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Odds & Ends

The special election to fill the 145th Assembly seat, previously held by Mark Schroeder, is less than a month away, and both candidates are seeking to establish bases of support. South District Councilman Mickey Kearns, a Democrat running on the Republican line, announced last week that he’d been endorsed by local steelworkers and firefighters unions. Chris Fahey, an aide to Congressman Brian Higgins who is running on the Democratic line, responded by unveiling the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO, adding to his list of a half dozen other union endorsements. The vote takes place March 20.

• Batavia’s David Bellavia made it official this week: He’ll challenge Congresswoman Kathy Hochul. He’s launched an online fundraising effort to gauge his support, with the help of Republican political operative Michael Caputo.

Bellavia, a Conservative and an Iraq War veteran, had sought the Republican line in the special election held last April but was passed over in favor of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who lost to Hochul despite the district’s heavy Republican advantage in registered voters.

Other Republican possibles: Chris Collins, who tried to talk Bellavia out of the special election, and Dr. Barry Weinstein, the Amherst town supervisor.

• If he ever awakes from his bar fight nightmare, State Senator Mark Grisanti will find the waking world equally inhospitable: Folks in nearly every political camp are grooming candidates to take him on. There are several Democrats poking around, including Chuck Swanick, the former chair of the Erie County Legislature. Kevin Gaughan’s name as been mentioned, too. Reverend Kevin Backus of Grand Island is threatening to run a Conservative primary against Grisanti, and Swanick might join that race, too.

And there are Republicans who would like to oust Grisanti, as well. If the new 60th District stretches down to Hamburg, as proposed, don’t be surprised if Jack Quinn III, who left his Assembly seat for an unsuccessful run fo the 58th State Senate District seat in 2010, throws his hat into the ring.

• The memo that former Erie County prosecutor Mark Sacha wrote for his boss detailing alleged campaign finance law violations by Democratic political operative Steve Pigeon may eventually be made public, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge last week. US Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott has ordered Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to answer questions about the memo in a deposition, something Sedita has assiduously refused to do, arguing that the contents of the memo were gathered during a grand jury proceeding and thus secret. Scott has said that the memo can be used for the purposes of the wrongful dismissal suit Sacha has brought against Sedita, who first demoted then fired Sacha shortly after he took office in 2009. Sacha believes that at least part of the reason he was fired was his public insistence that Sedita had chosen to ignore Pigeon’s wrongdoing because Pigeon is a political ally of Sedita and his father, Judge Frank A. Sedita, Jr., as well as his predecessor in the DA’s office, Frank Clark. (Clark was also ordered to answer questions about the memo in deposition, too.) Sacha led an investigation into campaign finance law violations in Paul Clark’s 2007 campaign for Erie County executive. Sacha argues that Pigeon illegally laundered donations from former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra to Clark.

Though he ruled that the document should be used only in the context of this case, Scott’s decision could lead to the memo being made public if and when Sacha vs. Sedita goes to trial. The attorney representing Sedita, Hodgson Russ’s Adam Perry, tried to paint Scott’s ruling as a victory for his client though it was clearly a defeat: So desperate is Sedita to keep the memo secret that in April he asked a court to compel Sacha to return his copy of it to the DA’s office. The court declined to do so, and opined that the memo was not a grand jury secret. Scott reaffirmed that opinion, and validated Sacha’s position that the memo could not be a grand jury secret because no grand jury was convened to pursue the charges against Pigeon.

“It appears undisputed that the documents at issue were not presented to a grand jury,” Scott said.

For his part, Pigeon continues to insist that Sacha’s allegations are false.

• Speaking of Steve Pigeon, the Albany Times-Union published a terrific series this past week about the cultish group NXIVM and its founder, Keith Raniere, who has enthralled the heirs to the Seagrams fortune, Clare and Sara Bronfman. Pigeon and several of his political associates—including Niagara Falls developer Frank Parlato, who became embroiled in a lawsuit for his trouble—have had close dealings with NXIVM and the Bronfmans, who have insinuated themselves deeply into the political fabric of the state capitol. Deeply weird stuff. Worth reading.

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