War Between the Dems: Dispatch From the Cheektowaga Front
by Geoff Kelly
On June 1, a half dozen local Democratic Party town chairs, including Frank Max of Cheektowaga, sent a letter to the co-chairs and executive director of the state party, begging intercession in a conflict with Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner.
They claim that Zellner “has only called endorsement meetings for the Erie County Legislature in select Legislative Districts of Erie County.” In some of the districts where Zellner has refused to convene local committee members to consider endorsements, they say, there are candidates for the Legisalture who enjoy great local support and would likely win the endorsement of local committee members.
Why would Zellner ignore requests to call these endorsement meetings? Here’s what the signers of the letters say:
It is our belief that Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, who also is employed by the Erie County Legislature as the Democratic Majority Chief of Staff, has refused to call endorsement meetings within all Legislative Districts because he is afraid the elected Democratic Committee Members may vote to endorse a candidate that is not his personal or his bosses’ choice. Even worse, Jeremy Zellner is printing and passing out petition packets containing only his handpicked candidates for Erie County Legisalture at the expense of the Erie County Democratic Committee, without there ever being an endoresement meeting.
The ongoing war between Zellner and Max and their supporters has opened many fronts, but none more active than this year’s races for seats on the Erie County Legislature, where Zellner earns his daily bread. When Max and Zellner faced off last year in the race to succeed the rtiring Len Lenihan, Max made an issue of Zellner’s employment at the Legislature: How could Zellner run the party while employed at the pleasure of a handful of the party’s elected officials? Max said Zellner should commit to resigning the position if elected chairman; Zellner refused to make that commitment.
No matter how many grains of salt one swallows along with this letter, his handling of Legislature races seems to justify the concern that Zellner’s natural instincts for self-preservation might trump objectivity in making strategic decisions for the benefit of the party.
For example, Legislator Tom Mazur of Cheektowaga has decided not to seek re-election. The leading candidate to succeed him is former Cheektowaga Town Board member Rick Zydel, who is supported by Max.
Instead of preserving party resources to battle Republicans in the general election in other districts, Zellner is running Lynn Dearmyer in the primary against Zydel. Dearmyer has run for Legislature before, in 2009, and lost; Zydel is a proven election winner. Both are Democrats.
So why not tell Dearmyer it’s not her turn and line up behind the stronger candidate? Because a Zydel victory, though it does no damage to the Erie County Democratic Party or the Democratic majority in the Legislature, is a blow to Zellner’s chairmanship.blog comments powered by Disqus
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