Tea Party Protests Grisanti Fundraiser

An exclusive image of the massive tea party protest of Mark Grisanti’s fundraiser, courtesy of @HeyRaChaCha on Twitter

Maziarz Out, SD-62 Up For Grabs

Here is the statement that soon-to-be-former State Senator George Maziarz issued in order to explain his very sudden and unexpected decision to resign*: 

It is no secret to my family and close friends that I have been considering retirement from the State Legislature for the last five years. And as I geared up for another long campaign season, I realized I just did not have the passion and commitment that I have had in the past to see it through.

People will ask me why now and the simple answer is there is never the perfect time to step away. I had the honor of following the late John Daly into the State Senate. I remember him telling me when he left the Senate it was simply time for the next generation of leaders in the Legislature. After nearly two decades in office, I fully understand what he meant and feel that way today.

My second daughter gets married this summer and that is a much bigger priority for me than another grueling campaign. My family has sacrificed enough for my public service through the years and I cannot ask for any more.

To the people of Niagara, Orleans and Monroe counties who I have had the pleasure to represent since 1995, I extend my heart felt appreciation for your continued support. I always told people that being your Senator was the greatest job in the world, one I dedicated myself to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We accomplished great things and I did my best to help my constituents with any problem…big or small. Thank you for giving a kid from North Tonawanda the chance to fulfill his dream of serving in the State Senate.

Gee shucks, that’s swell. 

But not so fast. 

People just finished collecting petition signatures to get Maziarz’s name on the ballot. He could have easily announced a planned resignation earlier this year. You don’t just drop out of your career politicianship because you’re bored and you need more time for your kids. You don’t simply bow out from the “greatest job in the world” suddenly on a Sunday night. 

Mike Caputo’s PoliticsNY broke the story this weekend, and noted that the resignation comes quickly on the heels of the abrupt resignations of two of Maziarz’s top staffers. On July 11th, the Niagara County Democratic Committee issued a press release demanding a state investigation of Maziarz’s campaign spending

This week we learned Maziarz’s Chief of Staff Alisa Colatarci and Office Manager Marcus Hall both resigned. Given the U.S. Justice Department’s increased focus on public corruption in Albany, if there are reports of senior staff members resigning it should raise some eyebrows.

Eyebrows have indeed been raised ever since City & State revealed in May that two WNY Republican senators – Maziarz and Pat Gallivan – were coming under scrutiny for campaign spending

State Sen. George Maziarz shelled out more than $140,000 in campaign funds over a six-year period without identifying what exactly he purchased, according to an investigation by the now defunct Moreland Commission on Public Corruption—by far the most of any state lawmaker. State Sen. Patrick Gallivan was found to have about $80,000 in unreported campaign credit card expenses, including hundreds of dollars spent on cigars, tanning, and at salons and casinos. State Sen. Greg Ball laid out around $23,000 at retail stores, including Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic and Amore Clothing.

This must be why the Republicans haven’t been making much noise about the disbanding of the Moreland Commission as part of the overall budget deal earlier this year. Keep stumm and don’t kill the job. 

But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said, in effect,  “not so fast”. 

To date, there has been considerable speculation about what exactly the Moreland Commission’s investigations team probed over the months it was in operation, but few specifics have been disclosed to the public. Several legislators and critics have openly dismissed the Commission’s work as a “witch hunt.” Conversely, Moreland Commissioner Makau Mutua said earlier this month that the Commission had unearthed potential criminality by 10 to 12 state lawmakers.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was interested enough in finding out what the Commission had discovered that he has launched an inquiry, in part, to get to the bottom of whether “investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away as part of the negotiated arrangement between legislative and executive leaders,” as he wrote in a letter to the Commission’s members on April 3—a reference to the ethics deal struck between the governor and the Legislature as part of their budget agreement at the end of March, which coincided with Cuomo’s announcement that he was shutting down the Commission.

How does this all play into Maziarz’s resignation? Well, take a look at Binghamton-area Republican state senator Tom Libous – the second-highest ranking GOPer in the Senate- who was just indicted for lying to the FBI about getting his kid a job, and promising to direct work to that firm as a quid-pro-quo. The son was indicted for tax evasion and embezzlement. Libous was also out in front to try and block an extension on the fracking ban, mostly because his wife and a big campaign donor stand to benefit financially from a lifting of the ban

Is Bharara poised to indict Maziarz for corruption that the Moreland Commission uncovered and then simply stopped doing anything about to placate Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos? Consider what City & State uncovered

The legislator with the most number of entries about him is state Sen. George Maziarz, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership. According to the documents, Maziarz amassed more than $140,000 in unitemized campaign expenses in filings reported between 2008 and 2013—which averages out to more than $23,000 a year, or nearly $2,000 a month. The senator’s campaign also had “over $67,000 of charges and expenditures to Chase and Chase Card Services,” identified broadly as “office” expenses. The total sum, which exceeded by tens of thousands of dollars the amount of unspecified expenditures by each of the other lawmakers flagged, is broken down in depth within the documents and includes details not included in the senator’s public campaign filings.

The Commission found that the Maziarz campaign doled out more than $125,000 at retailers such as Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club, including $56,250 in expenditures that investigators concluded had not been reported. Another $10,000 from the senator’s re-election funds went to specialty chocolatiers, a florist and wineries and wine stores. The campaign committee also paid for $7,850 worth of reading materials at Borders, Readers Digest and Barnes & Noble, with $2,000 labeled as “unreported” by the Commission.

The Commission also tabulated the Maziarz campaign spending $12,000 at arts and crafts stores like Michaels and Oriental Trading; $7,000 at the now-defunct online gift boutique Southern Living at HOME and its successor, Willow House; and $4,000 on purchases related to children, including from Toys ”R” Us and Mud Pie, and payments to Do-do, the clown.

A company called MEM Enterprises also received a cumulative $39,000 from the Maziarz campaign. A Commission document notes that the company has only one employee, brings in $54,000 a year and is based at a residence owned by a person who appears to be the senator’s relative. Efforts to reach MEM Enterprises were unsuccessful, however, based upon inquiries made by City & State, it appears that the company’s address is the same as that of the senator’s brother, Marvin Maziarz, a retired Niagara County Community College professor.

As for Pat Gallivan, 

The next highest total was run up by Gallivan, who had about $80,000 in “unreported credit card expenses.” In Gallivan’s case, records for a Capital One card revealed $1,200 spent at casinos, $1,000 on cigars and $300 on “tanning beds and at salons.” The senator also had approximately $4,000 in unreported charges to AT&T, $3,500 in unreported charges to Verizon Wireless, $4,000 in charges to the DeLacy Ford dealership in Elma, N.Y., and almost $3,000 in unreported loan payments to M&T Bank. The Commission was apparently unable to obtain records for an American Express card that had $47,000 in unreported campaign charges.

Generally speaking, lawmakers are forbidden from converting campaign finances to personal use. This sort of analysis of campaign spending is unprecedented, and for decades, no one has bothered to look into any of this. 

It’s quite clear that Maziarz’s unforeseen and hurried exit has to do with something much more grave than a general feeling of political ennui and a sudden desire to focus on his daughter’s nuptials. 

Another corrupt lawmaker in a hypercorrupt Albany? Big surprise, and the way in which this unfolded reveals the degree to which no person or party in Albany has a desire to clean up that city’s act for the good of the people in this state. Thankfully, the people working on the Moreland Commission’s investigations were disgusted enough to forward their investigations to law enforcement. 

About two years ago, Carl Paladino and his cult following tried to unseat Maziarz by spreading rumors that he was gay. It was an especially disgusting campaign – just as you might expect from Carl, Rus Thompson, and any other right-wing homophobe you might encounter. 

It was so ugly and hateful, that I endorsed Maziarz because of it, and also because Paladino was openly backing Maziarz’s primary opponent, Johnny Destino (who is now a Democrat and running for Maziarz’s now-vacant seat).  Consider, then, that Paladino and Rus Thompson could have – but didn’t – pushed instead an argument that Maziarz was corrupt. That would have been a tougher argument to make, and by no means as much fun to a couple of gay-bashers, but at least it would have smacked of factual accuracy. 

But most importantly, recall Governor Cuomo’s agreement with the Working Families Party to start backing the idea of a Democratic Senate in exchange for its fusion endorsement. With Libous’ indictment and Maziarz’s departure, that’s two Republican seats up for grabs. (Libous and Maziarz, incidentally, were not backbenchers – they were quite powerful). The Republicans have a de facto majority in the Senate thanks to a small group of breakaway Democrats led by Jeffery Klein, the “Independent Democratic Conference”.

Right now, the Senate is made up of 29 Republicans, 24 Democrats (2 formerly Democratic seats are vacant), 1 Democrat caucusing with the Republicans, and the 4 members of the IDC. If the IDC decides to abandon its Republican ties the Democrats get a majority.  

The NYS Board of Elections reveals that Democratic enrollment in the 62nd District is almost 63,000 Democrats and just under 60,000 Republicans. 4,000 are enrolled Conservative, 1,200 are enrolled in the WFP, and 8,200 are in the Independence Party. The Greens have fewer than 400 enrollees. With a slight Democratic enrollment advantage, this seat is wholly up for grabs. 

* I use the word “resign” not to denote an immediate Maziarz withdrawal from public office, but merely to connote the fact that he’s choosing to not seek re-election to his Senatorship-for-life. As of right now, Maziarz is expected to complete his term of office. 

With Apologies to Al Jaffee

In recent months, I’ve taken to quietly deleting comments that I find to be ad hominem, off-topic, and belligerent. If you can’t be bothered to argue an opinion or position, then it’s gone. Repeat or exceptionally egregious offenders are sometimes blacklisted from the site altogether. In any event, it’s wholly within my – ahem – executive discretion what stays and what goes. 

Recent posts about Hobby Lobby (here and here) and the “12th Man” trademark (here) have generated some lively and unusually on-topic discussions, and I’ve only gone back and deleted one or two comments. 

But sometimes, a comment is so thought-provoking – or stupid – that it merits a post of its own. I used to do this quite frequently, but as blogging as a medium has been replaced with newer, terser platforms, it’s been rare lately.

But today, we’ll play “snappy answers to stupid questions”, with apologies to Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee

Tony, aka “wnyresident” is the showrunner of the longstanding cult comedy hit, “SpeakupWNY”. It’s a ragtag collection of Obama haters and other low-information voters who parrot a distinctly right wing weltanschauung. Think Breitbart without the spelling and grammar, or Ann Coulter without the wit. 

Now, it’s not a secret that I’m a partisan Democrat, and a proud one at that. I’m a registered Democrat and town committeeman because I believe that the platform and values of the Democratic Party match my own, as compared with the other major political party – the Republican Party.  I finally made the switch from the GOP to the Democrats in order to help Wesley Clark run for President in 2003-2004, but I had felt that the party had abandoned voters like me in 2000. That year, I volunteered and phone banked for John McCain as he battled George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.

McCain energized me on two occasions – the first was at a Republican candidates’ debate somewhere in the midwest in late 1999. The candidates were asked to name their most influential political philosopher. George W. Bush replied first with an astonishingly unresponsive, “Jesus Christ, because he changed my heart,” whatever that means. Jesus might be a lot of things, but I don’t think he was a political philosopher. (Not that I would necessarily quibble with a candidate who was arguing that, say, Jesus was the most influential figure in his life in general – that would be a valid response. But political philosopher?)

Then one by one, every other candidate parroted – oh yeah, Jesus for me, too. Except for one. 

John McCain said, “Teddy Roosevelt” and explained how this earlier “maverick” had been a Republican who broke up the trusts and believed in conservation. It was a valid response to tendered question, and one that was well-reasoned and insightful. I was impressed, mostly because here was a Republican presidential candidate who was unafraid to not do the easy thing and just say, “Jesus”. 

It showed that McCain was willing to stick his neck out, but more importantly that he had taken the time and brainpower to actually listen to the question – a sign of intelligence and respect. 

The second time? I traveled up to Peterborough, New Hampshire and caught the tail end of a town hall speech he gave.  He was saying all the right things – all the things that a young, sane, Northeastern Republican wanted to hear. 

As we know, John McCain went on to verbally assail the right-wing theocrats Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell shortly before dropping out of the race.  It was a last gasp to attract the sane, secular, Bill Weld Republicans to his team. It failed, and McCain later went on to run a shambolic campaign in 2008 with an unvetted embarrassment of a running mate, whose moronic pronouncements poison our political discourse to this day. In the last 14 years, the GOP has become only more reactionary, theocratic, and unreasonable. 

So, as the Republicans continued to lurch right – especially after the country elected, and re-elected, Barack Obama – its values and platform has gone farther and farther away from my own personal and political values and beliefs. 

I default to Democrat, just like Tony from Speakup, WBEN listeners, and many of you default to Republican. There are exceptions, and I have backed Republicans whom I believe to be exceptional in some way, or somehow better than the Democratic alternative. 

In the case of my own New York State Senate District 61, I am represented by Mike Ranzenhofer.  Mike’s a nice guy, but I think he’s been wholly ineffective in his two decades in public service. So much so that I ran against him unsuccessfully in 2007. He’s now just another Republican footsoldier in the feckless state Senate, and it would be good for SD-61 and New York for his tenure in public office to end. You can’t name anything Ranzenhofer has ever stood for in 20 years, except maybe for his push to make Chobani yogurt the state snack

One big statewide issue is the implementation of the Common Core education standards, and the extent to which kids are overtested in New York schools. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the Common Core because I think that tougher standards are needed to get kids learning at a 21st century level.  I agree, however, that the tests have been poorly implemented and administered, and that teacher autonomy should be respected.  We can strike a good balance here if we retreat from our bunkers and listen to each other, as McCain did at that 1999 debate. 

Elaine Altman is running against Ranz, and she’s a teacher. The Common Core is one of her biggest platform planks because she is uniquely qualified to address it and come up with ways to make it better. Admittedly, the race hasn’t begun in earnest, and we still have about three months to find out more about Altman and her positions. Nevertheless, as a Democrat, I default to Altman over her Republican opponent. As someone who thinks that Ranz has been an ineffective seat-moistener as a legislator, I choose Altman. As a Democratic committeeman in SD-61, I choose Altman over the career politician who’s done little to earn his fat state pension. 

So, regard

That’s a fascinating insight, isn’t it? Sure, Altman would probably be a great teacher – is a great teacher – but she’s now taking her experience as a citizen and a teacher and looking to take that to an insular, corrupt Albany that has no clue how the world works outside of its own decrepit bubble.

For as much bleating as the right makes about “career politicians”, put a professional teacher up against a career politician, and they beat a partisan retreat. By Tony’s own logic, professional gun fetishist David DiPietro would “really make a better dry cleaner” than Assemblyman. 

But this one popped up just the other day – a solid two weeks after the original post went up. 

There are no “open borders”, and anyone who suggests that is being willfully ignorant. There aren’t any candidates who want “open borders”, either – at least, not from the mainstream parties. The United States has, in effect, an army of agents along the southern border and anyone who’s actually tried to cross it knows that the process makes crossing into Canada from WNY seem as easy as a drive into Pennsylvania. 

But even more critically, immigration, the border, customs, and international affairs are wholly within the province of the federal government. The states have little, if any, power or control over policymaking or enforcement of federal immigration statutes and regulations. 

To ask what a candidate for the New York State Senate thinks about “illegal immigration” is as pointless as asking Ms. Altman her position on Burmese ethnic strife or Taiwanese independence. It would be like asking a member of the Amherst Town Board their considered opinion on fishing rights in the Georges Bank

Now, as to my “view” on “illegal immigration”, I believe that the federal government should overhaul the entire immigration system to simplify the process for people wanting to live here, and to enable businesses here in the US that depend on migrant labor to hire the people they need under a modernized guest worker scheme.  

But the current headlines are due in large part to right wing propaganda and misinformation. 

http://mediamatters.org/embed/199990

I don’t know what Ms. Altman’s position is on “illegal immigration”, nor is it in any way relevant to the duties and responsibilities of a New York State Senator. 

Elaine Altman for State Senate

Elaine Altman is a teacher with 24 years of experience. She’s running for State Senate against Mike Ranzenhofer, a career politician with a weak record. Unfunded Albany mandates and the outright theft of public school funding to help balance Albany’s spendthrift ways, she’s marketing herself with the social media hashtag #sendateachertoAlbany. 

She is advocating for greater investment in public services, fair taxes and fair funding for public education, mandates that support teaching and learning, rather than tests, tests, and more tests. 

The Amherst Democratic Committee is hosting a $25 fundraiser for Altman today from 5:30 – 7:30 at Loughran’s at 4543 Main Street. Anyone who wants to go to Albany to fight for stronger public education is worth a listen. 

Bipartisan Leadership in the New York State Senate

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Winners & Losers: On to November

Darkness Looms

Courtesy Flickr user july_01_2010

To my mind, last night’s primary election was a repudiation of some ugly things. 

1. Homophobia:

SD-62: Even Maziarz, who voted against same sex marriage in 2011, was a victim of an online whisper campaign that was as vicious as it was clumsy. The people associated with it are so inept at good messaging and classic electoral persuasion that they just figured they’d call the guy a queer and see if they could get away with it. But in the end, they couldn’t even muster up the balls to do that. No balls, no win for their selected candidate, Johnny Destino, who lost without Maziarz even breaking a sweat. Maziarz will face Democrat Amy Hope Witryol, who won a primary for the Working Families Party line last night against a Maziarz placeholder. 

SD-60: The Republicans of the district didn’t fall for the poor opposition from perennial candidate Kevin Stocker. Stocker’s alliance with local embarrassment Matt Ricchiazzi hurt him in the end – the only free media Stocker ever got during this race involved him having to disavow some simply awful homophobic trash that Ricchiazzi produced and emailed around the country.  Ricchiazzi and Stocker were too clever by half, and the whole effort blew up in their faces. Also, no one was buying the tall tales about Grisanti’s supposed bad acts during that Niagara Falls bar fight – no one every produced any proof. Finally, the Stocker campaign’s central theme was that Grisanti lied – he promised to do the wrong thing, but did the right thing instead. That’s not a persuasive line. 

On the Democratic side, Pigeon concocted a three-way race to make sure that Chuck Swanick’s path to electoral victory was as smooth as possible. Al Coppola did what Al Coppola does – he lets himself be run to distract the Italian vote in the district and help Pigeon’s guy’s path easier. Coppola got 11%, but more importantly Swanick – who famously received big donations from the horrible, homophobic, anti-equality “National Organization for Marriage” – lost handily to medical malpractice attorney, Democrat Mike Amodeo. Pigeon and homophobia were handily defeated last night. 

I’ll note as an aside that I know of several prominent gay men who are aligned with Pigeon and work in City Hall actually circulated petitions and voted for homophobe Chuck Swanick. This is astonishing to me – it’s not unlike a middle-class person voting against his own interests by backing Mitt Romney. Is your own identity and are your own interests so easily shunted aside to do what your bosses tell you to do? That’s sort of disgusting to me. 

2. Steve Pigeon

SD-60: Pigeon: it’s what’s for dinner. As noted above, local political scheissmeister Pigeon concocted a race to try and get Swanick to the State Senate, and it failed. Pigeon was riding high when he was Pedro Espada’s patronage hire, navigating the Senate coup where breakaway Democrats, including Espada and under the direction of Floridian billionaire Tom Golisano, permitted the Republicans to take the majority, de facto.  It was not dissimilar from what he concocted in the County Legislature back in 2010 where some breakaway Democrats aligned themselves with Chris Collins, and the place became a chaotic joke of a hellhole.

Disgraced through his connection with the coup and its plotters – especially convicted felon Pedro Espada – Pigeon is trying desperately to get back to some sort of position of influence in the State Senate. I think the state can do without that sort of thing, don’t you? Why would we want a guy to mess with the will of the people and to single-handedly play dirty tricks for his own self-aggrandizement again? 

3. Carl Paladino, Rus Thompson

As I noted above, they both embarrassed themselves going after Maziarz the way they did, but they did manage to get David DiPietro the nod – barely – to run against Christina Abt in Assembly 147. Abt won her primary on the Independence Party line.  

Frankly, DiPietro’s win is a repudiation of Jim Ostrowski’s campaign management skills. Every time DiPietro has run for something as a tea party candidate, Ostrowski has been behind it, and DiPietro lost in a sea of tea party nonsense. This race, he had the help of someone who actually knows how to win elections and handle messaging and GOTV – fellow East Auroran Michael Caputo. 

Other races: 

SD-63: Kennedy is also a Pigeon ally, and he was at the forefront of the 2010 legislature coup I noted above. He barely won last night. This was a fun race to watch last night as Betty Jean Grant came up from an 80/20 deficit to take the lead for a brief time. In the end, Tim Kennedy appears to have won in a squeaker, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this ends up in court for some time – the margin of victory is less than 300 votes. This new district includes a great deal of Buffalo’s east side, and as those precincts reported last night, Betty Jean surged unexpectedly. 

A-149: Sean Ryan handily defeated Kevin Gaughan. Gaughan really deserves to be given a chance to be elected to something because he’s smart and has great ideas. His problem is that he has a small constituency that isn’t as politically active and astute as Ryan’s entire Hoyt machine. This isn’t even about money, it’s about organization. 

UPDATE: Ralph Lorigo lost his bid to be elected to the Conservative Party’s state committee. (HT to TonyinTonawanda in comments)

Christopher Scanlon easily fended off three challengers to keep his South District seat in the Common Council. 

Olate Dogs defeated comedian Tom Cotter to win America’s Got Talent. A total disappointment. 

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is one of the most popular television shows in America. Shh! It’s a Wig.

Winners & Losers: On to November

Darkness Looms

Courtesy Flickr user july_01_2010

To my mind, last night’s primary election was a repudiation of some ugly things. 

1. Homophobia:

SD-62: Even Maziarz, who voted against same sex marriage in 2011, was a victim of an online whisper campaign that was as vicious as it was clumsy. The people associated with it are so inept at good messaging and classic electoral persuasion that they just figured they’d call the guy a queer and see if they could get away with it. But in the end, they couldn’t even muster up the balls to do that. No balls, no win for their selected candidate, Johnny Destino, who lost without Maziarz even breaking a sweat. Maziarz will face Democrat Amy Hope Witryol, who won a primary for the Working Families Party line last night against a Maziarz placeholder. 

SD-60: The Republicans of the district didn’t fall for the poor opposition from perennial candidate Kevin Stocker. Stocker’s alliance with local embarrassment Matt Ricchiazzi hurt him in the end – the only free media Stocker ever got during this race involved him having to disavow some simply awful homophobic trash that Ricchiazzi produced and emailed around the country.  Ricchiazzi and Stocker were too clever by half, and the whole effort blew up in their faces. Also, no one was buying the tall tales about Grisanti’s supposed bad acts during that Niagara Falls bar fight – no one every produced any proof. Finally, the Stocker campaign’s central theme was that Grisanti lied – he promised to do the wrong thing, but did the right thing instead. That’s not a persuasive line. 

On the Democratic side, Pigeon concocted a three-way race to make sure that Chuck Swanick’s path to electoral victory was as smooth as possible. Al Coppola did what Al Coppola does – he lets himself be run to distract the Italian vote in the district and help Pigeon’s guy’s path easier. Coppola got 11%, but more importantly Swanick – who famously received big donations from the horrible, homophobic, anti-equality “National Organization for Marriage” – lost handily to medical malpractice attorney, Democrat Mike Amodeo. Pigeon and homophobia were handily defeated last night. 

I’ll note as an aside that I know of several prominent gay men who are aligned with Pigeon and work in City Hall actually circulated petitions and voted for homophobe Chuck Swanick. This is astonishing to me – it’s not unlike a middle-class person voting against his own interests by backing Mitt Romney. Is your own identity and are your own interests so easily shunted aside to do what your bosses tell you to do? That’s sort of disgusting to me. 

2. Steve Pigeon

SD-60: Pigeon: it’s what’s for dinner. As noted above, local political scheissmeister Pigeon concocted a race to try and get Swanick to the State Senate, and it failed. Pigeon was riding high when he was Pedro Espada’s patronage hire, navigating the Senate coup where breakaway Democrats, including Espada and under the direction of Floridian billionaire Tom Golisano, permitted the Republicans to take the majority, de facto.  It was not dissimilar from what he concocted in the County Legislature back in 2010 where some breakaway Democrats aligned themselves with Chris Collins, and the place became a chaotic joke of a hellhole.

Disgraced through his connection with the coup and its plotters – especially convicted felon Pedro Espada – Pigeon is trying desperately to get back to some sort of position of influence in the State Senate. I think the state can do without that sort of thing, don’t you? Why would we want a guy to mess with the will of the people and to single-handedly play dirty tricks for his own self-aggrandizement again? 

3. Carl Paladino, Rus Thompson

As I noted above, they both embarrassed themselves going after Maziarz the way they did, but they did manage to get David DiPietro the nod – barely – to run against Christina Abt in Assembly 147. Abt won her primary on the Independence Party line.  

Frankly, DiPietro’s win is a repudiation of Jim Ostrowski’s campaign management skills. Every time DiPietro has run for something as a tea party candidate, Ostrowski has been behind it, and DiPietro lost in a sea of tea party nonsense. This race, he had the help of someone who actually knows how to win elections and handle messaging and GOTV – fellow East Auroran Michael Caputo. 

Other races: 

SD-63: Kennedy is also a Pigeon ally, and he was at the forefront of the 2010 legislature coup I noted above. He barely won last night. This was a fun race to watch last night as Betty Jean Grant came up from an 80/20 deficit to take the lead for a brief time. In the end, Tim Kennedy appears to have won in a squeaker, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this ends up in court for some time – the margin of victory is less than 300 votes. This new district includes a great deal of Buffalo’s east side, and as those precincts reported last night, Betty Jean surged unexpectedly. 

A-149: Sean Ryan handily defeated Kevin Gaughan. Gaughan really deserves to be given a chance to be elected to something because he’s smart and has great ideas. His problem is that he has a small constituency that isn’t as politically active and astute as Ryan’s entire Hoyt machine. This isn’t even about money, it’s about organization. 

UPDATE: Ralph Lorigo lost his bid to be elected to the Conservative Party’s state committee. (HT to TonyinTonawanda in comments)

Christopher Scanlon easily fended off three challengers to keep his South District seat in the Common Council. 

Olate Dogs defeated comedian Tom Cotter to win America’s Got Talent. A total disappointment. 

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is one of the most popular television shows in America. Shh! It’s a Wig.

Endorsements: And the Rest

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. Any endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions. 

See Erie County Senate Race endorsements here. 

The primary elections are taking place this Thursday. Please vote, if you can.

State Senate: 62d District (George Maziarz (R) Incumbent)

Republican Primary: George Maziarz

Yesterday, I accidentally omitted this race, since I was working off an Erie County list. In Niagara County, longtime incumbent George Maziarz has suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of hatred and vitriol spewed his way by the likes of Carl Paladino and his compliant sidekick, Rus Thompson. For more about this – and how it’s degenerated from exposing Maziarz’s cronyism to outing him as a closeted gay – click this link and this link

I have no doubt that Maziarz is yet another Republican careerist officeholders who talks up private enterprise while being unencumbered by it; who wants to reduce the size and scope of government while ensuring that he continues to be coddled and supported by its largesse. He is no different in that respect from any of them. He even went so far as to pander to the tea party movement a few years ago, which was quite odd. 

Senator Maziarz and the tea party in happier times

I don’t know the ins and outs of Niagara County politics, except to say that what little I know makes Erie County look urbane by comparison. I’m sure Maziarz’s opponent, Johnny Destino, is a swell guy, but in this case the support of his campaign by the abusive Paladino tea party inures against him, and – leaving most observers amazed and shocked – actually makes Maziarz out to be a sympathetic figure. 

It’s reminiscent of what Pigeon and his collection of goons tried to do to Sam Hoyt a few years ago – in trying to help Barbra Kavanaugh, they unleashed a barrage of negativity on Hoyt that was so relentlessly vicious, that people felt sorry for Hoyt and Kavanaugh lost. I called it the “Kavanaugh flip” – that moment when a negative campaign injures itself, rather than its intended target

That’s what Thompson and Paladino – two guys who couldn’t get elected, and have had little success helping others do the same – have done with Maziarz. 

Assembly 147th District (New)

Republicans: David DiPietro

David DiPietro may be something of a tea party loon and a perennial candidate, and he is unfortunately associated with the likes of Paladino, but I’d actually like to see him go to Albany and have a chance at accomplishing something. He’s a lot of talk, let’s see some action. The rest of this collection are no great shakes, anyway. Dan Humiston? Really? 

Independence Party: Christina Abt

Setting aside for a moment my natural aversion to electoral fusion, given that Abt is up against IP member Humiston, I think it apt that you go to the polls and support her. She is good people and needs the IP line. 

Assembly 149th District: (Sean Ryan (D)Incumbent): 

I’m torn by this choice. On the one hand, I like what Sean Ryan has done since going to Albany, and I think his mission to re-invent IDAs and the way they encourage inter-regional poaching of businesses through weak, poorly vetted promises that are seldom kept. By the same token, I am a huge fan of Kevin Gaughan‘s – more for his promotion of regional government than for his downsizing effort – and would very much like to see him get elected to public office, so that we can see him in action. 

So, I’m not making an endorsement in this race, except to urge Democrats to go to the polls and not vote for Mascia

 

Endorsements: State Senate Primaries


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. Any endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions. 

The primary elections are taking place this Thursday. Please vote, if you can.

State Senate District 60 (Mark Grisanti (R) incumbent)

Democratic Primary: Mike Amodeo

Mike Amodeo is a progressive Democrat who wants Albany term limits, a ban on hydrofracking, reducing the red tape the state imposes to create a business, and you can read the rest of his campaign platform here. It’s solid, smart, and full of things Democrats should be supporting. So, I’m at a loss to explain why it is that we need a “Democrat” like Chuck Swanick to run against him with the express support of homophobic, fundamentally transactional bad actor, Conservative Party boss Ralph Lorigo

If you’re a registered Democrat in the district, you should be voting for Amodeo. Period. 

In what way is Chuck Swanick more progressive on anything than Amodeo? I will grant you, he’s more progressive in terms of, e.g., becoming a Republican, cozying up with Joel Giambra, earning personal perks, privileges, patronage, and pay. I will grant you that he’s more progressive in terms of looking out for #1 above all else, that he is without peer in the business of “protecting Chuck Swanick” and “looking out for Chuck Swanick”. I will also concede that he is unique in that his bad-government bona fides are unparalleled, and that he and his supporters are undeterred by them. If ever there was an advertisement made to highlight “how government and politics in WNY are horrible things populated by horrible people”, Chuck Swanick’s name and image would be plastered all over it. He should be perpetually and serially unelectable – not just unelectable, but the mere suggestion of his election should send average citizens screaming.

Democrats in this region are obsessed with our perpetual, counterproductive, ill-considered factionalism (e.g., Lenihan vs. Pigeon; City Hall vs. everybody). But the net result of that is hatred and failure. Chuck Swanick isn’t a Democrat any more than he is a Republican. He is an opportunist, and a corrupt one, at that. He is a member of the Swanick party, and Christ alone knows why any self-proclaimed Democrat wouldn’t back a perfectly reasonable Democratic Party candidate in Mike Amodeo. No one on Earth has given a single, solitary reason why Swanick is preferable to Amodeo on the merits, or – more to the point – why Amodeo is unacceptable. (Except for factionalism and some bizarre, unproven opinion about Swanick’s “progressive” bona fides). How much easier would it be if we had Democrats united behind the singular Democrat who (a) isn’t a patronage whore; and (b) isn’t a careerist.

Some argue that Swanick’s backing by the execrable homophobes at the National Organization for Marriage is beside the point; marriage equality is settled, they say. But it isn’t. Here you have an opportunity to have a Republican (Grisanti) and a Democrat (Amodeo) run in November, both of whom would be unwavering supporters of marriage equality. Yet instead, some supporters of same sex marriage are backing a Democrat who won support from Vomit (Ralph) Lorigo and NOM, thus putting the issue of marriage equality back in the race. If not for factionalism, and the promise of future hack job, on what merits does anyone select Swanick against Amodeo? In what way is Amodeo unacceptable as a “progressive” Democrat? How, precisely, is someone funded by NOM acceptable to anyone as a “progressive” Democrat. This primary is about Chuck Swanick, money,  patronage and factionalism, full stop, end of story.

I’m not a Dem committeeman – not for the county committee, and not for my town committee. I have no say or stake in who becomes ECDC chair. However, I think that once the committee selects a chair, the party faithful should default to supporting the committee’s activities, absent some compelling reason not to. Instead, we have factions who openly and relentlessly challenge the committee, but don’t have the balls or the votes to actually change its makeup. (Who showed up to vote for Sundra Rice?)  Now, you’ve successfully deflected the argument away from my question to you, which is – why do you support the Conservative Party’s candidate, Chuck Swanick? Democrats should run screaming from Ralph Lorigo. All Democrats

Al Coppola is also running. So what?

tl;dr: AFAIC, Democrats should stop backing candidates who seek and obtain the Conservative Party endorsement, full stop. 

A New Way from WNYMedia Services on Vimeo.

Republican Primary: Mark Grisanti

Last year, Mark Grisanti, in a massive and systemically uncharacteristic display of balls, bucked his party to vote in favor of same sex marriage. For that alone, he deserves re-election. His opponent has a track record of questionable campaign tactics, and is running almost exclusively on the “Grisanti said he wasn’t going to vote for same-sex marriage” platform, such as it is. 

What that amounts to is, “Grisanti broke his promise to do the wrong thing, and did the right thing instead“. 

Grisanti’s vote was a real-life, contemporary profile in courage.

Grisanti’s vote wasn’t influenced by phone calls or internet chatter. Instead, he performed legal research on the matter, finding out that civil unions don’t really work, and that married couples enjoy 1,300+ rights and privileges that unmarried couples don’t. He had to compartmentalize his faith and examine the issue purely on the facts and the law, resulting in a conversion.  However, he would not agree to vote in favor of this law without strong religious exemptions and an inseverability clause, which would render the entire law null and void should a future court change so much as one word.  Grisanti said that the clergy to whom he’s spoken since his vote appreciate that language.

At the time, traditional media were intensely interested in the “betrayal” angle, and whether Grisanti had committed “political suicide”. Grisanti smiled and replied that he’s new to politics and didn’t make his decision under pressure. He said it was going to pass anyway, but he could not in good conscience refuse to extend basic civil rights to his taxpaying constituents. He said he doesn’t know – or care – whether he committed political suicide with this vote. He didn’t get into politics to be re-elected, but to do good by his constituents. If they decide he should leave Albany, so be it.

I guess in western New York politics, we’ve become so cynical and jaded, expecting our electeds to be dirty, dishonorable deal-makers that when we see true leadership, hard work, and conscientious research and analysis, we really don’t know how to react and assume we’re being played. Grisanti wasn’t playing anyone. 

Furthermore, people who may or may not be on Grisanti’s opponent’s payroll have been engaged in an utterly disgusting, obscene campaign against the incumbent – so bad that it serves only to enhance Grisanti’s standing. That Grisanti’s opponent expressly or tacitly permits this to happen reflects poorly on him and should be punished. 

If you’d like to know the genesis of that “mailer” emailed around by a conservative “committee” (i.e., by polterpol Matt Ricchiazzi) and the anti-Grisanti animus behind it, it all has to do with a reason and a pretext. The reason is that Grisanti refused to hire Ricchiazzi. The pretext is that Ricchiazzi is somehow insulted by an uncorroborated account of Grisanti’s behavior in that bar fight up in the Falls.  Click below to see a series of text messages that Ricchiazzi sent to Senator Grisanti and members of his staff around the time of the bar fight. Note his initial offer to “help” Grisanti sue the Senecas, and quickly degenerated into a demand for a job. 

State Senate District 58 (Tim Kennedy (D) incumbent)

Democratic Primary: Tim Kennedy

I am a big fan of Betty Jean Grant’s, and I think she would make a fantastic State Senator. She is a tireless advocate for the poor and disadvantaged, and doesn’t cut deals with horrible Republican technocrats for political gain. I am a huge fan of the symbolism of her run. I don’t mean the fact that she’s an African-American or a woman – I mean the fact that Kennedy very deliberately and openly betrayed what should have been a Democratic county legislature majority in 2010 – 2011 and handed the reins of power almost unchecked to the execrable Chris Collins. The so-called “reform coalition” reformed nothing and brought little more than strife and hatred to the county legislature – a body that is about 90% uncontroversial ministerial work, and 10% visceral combat. 

However, I won’t be guided by factionalism here any more than I will be in the 60th. As much as I like her, Betty Jean hasn’t articulated specific policy reasons why she would be an improvement over Kennedy, so I’ll reluctantly give it to the incumbent. While Kennedy touted his no-brainer work on cyberbullying and texting-while-driving statutes, I’d like to see him get out front of more controversial issues and stick his neck out for important reasons. So far,  his tenure has been adequate, not excellent.  

 

14 Gerrymanders

During the 2010 election, one of the main themes had to do with reforming state government. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch spearheaded an effort to promote independent redistricting, and sought to hold lawmakers accountable. With NY Uprising’s list of “heroes” and “enemies” of reform, Koch’s group managed to bring the issue to the forefront. 

Yesterday, the State Senate’s proposed districts were released, and there’s nothing independent  about the way they were drawn. Koch is predictably incensed, accusing lawmakers of breaking their pledges, and calling the process, “disgraceful” and accused lawmakers who broke their pledge of losing all “credibility”.  For his part, Governor Cuomo has already said he may veto the entire effort.  Here’s how the LATFOR redistricting task force was created: 

The Task Force consists of six members, including four legislators and two non-legislators. The Temporary President of the Senate appoints one legislator, Michael F. Nozzolio (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Welquis R. Lopez. The Speaker of the Assembly also appoints one legislator, Assemblyman John J. McEneny (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Roman Hedges. The Minority Leaders of the Assembly and the Senate each appoint one legislator: Assemblyman Robert Oaks and Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

Let’s take a look at the current and proposed Senate and Assembly Districts covering WNY. 

Grisanti’s district is to be entirely in Erie County, while Maziarz absorbs Niagara Falls. Ranzenhofer gets his first urban area way out in Monroe County, while Kennedy gets most of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, and Lackawanna. Gallivan’s district remains largely rural, except it doesn’t reach as far east as before, and he has suburbs such as West Seneca, Lancaster, and Henrietta. The careful line-drawing protects incumbents – little more.  Just look at how carefully districts 60 and 63 carve through Buffalo’s west side: 

Street by Street

 Assembly lines aren’t much better. 

Street-by-Street

(Giglio (A-149), Burling (A-147), and Goodell (A-150), whose current districts cover counties in the Southern Tier, rural counties further east and south, are omitted). It would appear in the Assembly that Smardz may lose his district, and it should be noted that Congressional lines have yet to be drawn or proposed. 

If the system is a broken one, this is the process that is in most need of repair. Despite several years’ worth of guarantees and promises concerning apolitical independence, we’re right back to square one, and it’s wholly unacceptable. A veto is the only thing Governor Cuomo can do to send a message to the citizens of the state – and their legislature – that the status quo is unacceptable.