True to their word, long ago ousted Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Steve Pigeon, ousted Water Commissioner Jack O'Donnell and failed candidate for chairman Frank Max are assembling a slate of candidates to primary incumbent Democrat Erie County Legislators in November's election. Announced already: Financial Planner Wes Moore is primarying 8th District incumbent Terry McCracken, and former Cheektowaga Councilman Rick Zydel is mounting a challenge to Tom Mazur for the seat in the 7th District.
How Steve Pigeon has managed to maintain his merry band of Pigeonistas over the years is beyond me. And yet, he has. He is a power guy. His engineering of the 2009 coup that handed the control of the New York State Senate back to the Republicans, despite a 32-30 elected majority, is a prime example of who he is. He executed the takeover by handing the keys to the city to two of the most despicable guys ever to be elected to office, Pedro Espada, Jr. and Hiram Monserrate. It might be impossible to find two more selfish, corrupt and nefarious criminals in the history of the NY Senate, and these are the two that Pigeon chose to include in his inner circle to rob the people of New York of what they voted for: a Democratic majority in the Senate. Who you choose to surround yourself with says something about who you true identity. It's not good government or reform that Steve Pigeon craves, it's power. And this is just one illustration of the lengths he will go to achieve that end.
Pigeon and his group also had their hand in the coalition that turned the Erie County Legislature over to Republican County Executive Chris Collins when he also engineered the ouster of Lynne Marinelli as the Erie County Legislature's Majority Leader and installed Barbara Miller-Williams. Interestingly, all three of the renegade Democrats are gone from the Legislature and the billionaire who funded Pigeon's antics moved to Florida to avoid paying taxes. What this coup accomplished was exactly the same as the Albany power grab: it robbed the people of the Democrat majority they wanted.
In the YNN article linked above, Pigeon is attributed as saying "Responsible New York supports legislators who attempt to bring about better policy." What better policy did Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate promise to bring to the table?
Here's the thing - Pigeon had his chance. He ran the show; he was "the guy." He already served as ECDC Chair, and then he was voted out of the position in 2002. The members of the Democratic Committee had spoken clearly and said it was time to move on.
In September 2012, the Committee spoke again. They elected Jeremy Zellner. In one of his innumerable interviews on Channel 2, Pigeon accused Zellner and his staff of being "too insular." He went on to say, "They're more concerned about winning political party battles than they are about winning elections and I think it's showing."
What Pigeon leaves out is that those political party battles are a result of he and his supporters. They are the ones picking the fights. Those political party battles are a result of Pigeonistas actively recruiting candidates to run against sitting Democrats. Erie County Democrats are wasting our time and resources fighting each other because Pigeon and his crew need to either control the Party, or they are going to burn it down. Pigeon has proven that he has no loyalty to the Democratic Party. He turned over control of both the New York State Senate and the Erie County Legislature to the Republicans. In the case of the State Senate, he did so by elevating the worst kind of opportunistic crooks, both of which were convicted of their crimes.
Is Zellner perfect? He'll tell you Hell no. He certainly has things to learn, but don't we all? What he does bring to the table is an understanding of and a desire to employ 21st Century campaign technology. He brings loyalty to the Democratic ideals and to the good of the local party. He's made some real strides in choosing a new location for the committee offices and in hiring a staff with real - and national - campaign experience. He's cemented some relationships with elected officials at the state and federal level. And all of this while protecting his flank from people who claim to be Democrats and said they hoped everyone could work together after the meeting that ultimately elected Jeremy Zellner as Chair.
Hopefully, at some point Mayor Brown and Congressman Higgins will recognize the only winners here are the Erie County Republicans, and get more involved. I am sure Erie County Republican Chair Nick Langworthy celebrates every single time he opens the newspaper and sees another example of the "if we can't control it, we're going to burn it down."
Ultimately, if we, the registered Democrats in Erie County, continue to accept this, then shame on us.