Coalition Forming to Take Out Zellner Mayor Brown, Sen. Kennedy, NYSUT Backing Manna By Michael R. Caputo

Tuesday night Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Sen. Tim Kennedy and union leader Mike Deely met to endorse Mark Manna as their candidate for chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee. And Cheektowaga chair Frank Max withdrew his name from contention, throwing his support behind Manna.

Clearly, the planets are aligning for what County party chair Jeremy Zellner's critics think is their best shot to take him out: the party's reorganizational meeting on Saturday. talked to all the players behind the Manna coalition tonight, all in one room. Every single one is solidly behind the Town of Amherst councilmember and working in concert to elect him.

Deely, regional staff director of New York State United Teachers, told me the union is totally on board. Kennedy sounded confident support for Manna would grow quickly - and Mayor Brown told me he sees restoring party unity as key to Buffalo's continued growth and development.

The Mayor's formidable organization, Kennedy fresh off a big victory, and NYSUT rallying union support - these are powerful forces lining up against Zellner. "Peace and Progress" is their mantra (I heard it repeated innumerable times) and they're talking a lot about fighting Republicans again instead of Democrats.

This was also the group behind Kennedy's remarkable victory over challenger Betty Jean Grant last week, overcoming Zellner's backing. Mark Mazurek's win in Lancaster was theirs, too, setting him up tas the party's nominee for Dennis Gabryszak's Assembly seat. Even though both Mazurek and his opponent Camille Brandon supported Kennedy, watching operative Kristy Mazurek's brother win had a bitter taste for Zellner.

As for the street fights among Democrats, the Pigeon-Max faction faction essentially ran the table in the contested Democrat Committee races, putting Zellner at greater risk when the Committee votes his position. His detractors won Committee seats in vital Hamburg, grew their numbers substantially on the East Side of Buffalo and gained ten votes in Amherst. The factions split judicial delegate races down the middle.

All of this puts Zellner on the hot seat, but you can bet he's not sitting still. Expect to see a steady drumbeat of more Manna endorsements as the week unfolds. 

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