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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Sept. 14 is Democratic Primary Day: vote early, vote often!

Unseating Stachowski

Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy is sufficiently confident that he’ll beat incumbent State Senator Bill Stachowski in Tuesday’s primary that he’s looking forward to his opponent in the general election, State Assemblyman Jack Quinn III. Mike Kuzma, the attorney and Common Council staffer who’s been running against Stachowski from the far left, soldiers on: He’s having a fundraising open mic night on Friday night, September 10, at a colleague’s house on Fulton Street. But he’s an outlyer, as is fellow Democrat Tom Casey.

Stachowski still has plenty of support, and the Democratic party is standing behind him, but don’t expect the kind of rescue mission that was dispatched two years ago, when Stachowski began to lose hold of his race against former cold case detective Dennis Delano. Not in the primary, anyway: In the general election, state Democrats likely will pour resources into fending off Quinn, whether it’s Kennedy or Stachowski.

Prediction: Pridgen

At press time, his campaign had still not met last Friday’s filing deadline for campaign finance disclosure statements. But never mind: The Reverend Darius Pridgen should have a fairly easy time winning Tuesday’s primary. Firefighter Bryon McIntyre has been largely invisible, and Dr. Curtis Haynes, the Buffalo State economist who has filled the seat since January, doesn’t seem to have his heart in getting elected to the seat. And Pridgen has lots of supporters and the ability to get them to the polls.

If Pridgen wins the seat, he’ll have to run again next year. In the meantime, however, the dynamics of the Common Council will change: After Bass Pro pulled out of the Canalside project, during the manufactured crisis regarding HSBC and the Webster block, Majority Leader Rich Fontana drifted into the camp of those who tend to support Mayor Byron Brown, joining Joe Golombek, Demone Smith, and Bonnie Russell. There’s no guarantee that Fontana will stay there, but if he does, the addition of Pridgen would create a new majority friendly to Brown. (This assumes that Golombek loses his primary challenge to Sam Hoyt and so continues to occupy the North District seat—or, if he wins, that he is able to deliver a successor who will also align with the mayor.)

If Fontana returns to the coalition that includes Mickey Kearns, Mike LoCurto, Dave Rivera, and Dave Franczyk, then that group will revert to the one-vote majority they held before Haynes joined them. Either way, Fontana is the swing vote, so the notion that he might be stripped of his position as majority leader as punishment for championing the mayor’s line on the Webster Block, as reported last month in the Buffalo News, seems unlikely. Unless, somehow, Haynes or McIntyre succeed in keeping the Ellicott District seat out of the mayor’s hands, Fontana’s loyalty will be the object of a bidding war.

Hoyt and Golombek

This one is too close to call, but there’s one sign that may bode ill for Joe Golombek: With six days left before the primary, his campaign still hasn’t really poured on the mailings and radio and TV spots that many assumed would be financed by some shadowy deep-pockets determined to take out incumbent Sam Hoyt. The expected, furious 10-day campaign, in which massive expenditures would be made on Golombek’s behalf between the final pre-primary campaign finance disclosure deadline and the primary itself, doesn’t seem to be happening. Either the prospective deep-pockets never existed, or they withdrew their promised money, or polling gives Golombek such an insurmountable lead over Hoyt that he has no need to campaign. The latter cannot be the case.

Certainly some money has been spent on Golombek. A couple weeks agao, an Iowa company called Greene and Associates conducted a phone survey on Golombek’s behalf. In the latest campaign finance disclosure statements, nobody claims credit for paying the company, which also was hired to do phone banks for Jason McCarthy’s succesful run for Buffalo’s school board this spring. (A common denominator: attorney Ed Betz, who ran McCarthy’s campaign and has described himself as a volunteer “helper” on Golombek’s campaign.) And Committee for Change, whose treasurer is mayoral adviser Peter Savage III, recently paid out $2,690 in consulting fees for workers on Golombek’s campaign. (The Golombek campaign listed the cost as an in-kind donation.) Committee for Change was purported to be focused on Democratic committee races, but that contribution to Golombek’s campaign represents the lion’s share of its expenditures.

Ed Betz continues to be paid $1,500 every two weeks by Democratic Action, a committee controlled by Steve Pigeon protege Jack O’Donnell. Betz says he’s being paid for work on Democratic committee races, which is reasonable: O’Donnell would like to challenge Len Lenihan for chairmanship of the party, so he needs to win some committee races. But if Betz is coordinating the committee races for that faction of the party, what are his allies at Committee for Change going to do with the $30,000 they have on hand for the last few days of primary campaigning?

For his part, Golombek says that he knows nothing about the Greene and Associates phone survey, and that he does not expect a great flood of money to come his way between now and Tuesday.

A flag on Brown's contributions

On September 7, Joe Golombek’s campaign filed notice that it had received a $3,050 contribution from Brown for Buffalo, the committee for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Golombek is challenging incumbent Assemblyman Sam Hoyt in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Taken with a $500 contribution in January and a $250 contribution in June, that brings Brown for Buffalo right up to the $3,800 contribution limit for state assembly races.

But hold on a moment: Brown for Buffalo also gave $5,000 to Committee for Change, whose treasurer is Brown’s adviser, Peter Savage III. Committee for Change recently spent at least $2,690 on Golombek’s campaign. Committee for Change paid for several canvassers; Golombek declared the cost as an in-kind donation.

The problem for the mayor is that, under state election law, a portion of Committee for Change’s expenditures on behalf of each candidate it supports are charged against the contribution limits of each donor to Committee for Change:

…a portion of every contribution to a party committee, expended as other than non-candidate expenditures, and a portion of every contribution to a political committee authorized to support more than one candidate, shall be deemed contributed to every candidate supported by such committee.

So far, Golombek is the only candidate on whom Committee for Change has spent money. The committee decides the formula by which it attributes a portion of each contributor’s to the candidates it supports. But every contributor’s money supports every candidate backed by the committee. And whatever portion of that $2,690 charged to Brown, even one lousy buck, puts him over the $3,800 contribution limit to Golombek.

A quibble? Yes. A misdemeanor under state election law? Yes again, if done “knowingly and willfully.” But good luck finding a prosecutor.

Volker vanishes

The race to replace retiring Republican State Senator Dale Volker ought to go to Pat Gallivan, the former Erie County sheriff, based simply on the flaws of his opponents. Jim Domagalski is the former chair of the Erie County Republican Party (strike one in a year in which rage against the political machines is rising) who pressed Volker into retirement (strike two, as anyone who wants Volker’s seat needs to woo his many supporters), and who is little known or trusted in the district’s rural counties (strike three, because those are the folks who elected Volker over and over again). Dave DiPietro, the Tea-flavored radio host and former East Aurora mayor, hasn’t prayer.

Axing Antoine

It’s probably not going to happen. Despite taking a number of black eyes in recent months, incumbent State Senator Antoine Thompson is likely to beat his primary challengers on Tuesday. (That’s not so daring a prediction, of course, in a state that returns incumbents to office 98 percent of the time.) Thompson’s challengers, businessman Rory Allen and businessman-turned-politician-turned-activist Al Coppola, will split Thompson’s opposition, leaving just one challenger: attorney Mark Grisanti, who runs as a Republican in November.

Other races

Will Rick Lazio bow to Carl Paladino in the Republican primary? Will Paladino’s Taxpayers line gain traction? Will the Conservative Party primary fizzle? Which of five candidates will prevail in the Democratic primary for New York State Attorney General?

Who knows. Vote on Tuesday.

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