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7 Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Thursday, January 7

By now, if you care about these things at all, you’ve read more than you probably care to know about the re-organization of the Erie County Legislature, in which three Democrats and six Republicans make Barbara Miller-Williams the first African-American woman to chair that body. You’ve read about the hand of Steve Pigeon in brokering the deal (the Buffalo News’ Matt Spina invented a new epithet for Pigeon in his coverage: “political agitator”) and the subsequent hirings and firings of staff (goodbye, loyalists to Len Lenihan; hello, loyalists to Pigeon and Grassroots). You’ve read about the deal South Buffalo’s Tim Kennedy made with Pigeon and, by extension, with County Executive Chris Collins: I’ll help you to control the legislature if you’ll support my run for Bill Stachowski’s seat in the State Senate this fall.

I think the most interesting fallout is this: The six Democrats who stood by outgoing chair Lynn Marinelli, led my majority leader Maria Whyte, have apparently decided that the three rogue Democrats—Christina Bove, Kennedy, and Miller-Williams—can’t caucus with them. They are, in effect, ceding the majority to this new coalition, which was convenient as a means for seizing power but cannot remain cozy. (Can eye-rolling suburban Republican Ray Walter stay simpatico with Miller-Williams for long?) By handing the reins to this new coalition, the six Democrats are saying: “This is your game now. You and your sponsor, County Executive Chris Collins, are now wholly responsible for dealing with the upside-down budgets looming in 2011 and beyond. You’re responsible for Collins’s efforts to separate county government from the business of caring for the poor and elderly. Good luck with all that.”

That same evening, attorney Mike Kuzma kicked off his campaign for Stachowski’s State Senate seat with a party at the First Amendment Club in Black Rock. Kuzma, a staffer for Buffalo Common Council President Dave Franczyk, is a veteran activist who worked for presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich in 2008. He’s pro-gay marriage, pro-term limits, pro-medical marijuana. He’s one of the characters who will make this one of the most entertaining local races to watch this year.

County LegislatorTim Kennedy: the sweet taste of opportunity.

Friday, January 8

Another of those characters is Tim Kennedy, who officially announced his candidacy for Stachowski’s seat at the Ironworkers Hall in South Buffalo on Friday night.

Saturday, January 9

The Ellicott District Democratic committee convened at the Pucho Olivencia Center on Swan Street and narrowly endorsed Darius Pridgen to fill the Common Council seat left vacant when Brian Davis pled guilty to misusing campaign funds in November. But Pridgen isn’t getting the job. The new Ellicott District Councilman will be Buffalo State economist Curtis Haynes. On Wednesday morning, Pridgen had just two votes on the Common Council—Demone Smith and Bonnie Russell. Johnson Park activist Marilyn Rogers had one supporter in Joe Golombek, and Haynes had three supporters: Dave Rivera, Mike LoCurto, and Dave Franczyk. Haynes was meant to throw his support behind McIntyre if it didn’t look like he could win the Ellicott committee’s endorsement. He didn’t do that, and McIntyre finished a very close second to Pridgen. (One or two votes would have swung the endorsement to McIntyre.) On Wednesday, Kearns walked McIntyre around City Hall in a last-ditch effort to drum up support but to no avail.

But Haynes will face a difficult time retaining the seat in the special election to be held this fall. His candidacy was supported by Champ Eve, who is influential in the district and in the Democratic Party, but McIntyre’s pretty strong too, and his campaign begins immediately. Grassroots is certain to field a candidate as well—possibly Pridgen, possibly someone else.

Sunday, January 10

Too much politics? Wait, we’re not nearly finished.

Monday, January 11

Attorney Sean Cooney kicked off his campaign for the 58th District State Senate seat this evening with a packed fundraiser at Betty’s Restaurant in Allentown. Cooney was introduced by Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte, which tells you all you need to know about his politics and his base of support: He’s a smart, energetic progressive who will mobilize backers of Whyte and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt.

Tuesday, January 12

Governor David Paterson’s speech at the Buffalo Museum of Science this afternoon confirmed that he hopes to keep his job in this fall’s elections. Launching one blow after another at the state legislature—whose members, taken as a whole, are the only politicians in New York less popular than he—Paterson insisted that he’d been making tough choices to preserve the state’s financial integrity in the face of crisis, while legislators ducked their responsibilities to taxpayers. It’s a good strategy for building support among fed-up New Yorkers, and no doubt he’ll find receptive audiences as he repeats the performance across the state. (You can watch his speech at But even as his numbers rise, Paterson must find a way to pull the approval ratings of his Democratic rival, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, down. (Maybe he should force Cuomo into a tight spot by asking for a special prosecutor to examine the campaign finance practices of Steve Pigeon, a Cuomo supporter.) He’ll want to find a way to get out the African-American vote on primary day. (Maybe if that handsome young Harold Ford, late of Tennessee, were on the ballot, challenging Senator Kirsten Gillibrand?)

Wednesday, January 13

Of course, Paterson will also need to keep a leash on his 15-year-old son, who was picked up by New York City police on Tuesday while paying dice with some other kids on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He had someone else’s credit card in his pocket at the time.

Finally, Elizabeth Benjamin of the New York Daily News reports that Erie County Executive Chris Collins once again stuck his foot in his mouth, this time at Paterson’s State of the State speech last week: Two state legislators reported hearing Collins say to an Erie County woman looking for a seat in the crowded hall, “I’m sure if you offer someone a lap dance, you can find a place to sit.” Chris Collins: Running his mouth like a business.

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