Greetings, citizens of Goodenoughistan, where good enough is good enough! First things first.
Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as such. They have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. All endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.
Secondly, here is audio of a podcast I recorded with Artvoice editor Geoff Kelly and Trending Buffalo‘s Brad Riter. In it, we discuss the primary, the state of (mostly) Democratic politics in WNY, and how we got to this awful place.
Thirdly, here is some background. Jeremy Zellner defeated Frank Max last year in a hotly contested race for chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee – a win that was ultimately challenged in court, where Zellner’s win was upheld. Since then, Max and a group of dissident Democrats commonly affiliated with former party chair Steve Pigeon have turned their dissidence from passive neglect to active sabotage; chaos for chaos’ sake, as there is very little chance of success and barely any upside whatsoever.
In just the last two weeks, the Pigeon faction has created a brand new political action committee called the “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC“. It is operated by Kristy Mazurek, funded by Steve Pigeon, Frank Max, and Senator Tim Kennedy, and has as its spokesman a young Pigeon protege originally from Genesee County.
Typically, these sorts of things used to fly well under the radar, but this year it got blown wide open when a Buffalo News freedom of information request traced inflammatory mailers in two county legislature races to this new entity. Since then, the organization has been effectively outed, as it has begrudgingly (and arguably incompletely) disclosed donor and payee information, showing over $100,000 going in and out of the PAC in just about a week in support of certain Democratic candidates not backed by the party committee.
In addition, the PAC was found to be behind mailers that were sent throughout Niagara Falls in support of one city councilman who is working to halt progress on a prospective hotel project that Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister has proposed. The defamatory mailing went so far as to accuse Hamister of being a criminal.
If you want to get into deep background, consider this: when Max and Zellner squared off against each other for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee, conventional wisdom was that Governor Cuomo was backing Max. When Max lost, conventional wisdom was that Cuomo’s people were continuing to back Max against Zellner, and that relations were chilly between Zellner and the Governor.
But a lot has changed in the last year, and the Governor is just fine, thank you, with Zellner, and Max has not been seen with Cuomo as much in recent months, if at all.
To make matters worse, the PAC’s mailer in the Falls was so inflammatory that Hamister was about to pull out of the deal altogether until Governor Cuomo called all parties to intervene and save it. I wonder what Cuomo thinks of Frank Max now that his PAC almost destroyed a development project in a city starved for them?
So, we turn to the races. These are Democratic primaries, mostly in Erie County. I don’t really care about the fusion parties, or whatever the Republicans might be up to.
Erie County Sheriff (BERT DUNN)
None of this matters if we don’t first come to an agreement on what incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard is. He is looking for a third term, and has been nothing but a bitter embarrassment and disappointment. When he wasn’t screwing up the Joan Diver search or letting Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape from custody, he was catching the attention of the federal Department of Justice due to conditions at the county holding centers. Howard needs to go.
Bert Dunn is the scion to the Bert’s Bikes empire, and his family also founded Dunn Tire. This means he can operate a campaign that is completely self-funded and reliant on nobody. Why is this important? Because Richard Dobson – a nice guy who retired over a decade ago – has no money at his disposal, and there won’t be a lot coming his way. The only way Howard goes is against a credibly well-funded challenger.
The last two Democrats to take Howard on – Fieramusca and Glascott – lost because they were retirees with little money and no political experience. Dobson may be the best guy in the world, but he is exactly like the last two challengers. Democrats need to try something different this time, and Bert Dunn helps them accomplish that.
Dobson allies will point out that Dunn wrote something mean about Obama and Cuomo in a text message to a friend. Who cares? Being Sheriff isn’t about partisan politics or whether Obama is great. It’s about competence, justice, and professionalism, and I have no reason to doubt that Dunn could bring that to the table.
Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one. That one seat doesn’t necessarily mean a Republican pickup, by the way – there are at least four nominal “Democrats” vying for a seat, any one or all of whom would gladly strike a deal to share power with the Republicans, just like under Barbara Miller-Williams period of dysfunction and collaboration.
District 1 (TIMOTHY HOGUES)
Tim Hogues is the incumbent. Hogues is chairman of the public safety committee and has helped to restore all the Collins cuts to libraries, rodent control, and a soon to open clinic on Broadway. Hogues is a rising star in the party and someone to watch. Barbara Miller-Williams sold out her party and her community to do Chris Collins’ bidding back in 2009. The de facto Republican legislative majority over which she presided was devastating to her constituents, and she was so politically inept that she approved the redistricting plan that ended up costing her re-election. She is being materially supported by the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC, which has launched a vicious smear campaign against Hogues for having the audacity to act in exactly the way a legislator in a regional governmental entity should act.
District 2 (BETTY JEAN GRANT)
Rumor has it that Tim Kennedy’s $45,000 donation to the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC is revenge for Grant coming very close to unseating him in the state Senate through a write-in campaign last year. Democrat Grant is still smarting over how Kennedy conspired with Steve Pigeon, Barbara Miller-Williams, and Chris Collins to deliver Collins a de facto Republican legislature. Betty Jean is a great advocate for her community, and deserves re-election.
District 7 (LYNN DEARMYER)
This is the Tom Mazur district. This is ground zero for the battle between the Democratic factions. The Pigeonistas are backing former Cheektowaga Councilman Rick Zydel. Zellner (although not the county committee) is backing Lynn Dearmyer, who ran for the seat in 2009. I went online to look and see what the candidates stand for. Zydel doesn’t even have a website where one can look at his platform. That by itself should disqualify him in this day and age. Dearmyer makes much of her personality and biography, and that stuff is all messed up and stuff, but doesn’t really explain what she’d do to change anything, or how she’d be different. Pat Burke also has a website, and it touts his background and achievements, as well. The “issues” section is pretty light, though. He definitely identifies some serious problems, but doesn’t quite get into specifics of any solutions.
Based on that, I would back Dearmyer or Burke. I think I would lean Dearmyer because the outgoing rep is backing her. But for the love of God, people, put some damn ideas up on the internet.
District 8 (WYNNIE FISHER)
So, again – the Pigeon people are backing Wes Moore. Remember that thing I wrote up a few paragraphs about not having a website? Sheesh, neither Moore nor Wynnie Fisher have any significant web presence. They are on Facebook, though. On Fisher’s page, I see her with Mark Poloncarz and Maria Whyte. On Moore’s page, I see an August 28th post from Kristy Mazurek thanking people for coming to a Moore shindig, indicating some form of involvement in the campaign. The problem with that is that Mazurek’s PAC came into existence on the 22nd, and she shouldn’t be coordinating between the PAC and the campaign. I suppose the definition of “coordination” is subject to some debate, but this sure as hell smells like it.
I don’t want another turncoat legislature that hands the body over to the Republicans. Fisher it is.
BUFFALO MAYOR (DEMOCRATIC PARTY): (NO ENDORSEMENT)
I’ve never endorsed Byron Brown before, and I’m not about to start. While Brown hasn’t delivered on the “progress”, as he claims, his challenger Bernie Tolbert has been all over the place in this race. Tolbert’s effort has been so weak that he didn’t just fail to define himself, he was such a nonentity that Brown didn’t find a need to try to define Tolbert, either. Tolbert said people “Believe in Bernie” but didn’t explain why, or for what. Tolbert offers up a choice without a rationale – yeah, Byron is terrible in a lot of ways; a caretaker mayor, but Tolbert only went as far as pointing that out, never giving voters a positive reason why they should choose him instead.
For me, President Obama’s visit – and the way each campaign used it – said it all. While Tolbert got out a quick one-liner about Obama mixing up Higgins and Brown, the Mayor used glowing things Obama said about Buffalo’s recent successes as the template for his own, positive, ad. It was as if Obama was not only endorsing Brown, but telling people that Brown was behind them all. It was the last nail in a coffin that only needed maybe 3.
(CONSERVATIVE PARTY): SERGIO RODRIGUEZ
Seriously, I hope all of the fusion parties go straight to hell, but you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want. Sergio Rodriguez is the Republican candidate who is also vying for the Conservative Party line. I would love for him to have it, because the only thing conservative about Byron Brown (whom that committee has endorsed) is his quiet passivity as mayor over the last two terms. I apologize for omitting this originally, but this is an excellent way to send a message to the “politics as usual” crowd that money and jobs don’t always rule the day.
NIAGARA FALLS CITY COUNCIL
If you are fortunate enough to live in the Cataract City, and unfortunate enough to deal with its ever-crisis, then do yourself a favor, Democrat, and vote for Andrew Touma, Kristen Grandinetti, and Charles Walker. (It’s a vote-for-any-three election). I don’t know the first thing about them, but I have seen enough about Sam Fruscione in the last week to know that you should never, ever vote for him again for anything, ever.
Questions/comments & hate mail: buffalopundit[at]gmail.com