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GOP Primaries

At this end of New York State, Tuesday’s Republican primary seems likely to be swallowed whole by warm weather and its attendant demands. Voting in June? Who can remember to do that, when the kids have a baseball game, and then there’s ice cream after that, and when are we going to get the pool open? The GOP candidate for president has already been detrmined, and most Western New York Republicans cannot name the three candidates, none from around here, who hope to challenge Democratic US Senator Kristen Gillibrand.

The marquee race in Western New York is in the 27th Congressional District, where Chris Collins of Clarence and David Bellavia of Batavia seek the privilege of challenging Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul, who won a special election last year to succeed the chagrined Chris Lee in a district that has been, and remains, predominantly Republican. Collins has two advantages over Bellavia: money (expect a raft of TV advertising this weekend) and a base of support in populous Erie County, where most of the district’s voters live. He also has the edge in name recognition, thanks to his one term as Erie County executive, but that may not be an advantage: As his failed re-election bid proved, to know Collins is to dislike Collins. Surrogates of Bellavia’s campaign have worked hard to remind voters of the popular perception that Collins is arrogant, dictatorial, and unpleasant: The current accusations include getting an aide to State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer fired for supporting Bellavia, and using the county executive’s office to conduct meetings with local business people he’d outfoxed in a private business deal, separting them from their investment in a new product.

It will be interesting to see if Republicans in Erie County bestir themselves to support Collins on a primary day that offers little other motivation to go to the polls. Bellavia, who lags in funding and name recognition, is popular in the district’s eastern and southern reaches. He needs the territory between Clarence and Batavia to turn out for him, and for Clarence and Amherst to stay at home.

The other GOP race to watch is the primary between incumbent State Senator Mark Grisanti and Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker. Grisanti has been campaigning hard in the last couple months, and he can afford to do so: He has plenty of campaign money to spend, as well as an allowance of public money for printing and mailing leaflets to his constituents that all incumbent legislators enjoy. (Recently, for example, Grisanti sent out a flyer, produced and posted with Senate funds, touting his support for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It looked and read like a piece of campaign literature, though such publicly funded mailings are meant to be informational rather than promotional.) He has been blanketing the media with press releases about the bills he’s sponsoring, co-sponsoring, and voting for; he has already aired a TV commercial. All this activity suggests that the primary between Stocker and Grisanti—who changed party affiliation from Democrat to Republican to run in 2010, and who angered many of the GOP’s conservative faithful by voting in favor of same-sex marriage—may be closer than one might expect.

Or, possibly, Grisanti is getting an early start in establishing his campaign against the Democratic field, in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly Democrats. There are four Democrats out there right now: Michael Amodeo of Hamburg, who has the blessing of Democratic headquarters and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz; Chuck Swanick, the former chair of the Erie County Legislature, who is championed by the intrepid Steve Pigeon and his allies, including the political apparutus of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, as well as, reportedly, State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who is charged with winning back the majority in the State Senate for Democrats; Kenmore Mayor Patrick Mang; and former State Senator and Common Councilman Al Coppola.

Swanick has the Conservative Party endorsement; Grisanti has the endorsements of the GOP and the Independence Party.

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