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Campaign Cocktail

State Senator Mark Grisanti: Is there anyone who's not running against him this fall?

Up is down, black is white, the lions lay with the lambs: This summer two oft-warring Democratic factions—the one led by Mayor Byron Brown and chief political officer, Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and the one formerly led by Sam Hoyt and now led by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Hoyt’s successor—have reached a truce. In recent years the two camps have hammered away at each other at the committee level, fighting for control of the party apparatus in the City of Buffalo, usually resulting in little net change: The factions grow stronger in districts where they were already strong and split races elsewhere.

This year, no such mobilization. The two sides negotiated a fragile peace under which committee races would go largely uncontested. (This is not the case in the Fillmore District, particularly in Allentown, however, where Councilman David Franczyk, who was not a party to the truce, is running committee candidates. Last year, Fillmore picked up Allentown in the once-a-decade reapportionment.) Another provision of the truce was that Ryan would not face a primary challenger sponsored by the Brown/Casey machine, as Hoyt had done in North District Councilman Joe Golombek. Indeed, in the bag of sticks and carrots that Casey brought to the table where this pease was negotiated, one stick was the possibility that he and Brown would run popular government reform activist and attorney Kevin Gaughan against Ryan—an opponent every bit as daunting as Golombek, whose house was conveniently removed from the district in reapportionment. If Ryan’s camp could remove their ally, Marc Panepinto, from the contest to be the Democratic challenger to Mark Grisanti, and if both sides could take the summer off from running committee races, Ryan would run unchallenged.

Panepinto dropped out, and Gaughan is running anyway, but not with any visible support from Brown/Casey. Indeed, the nominating petitions filed this week for Gaughan and Ryan tell a far different story: In addition to the usual list of Hoyt/Ryan allies, petitions for Ryan were witnessed by such mayoral allies as David Granville, Peter Savage III, and even Casey himself. Gaughan had 14 people passing petitions, none of them affiliated with Brown/Casey. And, according to a source in the Ryan camp, Gaughan’s petitions are good: There will be no challenge.

• The most crowded race ever: State Senator Mark Grisanti faces challengers on both party lines he is seeking on November’s ballot. On the Independence Party line, he faces Marie C. Clark and Brian J. Siklinski; we’re told that Clark has the local party’s support. In the Republican primary, Grisanti faces Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker, who has the tacit support of several prominent GOP leaders.

There are three Democrats seeking the privilege of challenging Grisanti in the heavily Democratic 60th District: Former councilman and state senator Al Coppola; Orchard Park attorney Mike Amodeo, who has the support of Democratic headquarters and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz; and former Erie County Legislature chair Chuck Swanick, who has the support of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s political machine, as well as former Democratic county chair Steve Pigeon. Swanick has the Conservative Party line already.

There is also a Working Families Party candidate, attorney Gregory Davis.

Swanick has raised $103,185 and spent $38,739 in the last six months. In the same time period, Grisanti has raised $200,368 and spent a whopping $259,611—a sure sign that his campaign knows he has a tough row to hoe. Amodeo has raised $34,720 and spent $10,239. Stocker has raised $50,210 and spent $22,168. Grisanti has $226,530 in the bank.

Coppola hasn’t been actively fundraising or spending money at all, and yet someone seems concerned about his candidacy: A challenge to his petitions has been filed by Katie Bartolotta, who works at Democratic Party headquarters.

• Beware of Greeks bearing petitions: George Hasiotis has filed petitions to run in the Democratic primary against incumbent Erie County Comptroller David Shenk, who was handpicked by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to fill out Poloncarz’s term. Advantages to Hasiotis in this race include 1) money, which he has in abundance personally and which he’ll be able to raise from others, because 2) he has strong, longstanding ties both in the business community and among big Democratic Party funders, and 3) business experience that affords him a stronger platform on which to run than Shenk can cobble together—Shenk’s platform comprising his service in the military, his service as Boston town clerk, and a few months occupying Poloncarz’s former office.

Still, Shenk is nominally the incumbent, and he has the blessing of Poloncarz.

On the other side of the Democratic primary awaits Stefan Mychalijw, the former TV reporter and public relations man, who is the Republican candidate. (Mychalijw also has the Conservative line, on which Shenk assured county lawmakers he had a lock during the interview process early this year.) Mychalijw enjoys name recognition in almost perfect inverse to his relevant governmental and financial experience, and he is an unflappable campaigner; he’ll be a tough opponent for either Hasiotis or Shenk.

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