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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

The Big Stachowski: "I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off. Do I make myself clear?"

You've Got Mail

Joe Golombek and Sam Hoyt continued their postal battle in the 144th Assembly District this week, both dispatching positive mailers trumpeting their achievements and qualifications. No surprises there.

More surprising was a mailing from the heretofore silent Curtis Haynes, whose temporary appointment to the Ellicott District seat on Buffalo’s Common Council is being challenged by True Bethel Baptist pastor Darius Pridgen and Buffalo firefighter Bryon McIntyre. The mailer touts the investments directed toward the Ellicott District during Haynes’s brief tenure—much of which, to be fair, would have materialized regardless of who held the office this year—as well as his educational credentials and his independence from the warring factions of the local Democratic Party: “Dr. Curtis Haynes, Professor of Economics at Buffalo State College, is not a politician. The only candidate described as ‘squeaky clean’ in the press, he is an activist teacher, mentor, businessman, homeowner, husband and father…”

Pridgen was nominated by the Ellicott District Democratic committee to fill the seat vacated by the disgraced Brian Davis, but the Common Council majority chose Haynes instead, wary of Pridgen’s close ties to Mayor Byron Brown and Grassroots, Brown’s political organization. Now Pridgen is back to claim the seat he was denied. Pridgen’s charisma, huge congregation, and high profile (especially in the wake of the City Grill shootings) make him a formidable candidate, and up until this week it seemed as if Haynes wasn’t bothering to run. It seems now there might be a race after all. Certainly Pridgen’s supporters have been mounting an impressive door-to-door canvass, so he’s taking nothing for granted.

The Big Stachowski:

The winner in this week’s going-postal derby is a mailer attacking State Senator Bill Stachowski, paid for by Fight Back New York, which identifies itself as a PAC dedicated to ousting state legislators who voted against marriage equality for same-sex couples. (Stachowski is one of 38 state senators.) As of mid-July, Fight Back had spent $166,000 targeting its opponents, and the money—most of it from downstate—keeps flowing. Locally, the PAC has been airing a radio ad called “The Big Stachowski,” and now a mailer, a expensive folding job whose cover shows a craked trophy stuffed with $100 bills and the caption “Stachowski Takes First Prize.” The substance of both print and radio: Stachowski leads the State Senate in per diems, having collected $39,342 on top of his salary last year and more than $300,000 in the last 10 years for travel-related expenses.

Antoine vs. The Partnership

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s political action committee, the Committee for Economic Growth, has bought posters on the side of NFTA bus shelters attacking State Senator Antoine Thompson: “20,000 UB2020 jobs lost while Antoine Thompson fundraises in New York City,” reads one. “Albany inaction turns UB2020 into UB2030,” reads another. “Where was Antoine Thompson? In Jamaica.” The punchline to the Committee for Economic Growth’s campaign appears at the bottom of both posters: “Are you serious?

Thompson, like most state legislators, has been the target of some righteous criticism in recent months, much of it coming from folks who don’t often find themselves on the same side as the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. (As attorney Mike Kuzma said in a debate between Democratic candidates for the 58th State Senate District in Tuesday, “Anything that Andrew Rudnick and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership support, I question.”) The Partnership let Thompson be in 2008, but heck, in this fiercely anti-incumbent climate, everyone’s piling on.

The Committee for Economic Growth has donated $3,000 to Rory Allen, one of Thompson’s opponents in the Democratic Party. Thompson’s other Democratic opponent, former state senator and Delaware District Common Council member Al Coppola, has ramped up his campaign of late: His posters have begun to appear prolifically in yards and on street corners, and he held a successful fundraiser at Oliver’s this week. The winner of the primary will face attorney Mark Grisanti on the Republican line.

Committee Wars

There are a couple new political entities out there, the Committee for Change and Democratic Action, that claim to be focused on winning Democratic committee races. We’ll see where their money goes in the next two weeks, but regardless, both sides of the local Democratic schism—approximately: on one side Mayor Byron Brown, Steve Casey, et al.; on the other, Sam Hoyt, Len Lenihan, et al.—will be duking it out at the committee level for control of the party’s endorsement process and its patronage. Of particular interest will be the committee races in the Niagara District. In 2007, Councilman David Rivera narrowly won the endorsement of the district’s committee people over Brown and Casey’s candidate, Peter Savage III (treasurer for Committee for Change), and went on to eke out a narrow victory in the primary. Rivera will certainly face a primary challenge next year, and no doubt the Casey/Brown forces would like to win control of Niagara District at the committee level in advance of that challenge.

Casey himself will try to regain a position on the Erie County Democratic Committee in the September 14 primary. In 2008, Casey lost by one vote to Jean Dickson, his Crescent Avenue neighbor who suspected him of dispatching city inspectors to write up her front-yard wildflower garden.

UB Interregnum

When UB President John Simpson announced his retirement effective January 15, 2011, Jeremy Jacobs, in his capacity as UB Council chairman, named Scott Nostaja interim president of the university. But the Education Law of New York grants the UB Council no such power. The UB Council can recommend a candidate, but the SUNY Board of Trustees name the president.

David K. Belsky, Special Assistant for Strategic Communications for SUNY, sent us this explanation:

With the departure of a campus president, the SUNY Board of Trustees, acting on a nomination from the Chancellor upon advice and consultation of the campus council, appoints the interim president. The campus council is then charged by the Chancellor with undertaking a search for a new president following SUNY Presidential Search Guidelines. This process was most recently completed with interim appointments at Binghamton and New Paltz and in Western New York at Buffalo State before the permanent appointment of their new president.

“Ok, but that’s not the process that played out at UB yesterday, correct?” I said.

“Correct,” Belsky replied.

John DellaContrada, VP for Media Relations at UB, acknowledged that Nostaja’s appointment would not become official until approved by the trustees.

Nostaja first came to UB as president and CEO of AVCOR Consulting, which Simpson hired to facilitate the UB2020 plan, the enabling legislation for which remains stalled in Albany. In 2007, he was hired as UB’s VP of Human Resources, and was named the university’s chief operating officer in July.

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