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A Peace of His Mind

Last week in this space, we wrote: “One thing seems settled: Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan’s resignation will become fact by the end of the week.”

Suffice to say we will never again declare any matter regarding local Democratic politics settled. Friday afternoon—less than 24 hours after a sentimental tribute to his chairmanship at Pettibones Grill, and just hours after a conference call between Charlie King, the state party’s executive director, and handful of local party leaders—Lenihan declared that he was staying on, after all, at least until the November elections are concluded. In fact, the chairman’s term does not expire until next September, and there is left no reason to believe Lenihan won’t see it through until the end.

King’s conference call was joined by representatives of three city zones and three town chairs, including Tonawanda’s John Crangle, who was intended to succeed Lenihan, according to the itinerary of the derailed peace train King rode through Erie County back in May and June, under orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo. His rival for that position, Cheektowaga’s Frank Max, missed the call due to an illness in the family. Rich Horner, who runs the state party’s operations in Upstate New York, was also on the line, as was Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte, who offered an update on her campaign for county clerk. (She did modestly well in fundraising last week, and she hopes to tap statewide women’s networks for funding with the help of Senator Kristen Gillibrand, a liaison facilitated by King, who is also going to arrange statewide phone banks for both Whyte’s campaign and Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz’s campaign for county executive.) Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes joined the call, as well, to confirm that Grassroots, the East Side political organization from which Peoples and Mayor Byron Brown spring, and which was party to King’s peace negotiations, had endorsed Poloncarz. Some people with Grassroots did not agree to that endorsement, Peoples-Stokes said, perhaps referring to loyalists to Brown, who has aligned himself with Republican incumbent Chris Collins. Grassroots has not endorsed Whyte, who faces Republican Buffalo school board member Chris Jacobs, in the past a Grassroots ally.

Apart from the updates from Whyte and Peoples-Stokes, the call consisted largely of exhortations to work together, specifically in the service of the Poloncarz campaign. King said he’d provided both Whyte and Poloncarz with access to updated voter files that would enable more thorough canvassing efforts, and that members of the state chapter of the college Democrats would soon be flooding into Erie County to help. In addition, King said, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will travel here to campaign for Poloncarz. He did not say when or if Cuomo would do the same.

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