That Democratic Deal
by Geoff Kelly
We’re now entering the third week of the new Pax Democratica, a truce brokered by the New York State Democratic Party’s executive director, Charlie King, between three warring, Buffalo-based factions of the local party. King negotiated the deal at the behest of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is apparently tired of dealing with bickering Democrats here.
The strained quality of the agreement continues to show in the rebellious talk of Democrats outside the city, who feel that they were left out of King’s diplomacy. Erie County Legislator Tom Mazur of Cheektowaga continues to circulate petitions for the County Clerk vacancy, a position that, under the terms of the deal, is supposed to belong to his fellow legislator, Maria Whyte, who is a partisan of the faction headed by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and departing Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan. The county party’s executive committee is scheduled to meet on Saturday, and one member of that committee who is helping Mazur, former Erie County Legislator Greg Olma, says he expects the party’s town and village leaders will refuse to endorse Whyte.
Lobbyist Maurice Garner, who represented the Grassroots political club he co-founded in the negotiations—and, by extension, Mayor Byron Brown, who has been locked in a feud with Hoyt since they were both mayoral aspirants—disputes that suggestion. He believes the executive committee will endorse Whyte and that town and village party officials will come around to supporting the peace once they better understand its terms and its import.
“We’re a region that has many challenges,” Garner says, “and this presents an opportunity for us to present a united front in addressing those challenges, to work on improving the economy and creating jobs in our region.”
Discarding the pettiness and personal interests that balkanized the Democratic Party, Garner says, is the progressive thing to do.
Attorney Jeremy Toth represented the Hoyt/Lenihan faction in the deal; the third faction is the South Buffalo Democratic contingent headed by Congressman Brian Higgins.
Toth considers a fragile peace better than no peace at all, not only because it promises to end the bickering that prevented Hoyt and Brown from working together but because it demands that all factions unite behind Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, who hopes to unseat Erie County Executive Chris Collins this fall. “There are clearly people who have no interest in putting an end to the fighting, who benefit from it,” Toth says. “And it’s not perfect. But from my perspective, any peace is a good thing. Even if it just lasts a few months, it’s a good thing.”
The other major aspects of the deal are Lenihan’s departure as party chairman, a position to be filled at least temporarily by John Crangle, the Tonawanda party chief; a primary-free run for Assemblyman Mark Schroeder at the seat of Buffalo City Comptroller; the appointment of Councilman Mickey Kearns to Schroeder’s seat, assuming Schroeder wins; and a universal agreement among the Democratic faction to support, or at least not to undermine, Poloncarz’s challenge to Collins.
—geoff kellyblog comments powered by Disqus
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