Updated: 2:00 PM ET July 27
Cuomo Fears WNY Protestors Monday

Governor Andrew Cuomo's Western New York point person, Sam Hoyt, has been calling around this weekend trying to ascertain whether, and to what degree, the Governor may face protests at his Monday morning Buffalo announcement. Also, one invitee we heard from still hasn't received confirmation and details on the announcement, raising the question of whether a last-minute change of venue or timing, perhaps to throw off protesters, might be in the works.

Clearly, the Governor is not above such maneuvers, having famously ducked anti-fracking protesters at last year's state fair by un-cancelling his appearance after protesters cancelled their protest in the wake of his cancellation (got that?). And the Governor's people must be well aware that statewide media will be unusually focused on his Buffalo announcement, given his days of silence in the wake of the New York Times' devastating expose of his interference with his own "independent" corruption commission.

Stay tuned.

Updated: 12:00 PM ET July 21
Stocker a WFP-GOPer?

Because of the Democrat tilt to Western New York's 60th State Senate district, Senator Mark Grisanti's seat is a target for a Democratic pick up. In fact, he's got a challenger on the Republican line as well in Kevin Stocker. Stocker, who has challenged Grisanti before, is a tireless campaigner but has little support among the WNY Republican establishement - despite Grisanti's lack of support in the same crowd.

But if you were thinking of voting for Stocker in the GOP primary because Grisanti is too liberal for you - as most gun enthusiasts believe - you might think again. Candidate Stocker has filed opportunity to ballot petitions on the Working Family Party (WFP) [HERE] and [HERE].. By far the most liberal of all the minor parties, the WFP backs gay marriage and gun confiscation, the two issues that got Grisanti in hot conservative water in the first place. 

Stocker has gained some ground among the Republican Party's right wing activists. These conservatives are surely scratching their heads at the apparent hypocrisy: Stocker says Grisanti is too liberal, but now he's courting the most liberal line on the ballot.

Running to the left AND the right of an incumbent is a feat few have mastered. Stocker won't likely master it, either.

Updated: 12:00 AM ET July 21
Petition scandal afoot?

Fur always flies during petition season in Western New York and 2014 is no exception. Leaders of the Erie County Democratic Committee (ECDC) are in a pitched battle with the rival Democrat faction led by Cuomo insider Steve Pigeon, Cheektowaga chair Frank Max and Mayor Byron Brown and the war is spilling into the petition process. Word has it that Pigeon-Max-Brown are primarying hundreds of ECDC members and judicial delegates loyal to chairman Jeremy Zellner. For his part, Zellner is trying to knock off many PMB loyalists, too.

Enter Mike Deely, regional staff director of the New York State United Teachers Union. He's one of the largest donors to the ECDC over the years and a longtime member of the party's executive board. Deely recently joined PMB forces, upset with the direction headquarters has taken in the last year. Needless to say, this doesn't sit well with Zellner loyalists. In fact, the animosity may have gotten a little out of hand at the Erie County Board of Elections (BoE) last week.

Insiders say that when Deely's petitions came into the BoE last week, Democrat Election Board leader Dennis Ward and other loyalists go a bit upset. It's not clear which election board official did it, but Deely's petitions were allegedly torn up and thrown out. The second committeeman on that petition ended up on another petition with another committeeman instead of Deely - one loyal to Zellner. Those petitions have been filed.

Destroying nominating petitions is illegal. This story will unfold more clearly in the days ahead - watch this space!

Updated: 9:00 AM ET July 15
Nesbitt for Senate?

Western New York pols are gabbing today about the abrupt retirement of Senator George Maziarz - not about the Senator, but about his replacement. While North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt is said to have the inside track to be hand-picked to stand for election in Maziarz place, another name has popped up and caught fire: Charlie Nesbitt.

In fact, an inside source says the deciding panel - the official committee on vacancies listed on Maziarz's Republican petitions - is considering Nesbitt as the new designated Republican Senate candidate. If you haven't heard of Nesbitt, you're new to New York State politics. But this is a perfect opportunity to learn the story of a bona fide American hero.

Nesbitt served in the Assembly from 1992 to 2005 and was elected Minority Leader. Long before politics, he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism.

On Nov. 14, 1968, Nesbitt and his crew members were told an American soldier was stranded in enemy territory in the jungles of Laos, across the border from Vietnam. Another helicopter had been hit with a rocket, crashed and the crew needed to be rescued. Nesbitt flew a helicopter in and got everyone out, except one gunman who was separated from his crew. Nesbitt took the recovered crew members back to safety, and then returned to enemy territory to find the missing man. It took him more than nine hours, but Nesbitt finally was able to get him.

Veterans across Western New York are pleased to know that the two leading candidates for the designation are both veterans - Ortt enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in October 2001 after the 9-11 attacks. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he served in the infantry in Kandahar City.

Updated: 5:12 PM ET July 13
Maziarz out??

Forget Twitter and Facebook when it comes to real Western New York political news. The old fashioned grapevine was buzzing all weekend with word that Sen. George Maziarz may step down. According to insiders, the longtime legislator was under pressure for alleged campaign finance violations dug up by the defunct Moreland Commisstion. Politics NY.net was able to confirm that the Senator will decline the nomination of the Republican party for re-election. Instead, according to law, the petitioning committee on vacancies will hand pick a replacement. Sources say North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt will be his replacement on the ballot in the Republican-leaning district.

This is a mortal wound for the Niagara County Republican organization, long controlled by Mazaiarz and his loyalists. It would also be an abrupt end to a long Senate career that took Maziarz to the right hand of power in Albany. The trees started shaking early last week when longtime Maziarz aides Alisa Colatarci (17 years in service) and Marcus Hall (12 years) abruptly resigned, rumored to be under pressure from law enforcement authorities investigating allegations of improper campaign spending on the Maziarz campaign.

UPDATE: A Buffalo News article published hours after PoliticsNY.net broke the Maziarz retirement story notes that the veteran legislator has been considering retirement for several years and, after discussions with his wife, he decided to bow out. The News article also registers the Senator's confidence the campaign finance allegations will be disproven.

A veteran GOP operative also told PoliticsNY.net that Colatarci and Hall were "civilians" - what pols call apolitical professional staff. "Who knows why they resigned?" he said. "You don't expect a civilian to stick around and take the heat anyway."

Updated: 12:00 AM ET July 10
Savage Safe... for now.

Peter Savage, the Erie County legislator appointed to fill the remainder of departing legislator Lynn Marinelli's term, appears to be safe in his special election bid to complete the term this November.  Savage, a Mayor Brown confidante, was appointed after Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner was unable to sway enough support for someone more friendly to establishment interests.

Newcomer Anthony Johnson filed petitions with the Board of Elections Thursday evening that fell short of the numbers needed to force a primary on the Democratic and Working Family lines.  With the deadline now past for filing petitions, it appears Savage will run unopposed this November.

Of course, Zellner has in the past filed petitions postmarked after the last official day for filing and has gotten away with it, so it may not be a done deal for Savage. We will wait and see.

Updated: 12:00 AM ET June 18
McCracken to Water Authority?

Rumor has it that Commissioners at the Erie County Water Authority are working to create a new position at the Authority. That's not news - the ECWA has been criticized often for patronage jobs. The real news: for whom is the position being created?

Given the qualifications and job decription being discussed, many speculate that the position is being created for former Erie County Legislator Terry McCracken.

This makes sense. Democrat McCracken is facing heat in his hometown of Lancaster, where he serves as the Parks Director. Some feel that McCracken's challenges to current Town Party Chair Paul Tarapacki are unwarranted given Tarapacki's impressive tenure as Chair. The Water Authority would allow McCracken a graceful exit, albeit for a short time, given the change in leadership expected next year.

Stay tuned for the winner of this prized political position!

Updated: 12:00 AM ET May 23
Will Social Services Commissioner Resign?

Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo is expected to call for Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer's resignation at a press conference this morning. Despite County Executive Poloncarz's addition of patronage hires to Child Protective Services, children under their supervision continue to be harmed at an alarming rate, even after the County had notice of a problem. Stay tuned.

Updated: 7:00 AM ET May 14
Panepinto into Grisanti race - again?

Insiders are saying Democrat party stalwart Marc Panepinto will soon make an announcement to compete in the primary to challenge State Senator Mark Grisanti. This pits the longtime machine pol against Laura Hackathorn, the popular Hamburg village trustee already in the race and turning heads. Panepinto, a trial lawyer, was temporarily suspended from the practice of law upon being convicted of election fraud in 2001. His misdemeanor past has not discouraged him from seeking elected office: He ran for chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee a few times and explored a Grisanti challenge in 2012. He dropped out of that race after collecting $55,000 in donations for the effort - funding that would give him a head start on Hackathorn (if he still has it).

Updated: 1:00 PM ET April 26
Brandon jumping into Assembly race?

WNY political insiders are saying Democrat Camille Brandon, Deputy Erie County Clerk for Administration, has decided to enter the race for the New York State Assembly seat formerly held by Dennis Gabryszak. Cheektowaga councilwoman Angela Wozniak, a registered Conservative, has already announced, earned the endorsement of the Erie County Republican Committee and is campaigning aggressively across the district. An interesting note: Brandon is a close friend of Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo, so her candidacy creates speculation that Wozniak's C-line berth may be in play. And rumors still abound that Democrat operative Kristy Mazurek may still jump in the race.

Updated: 12:00 AM ET April 24
Egriu on his way out?

There's a whole lot of shaking going on in the Eddie Egriu for Congress camp today. The Democrat primary challenger running to the left of Rep. Brian Higgins is crying foul, claiming Higgins operatives are "terrifying Mr. Egriu’s petition signers" as the popular Congressman's campaign seeks to disqualify Egriu's petitions and end his candidacy.

PoliticsNY.net has learned from contacts in the New York State Board of Elections that Egriu's petitions are indeed a hot mess. Many signatures appear to be invalid and may be outright fraudulent. One insider says the longtime urban community activist is on shaky ground in Albany and "by all accounts at the NYS BoE, the Egriu petitions are not going to stand against challenges." If enough signatures are tossed out, he's out of the race.

The Egriu camp, in a press release circulated early today by Republican Matthew Ricchiazzi, claims Higgins, the senior Dem on the House of Representatives Homeland Security committee, is "directing his staff to intimidate supporters" of Egrui whose names appear on his petitions. The challenger's campaign goes so far as to finger Higgins staffer Bonnie Kane Lockwood for working on the disqualification effort on government time. 

In the release, Egriu accuses the Congressman's staff of "targeting immigrant communities" with Homelandesque intimidation. He's calling on Higgins to resign his seat on the Homeland committee and demanding the Congressman's security clearance be revoked.


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