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Grisanti: I Will Debate No More Forever

Republican State Senator Mark Grisanti debated his two general election opponents, Democrat Mike Amodeo and Conservative Chuck Swanick, in the gymnasium at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute on Wednesday morning. But he won’t do it again: Grisanti has declined to take part in a livestreamed debate hosted by the Buffalo News on October 31.

And why should he debate? He’s sitting on a Siena poll that says he’s winning; he enjoys the advantages of incumbency, including high name recognition; he has far more money on hand than either of his opponents. Why on earth would Grisanti draw any further attention to his challengers by deigning to speak with them?

Amodeo, who enjoys a demographic edge in the 60th District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, immediately claimed victory in the St. Joe’s debate. (Needless to say, neither Swanick nor Grisanti issued concessions.) Amodeo noted that Grisanti, despite his claims to bipartisanship, votes with the Senate’s Republican leadership 99 percent of the time, and made much of Grisanti’s declaration of support for Mitt Romney during the debate. “The fact of the matter is that a man who supports Mitt Romney for President is not a man who should be representing the working and middle class families of the 60th District,” Amodeo said in a statement released shortly after the debate had ended. Amodeo also tried to turn Grisanti’s extravagant campaign into a defect: “By taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from downstate special interest groups, Grisanti has shown that he is part of the problem in Albany, not the solution.”

If having too much money to spend is a burden, I’m sure Grisanti bears that cross gladly—as would Amodeo, for that matter, or Swanick. In addition to using the mailing budget that is the privilege of a state legislator, Grisanti has spent $874,000 out of his own campaign chest since winning the office, and Republicans in Albany have lavished money on his re-election effort as well. Just last week, voters in the 60th received at least two glossy mailers paid for by the New York State Republican Senate Committee that show photographs of Grisanti hugging Governor Andrew Cuomo, and touting Grisanti’s successful support for UB 2020—a canard, of course, because UB 2020 died in the legislature, and was replaced by NYSUNY 2020, a far more modest measure. (“When it came to UB 2020, Mark Grisanti ‘was like a dog on a bone,” the mailer says, quoting Cuomo. It turned out to be a very small bone.)

Amodeo is getting no such help from Albany Democrats, largely because Cuomo is tacitly supporting Grisanti. Swanick is getting some help from opponents to gay marriage, but his is essentially a nuisance campaign—he can’t win, he can only pull voters from his opponents.

Right now, Swanick is pulling more Republicans from Grisanti than Democrats from Amodeo, according to the Siena poll. The problem for Amodeo, according to the poll, is that Grisanti is pulling Democrats, too. Maybe Amodeo’s emphasis on Grisanti supporting Romney is a good bet: The Siena poll showed Romney losing to Obama by 14 points in the 60th District. If Amodeo can find the means (that is, the money) to remind the district that there’s a genuine Democrat in the race, he might pull off an upset. Then, in two years, downstate powerbrokers will line up to protect his seat, as they are lined up for Grisanti now.

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