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Full House: 60th District Senate Race Attracts Many Candidates

State Senator Mark Grisanti will have at least one challenger in this fall’s Republican primary, possibly two: Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker, who challenged Grisanti in 2012, has already begun his campaign, and Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick is considering entering the race.

If they both run, that may be good news for Grisanti: There is plenty of Republican discontent in the district, borne of Grisanti’s relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo and his votes in favor of the SAFE Act and legalizing same-sex marriage, among other issues, and local Republican pezzonovante Carl Paladino has vowed to send Grisanti packing. But if discontented Republicans split their angst between Hardwick and Stocker, Grisanti might squeak by, with help from his two chief Republican sponsors, State Senator George Maziarz and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra. Given that circumstance, Hardwick may stay out of the race unless Stocker can be convinced to retire from the race—but Stocker is already campaigning and figures it’s his race, not Hardwick’s.

Grisanti has already secured the endorsement of the state Independence Party, but some local Independence Party members have engaged a long feud with state party officials over the right to endorse local candidates. Rus Thompson, a Tea Party guy who is close to Paladino and a long-time political activist, is talking about challenging Grisanti on the IP line. It doesn’t take a lot of votes to win an Independence Party primary—in 2012, fewer than 800 primary votes were cast by IP members in the district—so Thompson has a fighting chance, should he run, despite the advantages of campaign cash and incumbency enjoyed by Grisanti.

There’s another possible candidate for the IP line, as well: young Kyle Anderson. But Anderson has said he would likely drop out of the IP primary if Thompson enters. There’s some talk of Erie County Legislator Lynn Dixon, an IP member, joining the race, but she’ll be discouraged from doing so by her Republican allies, who will fear losing their first majority on the Legislature since the mid-1970s.

Grisanti has no hope of an endorsement from the Conservative Party; that will likely go to a Republican or to Thompson, should he run.

On the Democratic side, party headquarters seems to have lit upon Laura Palisano Hackathorn, a Hamburg village trustee with a scant political profile in the rest of the district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 36,000 voters. We’re told that Erie County Democratic Party chairman Jeremy Zellner asked a number of better known Democrats to consider challenging Grisanti before turning to Hackathorn, who was recommended as a possible candidate for higher office by Kathy Hochul, the former congresswoman, county clerk, and member of Hamburg’s town council. All refused, unwilling to risk their political careers against a well-funded incumbent supported by the governor, especially now, when Democratic headquarters is stretched for resources to back its candidates.

Still, other Democrats are said to be considering a run at Grisanti. Among these are North District Councilman Joe Golombek, though he’s been coy about his intentions; Mayor Patrick Mang of Kenmore; and Mayor Rick Davis of the City of Tonawanda. Al Coppola, the former city councilman and state senator, is said to be considering another run, too, figuring that in a crowded Democratic primary anyone has a shot at winning.

All these Democrats have better name recognition, inside the party and among voters, than Hackathorn. None has announced yet.

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