By Tony Farina
State Sen. Marc Panepinto may face a Democratic primary in the 60th District this year and if he is victorious he will likely face a strong Republican challenge from the winner of an expected Republican primary between Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs and Tonawanda attorney Kevin Stocker, but Panepinto is pre-pared to run on his record of voting against tax increases, increasing school aid for Western New York, and fighting to remove microbeads from New York’s waterways as part of his environmental agenda.
Panepinto was a narrow winner in a four-way race in 2014, collecting 34 percent of the vote to Republican Stocker’s 30 percent. Stocker had defeated incumbent Mark Grisanti in a GOP primary but Grisanti ran on the Independent Party line and received 28 percent of the vote in the general election. Tim Gallagher collected eight percent on the Conservative line.
Jacobs has reportedly told local Republican and Conservative Party leaders that he’s ready to run for the seat although he publicly said after our story last week that he is still considering whether to run, a tactic he used for months before he decided late in the game not to run for county executive against Mark Poloncarz even though he was the GOP’s first choice. Jacobs looks indecisive, at the least, although insiders say he has the backing of state Republicans because of his ability to raise money given his family connections (Delaware North). But whether he runs or not, or whether he can even beat the hard-work-
ing Stocker in a GOP primary, whoever runs in the general election on the GOP line will have a tiger by the tail in Panepinto.
A snapshot of Panepinto’s record in his first term reveals that he has co-sponsored paid family leave legislation, voted against raising taxes 75 times, and voted for a permanent tax cut and protecting all STAR property tax reductions from cuts.
In a district that includes the Town and City of Tonawanda, Grand Island, Buffalo, Hamburg, Orchard Park, and Evans, Panepinto has been a strong supporter for fully funding public schools and according to his office, he has “secured $44 million in increased school aid for Western New York and successfully reduced the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) in Buffalo by 98%, a $15.9 million restoration.
The GEA was implemented in the 2010-11 fiscal year to help close the state’s $10 billion budget deficit with a portion of the state’s funding short-fall divided among all school districts based on a formula and each district’s aid is reduced accordingly.
As an example of how the GEA has hurt local schools, Panepinto cites the 71 job losses, pro-gram cuts, and multi-million dollar deficits facing the Frontier School District. Panepinto, who received more than $1 million from the New York State United Teachers union in his 2014 run, has supported rallies against the GEA in the hardest hit districts like Ken-Ton and Lake Shore, hoping to continue to restore cuts made as a result of the GEA.
The first-term senator also touts his environ-mental record, saying he introduced the Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Bond Act to fully fund and update New York’s clean water/clean air infrastructure. And he sponsored legislation to define the boundaries of the Niagara River Greenway to ensure proper project funding.
Taken in total, it looks like Panepinto is ready for a possible Democratic primary against community activist Amber Small and also has his record ready to roll out against either Stocker, a former town prosecutor, or the county clerk, Jacobs, if he follows through on his plans to run.