casilio is Peter DiCostanzo, who inexplicably used his power on the board to fight petty battles against dedicated volunteers. The only check on such abuses of power and childish fits of pique is public outcry.  The Republicans have even gone so far as to send out lit (citing my columns) calling Hartzell that most unspeakable of Clarence slurs – a Democrat.

I appreciate the linkage, but the notion that Hartzell – who isn’t seeking or running on the Democratic line, and who ousted a Democratic Supervisor by a very slim margin – is a Democrat is laughable. Clarence Republicans enjoy 100% ownership of the Hartzell fiasco. Indeed, Hartzell’s victory in 2011 effectively put an end to the town’s Democratic committee until 2013.

As the mailer notes, in late July, we revealed how Michele Brown’s campaign – which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pigeon Preetsmas Gang – paid Hartzell over $5,000 for petitioning. What better way to get Republican signatures for Brown on the (R) line than to solicit the help of the embattled Republican incumbent Supervisor? The money was reported as a contribution to Hartzell’s committee, and I got pushback from Brown’s lawyer, Joseph Makowski, on that point.  Makowski claimed that the payments weren’t contributions, but effectively payments made to Hartzell (or his committee) as a vendor.

Here’s how they appeared at the time – listed as expenditures.

It’s still listed that way:

Those are from Brown’s reports. Hartzell’s show the following, and note that the entries were changed in August.

and this:

So, there exists a Board of Elections ruling that dealt with these transfers of funds from Brown’s campaign committee to Hartzell’s campaign committee for, presumably, petitions. But instead of being listed as a straight cash contribution, it’s now listed as a “campaign to campaign transfer”. That seems more appropriate, but Hartzell still lists these sums as contributions to his campaign committee rather than, as Makowski assured me, a payment made to a vendor. If Hartzell was just a vendor selling petitioning services, is his campaign now an LLC or even a DBA? If these sums were paid for services rendered and not a contribution, why is Hartzell listing it as the latter? Why wouldn’t Brown’s campaign just list the individuals who did the petitioning? Even if it was just for convenience’s sake, it remains exceedingly unusual for one campaign to make a contribution or payment to another campaign committee for goods or services.

Who were these individual petitioners that Republican incumbent Supervisor Hartzell retained to perform these services? You can see payments of about $80 – $100 going to individuals for “consulting” services on this page.

The consultants Hartzell paid include Victor Adragna, a Buffalo Democrat, who was paid $88 on June 5th and 13th. Tina Bromund, an unenrolled Cheektowaga voter, was paid $88 on June 5th. Nancy Ferrucci, an Orchard Park Democrat was paid $88 on June 5th. Kimberly LaJudice, a Buffalo Democrat, was paid $72 on June 5th. Ellie Allen, an Amherst Democrat, was paid $88 on June 5th and $94 on June 6th. Joelle Pollak, an East Amherst Democrat, was paid $102 on June 3rd and $66 on June 13th. Also at that same address were Sarah Schultz and Jessica Martin – a Republican and Democrat, respectively, who were paid $77 each on June 13th. Sandra Barile, a Depew Republican, was paid $1,823.72 on June 13th.

The petitions collected for the Hartzell effort were, apparently, all obtained by David Hartzell, Carolyn Hartzell, Ryan Hartzell, and Michael Preggo. No other name appears as a witness to any petition page, except one – you can check them here and here.   Yet, it appears from the July 2015 expense form that myriad people were paid to petition, or – more unlikely – that Hartzell is busy obtaining political consulting services from a gaggle of mostly Democratic 20-somethings living in Buffalo and Amherst. Did Hartzell take the money from Michele Brown’s campaign to hire a bunch of “consultants” to just get her petitions signed, or did he, Carolyn, Ryan, and Michael get them all? What’s going on here? Hartzell personally obtained almost 100 signatures in one day, or did he sign off on the labor of others?

Here’s Hartzell’s mailer, which arrived over this past weekend in Republicans’ mailboxes:

And the other side:

A candidate is generally forbidden from citing an opinion poll in campaign literature. If he does, he has to file its complete results and data with the Board of Elections. Under § 6201.2 of the Election Law,

No candidate, political party or committee shall attempt to promote the success or defeat of a candidate by, directly or indirectly, disclosing or causing to be disclosed, the results of a poll relating to a candidate for such office or position, unless within 48 hours after such disclosure, they provide the following information concerning the poll to the board or officer with whom statements or copies of statements of campaign receipts and expenditures are required to be filed by the candidate to whom such poll relates:

(a) The name of the person, party or organization that contracted for or who commissioned the poll and/or paid for it.

(b) The name and address of the organization that conducted the poll.

(c) The numerical size of the total poll sample, the geographic area covered by the poll and any special characteristics of the population included in the poll sample.

(d) The exact wording of the questions asked in the poll and the sequence of such questions.

(e) The method of polling—whether by personal interview, telephone, mail or other.

(f) The time period during which the poll was conducted.

(g) The number of persons in the poll sample; the number contacted who responded to each specific question; the number of persons contacted who did not so respond.

(h) The results of the poll.

Unless Hartzell made this disclosure to the Board of Elections, he’s broken the law. Again. Also – “unanimous”? Enough is enough with this guy.

As a Democrat in Clarence, my ballot will feature only two races – the Democratic primary for Family Court Judge, and the Democratic primary for town Justice. (Justin Kloss – who is not enrolled in any party and is therefore independent, is the only endorsed Democrat for any office.) Republicans get to pick who gets to run for Supervisor in November against … no one. So, Thursday’s primary election is the whole shebang, and it will only be decided by a small percentage of enrolled members of the town’s Republican Party. There is no primary on the Conservative or Independence lines, so if Hartzell is out Thursday, he’s out.

The local Republicans’ realization that Hartzell was a bad choice came four years too late, and to the detriment of the town and her residents – it was political malpractice. If they would deliberately and viciously remove a perfectly competent incumbent, only to foist upon us someone even they quickly became unable to stand – politically and personally – it calls into serious question their judgment and leadership in all things. Let’s be clear: in 2011, when the Clarence Republican committee conspired with the corrupt minor lines to jettison Bylewski, it wasn’t acting in the best interests of the town.  Instead, it was a simple power grab cloaked in lies and phony moralizing. Out of that came David Hartzell’s tenure, and I contemporaneously warned you that he was a bad choice.

I may be what some call a “liberal jihadist“, but I guess we liberal jihadists can smell malignant BS a mile away. Good to know.

On Thursday November 10th, I urge Clarence voters to vote for Justin Kloss for town justice, and Pat Casilio for town Supervisor.

Suburban School Voters: Vote Smart Today!

IMG_2912 - Windows Photo Viewer 2015-05-19 11.08.04There’s a light at the end of the tunnel as nervous parents, kids, and teachers cross their fingers and hope that school budgets are passed and that good people are elected to school boards throughout western New York’s rural and suburban districts.

Today is Tuesday, and the polls are open.

In my own town of Clarence, a dedicated and selfless group of parents have banded together since the bleakness of 2012 and formed a reasonable well-oiled campaign machine that we hope delivers us victory tonight. I don’t know what it is about Clarence that makes it so susceptible to last-throe gurgles from the tea party, but alas, here we are again. In my town we have four candidates for two open school board seats, and I always harken back to the blissful time before I had to pay attention, and recall that I always voted in favor of the school budget, but seldom knew whom to select for the board. This year, it was even more important because the differences between the pro-school and anti-school candidates is so stark.

Our group endorses and supports Michael Fuchs and Dennis Priore. Michael Fuchs is an incumbent and has served the district and its students and faculty well. He is against unsustainable cuts to educational opportunity for our kids, and wants to restore the district to its former excellence. He has worked for Rich Products for well over a decade, handling the finances of a huge local corporation. He has the skills, education, experience, and integrity to continue serving us well for the next 3 years. Dennis Priore is a longtime resident of Clarence and a former principal and school administrator. As a recent retiree, he has time, knowledge, experience, education, and skills to marshal in order to serve our district. He knows how budgets and union negotiations are made, and he has pledged to balance the needs of the students with the expectations of taxpayers.  They’re also the only candidates running for school board who are homeowners and school taxpayers. With a stake in the district and an investment in the community, they won’t let the students be further harmed by financial shenanigans or disastrous tea party austerity.

We’re hopeful.

But if that wasn’t enough, take a look at one of their opponent’s closing argument. (The other opponent is fundamentally unelectable). It perfectly distills all of the reasons why he is an unacceptable and noxious candidate for a school board. Uneducated, inexperienced, with absolutely no credentials or resume, this person is all bluster and no substance.

Let’s examine. (All [sic]).

Here are your CTA Endorsed Candidates for this election. The teachers union likes to say that they are “supporting our students” or “fighting for the children”. It’s just as absurd to say the Iron Workers fight for steel, the UAW fights for cars and the Operating Engineers fight for heavy equipment. The unions exist solely for the benefit of their members and their own interest. The school board exists to represent the people of this town. The CTA does not need representation on the school board. They have things like the Triborough Amendment in place to stack the deck against students and taxpayers. If you think that the endorsement of these candidates by the CTA shows that these candidates put students and taxpayers first, you are sadly mistaken.

It takes a special brand of malevolent cynicism to conclude that the teachers are full of shit when they say they’re fighting for the children whom they teach. It takes an even more special type of ignorant, noxious attitude to assume that teachers are just in it for greed – the same attitude as the Buffalo News’ editorial page or its union-member, married-to-a-teacher resident hypocrite columnist Donn “throw you under the bus” Esmonde.

Here’s the thing that Joe Lombardo doesn’t understand – mostly because he evidently never so much as received an associate’s degree after high school (his resume is a closely guarded secret he won’t reveal) – teachers didn’t attend 4 years of college and then an additional few years of postgraduate study to obtain their M.S. and teaching certificate in order to get rich.

If they wanted to get rich, they could have gotten an MBA and traded commodities, or become entrepreneurs. Instead, they joined a noble profession for which Joe Lombardo has no respect.

None.

Some 20-something punk kid who lives with mommy and daddy decides he doesn’t like unions or teachers, (or teachers’ unions), so he just accuses them all of being greedy pigs at the public trough, driving around in their Bentleys on their $60,000 median salaries, right? They couldn’t possibly be in it for the love of teaching or the thrill of educating and molding young minds, because that sort of notion is not one that Lombardo has any concept of.

An ironworker may be proud of the work that he or she does – constructing the skeletons of large buildings, and their union helps to ensure that they’re paid a fair wage and receive decent benefits for their labor. A UAW member is proud of the product that he or she helps to manufacture, and wants to make sure that they’re paid a fair wage and receive fair benefits for their labor.

A teacher is proud of the work that he or she does – educating the next generation of Americans. Educating the kids who will heal Joe Lombardo when he’s sick; who will represent him in court; who will manage or create the company he patronizes; who will entertain him on stage or screen; who will score a touchdown or hit a home run. You denigrate teachers, you denigrate the very foundation of our society.

The veracity of unions in our schools is really taking its toll on student opportunities and taxpayer’s wallets.

That is not a sentence that has any reasonable meaning in the English language. Which taxpayer’s wallet? “Veracity” means truthfulness.

It’s such a blatant and rampant problem that even polar opposites such as Governor Cuomo and myself, recognize what’s going on. http://www.nydailynews.com/…/andrew-cuomo-rips-teacher-unio… Don’t be mislead by two candidates and a group of people who have established that they stand with an industry that collects $220 million annually to perpetuate and expand a gluttonous and overly generous contract in the name of education.

Here’s the question they’ll never, ever answer: How much do you think is a fair salary for a teacher? What do you think are fair benefits for a teacher? How would you – as a school board member – make changes to the state laws governing teacher pensions? How would you work around the Triborough Amendment and beat the teachers into submitting to your austerity wage cuts and slashing of benefits?

85% of Clarence teachers are ranked as “highly effective” by the state.  On what insane lunatic planet does someone institute punitive wage and salary cuts against a workforce that regularly exceeds expectations? Shall we have an army of the worst teachers who can’t get a job anywhere else come and educate our kids for $10/hour and no benefits?

It’s been shown time in and time out, that they put themselves ahead of everyone else, while sacrificing opportunities for students.

I’ll say it this way: Joe Lombardo must not have ever talked to a teacher and actually asked them what their job entails. He assumes they show up at 8, leave at 3, take summers off on the Cote d’Azure, and spend the rest of their time making sure their BMWs gleam in the sunlight. I’ll say it this way, too: Joe Lombardo doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

School districts have lost all bargaining power because entrenched politicians are paid off to write laws where the union will always come out the winner.

And as a school board member in a small suburban district, you’ll do what about that, precisely? Start a coup?

As a taxpayer, a resident, a parent or a student, you only have two choices in this election tomorrow.

That’s right. Michael Fuchs and Dennis Priore, if you’re in Clarence. They’re the only two candidates who are campaigning on a platform of stronger schools, rather than demonizing the very teachers who help make our district what it is today; they’re the only candidates who don’t refer to teachers as “gluttonous,” or use the pronoun “they” to describe these educators who repeatedly and consistently go above and beyond for our kids; They’re the only candidates who aren’t pitting “us” against “them”.  Literally – read Joe’s thing again. It’s all resentment, class warfare, and visceral hatred of teachers, and the notion that they be remunerated fairly. They’re the only ones who aren’t afraid to put their resumes out there for the public to review and assess.

I don’t know how much more a ragtag grassroots team of fed-up parents can do to mobilize for a school vote, and we’ve done everything we can think of. We can only hope our district gets out of this unscathed, and that similarly situated districts have equally positive outcomes.

Fingers crossed. Knock on wood.

Buffalopundit Endorsements 2014

Caveat: Artvoice does not do political endorsements. Nothing written in this post should be interpreted, construed, or cited as an endorsement by the owners or editors of Artvoice itself. This endorsement is mine alone. No person or campaign has directly or indirectly paid for or otherwise sponsored any post or endorsement.  I do not know whether any candidate or party has ever paid for an advertisement in Artvoice, nor would I be in a position to know. I am an independent contractor and have no involvement or employment with Artvoice or its advertising or editorial staff. Any questions or issues can be directed to me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com. I recommend you click the links – especially in NY-27. Now, on with the countdown. 

United States Congress (NY-26): Brian Higgins

I did this already, I’m sure you all know.

I posted it here just a short week ago

Kathy Weppner talks nonsense, her utterings, laughable; 

Congressman Higgins belongs in the Capitol

United States Congress (NY-27): No Endorsement

I admit that this pick came to me as a shock, 

but I got information I can’t simply mock.  

It shows that the Democrat, not long ago, 

worked for the campaign of Paladino

He helped with debate prep – and this made me cross –

he helped Carl defame a planned downtown mosque

Chris Collins is there, and he’s one of the worst. 

But principle matters; it ought to come first. 

Chris Collins? You kidding? At least he’s consistent. 

Not “Democrat now!”, but once Carl’s assistant

The incumbent, he voted for Cruz’s shutdown, 

harmed our economy and then, like a clown, 

claimed to be against it, despite his own vote

And (of course) blamed Obama, repeat, edit, rote. 

But Collins was for it, before he was not; 

he blamed the “extremists”, rejected the plot

Although Collins’ tenure has been ineffective

I won’t back a Carl guy, he must be rejected. 

Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York State: Cuomo/Hochul

Listen, Cuomo’s got flaws, and of that I’m aware. 

But Rob Astorino I just cannot bear.

His running mate –  Hochul – I respect a great deal,

and the great things he’s done for our region are real.

The Buffalo Billion and Startup New York,

should not be dismissed as cheap welfare and pork.

Never before has an Albany pol,

done this much for Buffalo, as I can recall.  

I do want to see much more effort to end

corrupt fusion and graft – those Albany trends. 

Transparency now is the name of the game, 

and Cuomo’s too secretive, to his own shame. 

After all that he’s done, though, I can’t just reject, 

Cuomo and Hochul, whom I hope you’ll elect. 

Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman

Did you see the debate? Whoa, that Cahill’s a twit. 

He screamed, interrupted, behaved like a shit. 

And kudos to Bob – wow! A substantive question!

I’m voting for Schneiderman this coming election. 

His office protects every one of us from, 

fraud and abuse, and the criminal scum. 

For those who take pills for pain they can’t stop, 

he set up I-STOP, so they can’t doctor shop

Schneiderman’s strong on consumer protection,

And Cahill deserves this year’s voters’ rejection.

State Senate District 63: Tim Kennedy

Given the choice between sellout or dummy, 

the outlook for voters just isn’t too sunny. 

Tim Kennedy isn’t my favorite guy

his opponent, however, should make you ask, “why…

“…would local Republicans beclown themselves so…

“…by running a guy who’d make Weppner say, ‘whoa’“.

Kennedy may have some bridges to fix, 

but Donovan? Please, voters, no, nada, nix

State Senate District 62: Rob Ortt

Oh, great. For fuck’s sake. What a choice – I’m aghast. 

Two Republicans, one Paladino backed last.

Ortt is the Mayor of North Tonawanda,

Destino’s a Dem whom I’m not wholly fond of. 

Paladino endorsed him the last time around

and that’s generally something I can’t just write down. 

Destino was backed by the goons who had tried

–  in a spurious way that I cannot abide – 

to smear Maziarz as a closeted gay

and failed, like the cretins they are, by the way. 

Ortt is a vet with conservative views. 

But defeated that Gia – so, he’s reasonable, too

When assholes supporting you campaign on hate, 

it behooves you to answer with outrage, and state

something where you reject their assistance and views,

and you do it quite loudly, and make it big news.

I’m sorry you didn’t, and I hope that you’ll scorn

that loudmouthed old hater who forwards horse porn. 

State Senate District 61: Elaine Altman

Hah! Mike Ranzenhofer? Career politician. 

Dear reader, what was his agenda or vision? 

Say “no” and do nothing, for 20-odd years? 

It’s time for a change, and it’s time to switch gears. 

Altman’s a teacher, she knows Common Core, 

and she’ll fight to fund schools, and absolutely do more

to help out a district that’s been represented 

by someone who’s done not a lot, I’ve lamented. 

Send a teacher to Albany!”, that’s where she belongs. 

Ranz’s tenure in government’s two decades too long.

State Senate District 60: Not Stocker

I mean no disrespect to Dem Marc Panepinto, 

I don’t mean to leave him out hanging in limbo. 

Think Again, Turn Away

A vote for the Dem would be great and just swell,

but Grisanti deserves to go back for a spell

As senator, he’s been unfazed and courageous. 

“Profile in Courage” would not seem outrageous. 

He helped us to pass same-sex marriage, and took

a risk to pass SAFE Act after Sandy Hook.

It showed us that people don’t need a damn armory,

and schools should be havens of peace and of harmony. 

So, whatever you do, and don’t think it’s a shocker

vote for anyone, just not the tea party’s Stocker

NYS Assembly 146: Ray Walter

Did you know that Ray Walter is in a real race? 

Against a young Dem with a fresh, stubbled face? 

I’m sure that Steve Meyer’s an earnest young chap, 

with ideas and energy. Aside from all that, 

I have to agree that he’s lacking know-how, 

and has yet to consider what furrows our brow. 

He’s just out of school, and has loads of more time, 

to get a career, pay some taxes and climb

up to a level where he really can get, 

the problems that we New York families fret. 

Ray and I see eye to eye on the tolls, 

that the Thruway Authority always controls, 

with antiquity formed in the shape of a booth, 

within it a person, who I doubt, in his youth, 

Imagined his life would be handing out slips.  

Yet throughout the world, the traffic just zips, 

through camera tolls without stopping to pay.

This dreary old system, it pisses off Ray, 

So, send my friend back to fight Albany pols, 

besides, the Assembly’s in firm Dem control. 

OTHER

For a number of races, there is no opponent. 

For a real democracy, that’s a missing component. 

For all of these races, you have a blank check,

vote whomever you please, except for Mazurek

I’ll note, on the side, that Ray Walter’s a friend, 

and he’s running against a young Dem 

 

But no matter what, do not let the time pass. 

Just remember to vote, and Donn Esmonde’s an ass. 

Winners and Losers as #WNYVotes

Winners

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. 

Losers

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. 

#ItsTime vs. #BelieveinBernie vs. #Progress

He may be underfunded, and he may have a dramatic party enrollment disadvantage, but Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez has staked out a unique position here. While Mayor Brown touts “progress” which he hasn’t had a lot to do with, and while Bernie Tolbert shows random people who “believe” in him for unexplained reasons, Sergio shows a set of fundamental problems – crime, unemployment, lack of opportunity, and despair – and declares that it’s time for a change.

For a young Marine who is getting jerked around left and right by every Republican political machine with which he comes into contact, he’s showing people that he won’t give up, won’t back down, and can’t be bought. That is refreshing all by itself.

Admittedly, he doesn’t go into details of what that change would look like, and the candidate himself only makes a cameo appearance at the end, but I think it’s easily the best ad from any Buffalo mayoral campaign in perhaps ever. Kudos to Sergio and his team, and I’m looking forward to the hashtag mayoral race.

 

#ItsTime vs. #BelieveinBernie vs. #Progress

He may be underfunded, and he may have a dramatic party enrollment disadvantage, but Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez has staked out a unique position here. While Mayor Brown touts “progress” which he hasn’t had a lot to do with, and while Bernie Tolbert shows random people who “believe” in him for unexplained reasons, Sergio shows a set of fundamental problems – crime, unemployment, lack of opportunity, and despair – and declares that it’s time for a change. 

For a young Marine who is getting jerked around left and right by every Republican political machine with which he comes into contact, he’s showing people that he won’t give up, won’t back down, and can’t be bought. That is refreshing all by itself. 

Admittedly, he doesn’t go into details of what that change would look like, and the candidate himself only makes a cameo appearance at the end, but I think it’s easily the best ad from any Buffalo mayoral campaign in perhaps ever. Kudos to Sergio and his team, and I’m looking forward to the hashtag mayoral race. 

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