Updated: 12:00 AM ET April 16
Pardon the Pardoner?

In what at first appeared to be a harmless political stunt, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz ventured over to the Broadway Market to pardon a butter lamb today. For some community leaders in touch with their Christian faiths, it wasn't so harmless after all.

"It is clear that Mr. Poloncarz and his staff are blatantly ignorant to the significance of the butter lamb and its portrayal of Jesus as the Lamb of God. The title Lamb of God was given to Jesus by the Apostle John to clarify to the flock that in giving his life for mankind, he embodied the ultimate sacrifice," said one Catholic political insider. "For Mark Poloncarz to think he has the ability and authority to pardon that sacrifice, eliminating it's necessity - even if it was just a political stunt - is incredibly offensive. We are in the midst of the holiest week in the liturgical calendar, and there is just no room for such ignorance."

Updated: 4:00 PM ET March 27
Ex Leg. Hogues gets his patronage

Since Election Night, it has been rumored that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz would find a way to take care of former Legislator Timothy C. Hogues. Now he has.

Hogues "earned" his legislature seats during a re-districting year after a federal judge ruled that the petition process would be shelfed, and party bosses would hand out the endorsements.  Then, Legislature Chairperson Barbara Miller-Williams was close to Mayor Byron Brown and in power through a coalition she formed with Legislature Republicans.  This didnt buy her much favor with then Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan, and he chose to punish her by giving the endorsement in the seat to a political new-comer, Timothy C. Hogues.  

Two years later, politics eventually caught up with Hogues; Barbara Miller-Williams was back and legally able to take him on in the Democratic Primary.  She beat him handily, taking her seat back while delivering an embarassing blow to Democratic Headquarters. Since Election Night, politicos have been wondering how Hogues will be repaid for being the party's sacrificial lamb led to slaughter. Today we found out.

Tim Hogues joined the friends and family plan of County Executive Mark Poloncarz and went to work in the Rath Building as the Community Planning Coordinator for the Department of Senior Services, earning himself a nice $55,000 salary, $13,000 higher than his previous legislature stipend.  Sometimes losing ain't that bad!   

Updated: 12:00 AM ET March 25
New Erie County Legislator?

Soon, residents of North Buffalo and Tonawanda may again be represented in the Erie County Legislature. The 3rd Legislative District has remained vacant since Lynn Marinelli resigned the seat in January to work for the Cuomo administration. Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner has called for the committeemen of the district to convene on April 5th to recommend a candidate to the legislature. Speculation has been that Mayor Brown confidante Peter Savage has been the front runner for the position. Zellner and County Executive Mark Poloncarz are said to object to Savage, so the vote was stalled. 

Is Zellner throwing in the towel on this battle or does he have something else up his sleeve? Further, will the Zellner-influenced Democratic Caucus of the Legislature approve the recommendation? 

We will find out on April 10th, when the legislature is expected to act on the recommendation that comes out of the April 5th Democrats meeting. 



Updated: 12:00 AM ET March 20
EC Clerk Jacobs to get a GOP primary?

Rumors are swirling that Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs may get a primary from the right. Upset activists are saying Jacobs has significantly increased patronage hiring beyond Hochul-Crangle levels and they wonder why Jacobs has chosen to staff his office with Democrats - begging the criticism that Jacobs is not a devout Republican. Word has gone around for a few years that Jacobs was considering changing his registration to Democrat. What's more, the same critics allege Jacobs' staffing motivation was to simply please the Crangle Democrat political machine. Some GOP operatives have become mindful of Jacobs' Democrat hires and are fueling the primary rumor. However, Jacobs is regarded as quite popular among voters so the question remains: who from the right or the left has the juice to defeat him at the polls?

Updated: 12:00 AM ET March 9
Grisanti gets cornered on Cuomo


Erie County Republicans are buzzing about the GOP roundtable hosted by chairman Nick Langworthy on Saturday. State Sen. Mark Grisanti again got a frosty reception, but it was far from the bashing he got over the SAFE Act the last time he attended a county party roundtable.

Still, wags are going wild over the Senator's answer to a polite but pointed question from Lackawanna GOP chair Dennis Mulqueen. The popular chairman seized the Q&A portion of Sen. Grisanti's presentation to ask if he would endorse the Republican candidate for governor of New York. Curiously, Sen. Grisanti answered that "there's no candidate yet" even though Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino formally declared his candidacy last week to great fanfare. 

Perhaps the Senator was alluding to the fact that the NYS GOP has not yet held its convention and therefore has not yet officially designated a candidate. Still, Astorino is very clearly a candidate and, barring an increasingly unlikely run by billionaire Donald Trump, he'll likely be the only candidate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mulqueen's question put Sen. Grisanti in a difficult spot: he's friendly with Cuomo, much to the chagrin of local Republicans. Many believe the legislator voted for Cuomo's SAFE Act as part of a pinky pact between the governor and himself. Insiders expect Sen. Grisanti to stay completely out of the governors race as a favor to his powerful friend. His Cuomo relationship will certainly become an issue in his reelection. Mulqueen opened that can of worms early.

That same morning, prior to the monthly roundtable, the ECGOP executive committee met to endorse candidates and passed over Sen. Grisanti. According to insiders, the Republican leaders want to wait and see if a formidable Republican will stand up for a primary challenge to the controversial incumbent. 

It's not clear how all this will shake out, but the Grisanti race will surely draw statewide attention. Meanwhile, Mulqueen's question begs for an answer: just how close to Cuomo is Grisanti, and how will that translate in the governor's 2014 re-election? Watch this space.

Updated: 9:00 AM ET March 7
Corwin for LG?

Tongues are wagging at the national Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington today as a leading consultant told anyone who would listen that Republican candidate for governor of New York Rob Astorino has asked State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to be his running mate - and she has accepted. Corwin ran for US Congress and lost in a bruising 2011 special election but since has ascended to the GOP leadership in the State Assembly and has worked hard to build support in the Buffalo area. That's support Astorino needs. Corwin is from a wealthy Buffalo-area family with deep ties in the western New York business community. She is reportedly worth up to $75 million so, if this is all true, the Astorino move is shrewd in more ways than one.

Updated: 12:00 AM ET March 4
Hackathorn closer to Grisanti challenge

Insiders say reports are true: popular village of Hamburg trustee Laura Palisano Hackathorn is poised to jump into a challenge of Republican NYS Sen. Mark Grisanti. The Democrat has apparently been offered the Erie County Democratic Committee endorsement and has been reaching out through surrogates into vital areas of the 60th Senate district. There's also talk that Hackathorn is hunting support across the aisle in GOP ranks, taking advantage of the incumbent's support for unpopular Cuomo initiatives. With more than a decade of activism under her belt in a community that is key to victory in the 60th, if Hackathorn can raise money she could be a formidable opponent for the Grisanti team. 

Updated: 8:00 AM ET February 27
Meanwhile, Mychajliw Mum

Erie County insiders are chatting about something highly unusual coming out of the Erie County Comptroller's office: silence. In line with last year and his general inability to say a single positive thing about Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Comptroller Stefan Mychaliw has been noticeably silent on social media about Poloncarz’s 2014 State of the County address Wednesday evening. One wag said it could be the longest period of silence the Comptroller has had on Twitter for weeks. For perspective, Mychajliw has tweeted four times in a day about pocket squares, but couldn’t manage to say one thing about the State of the County - a big event in the County regardless of partisan politics. Even Kevin Hardwick and Joseph Lorigo, frequent Poloncarz critics, managed to say something positive about Poloncarz's speech. So far, the opposition legislators have not spontaneously combusted. But it's still early.


Updated: 12:00 AM ET February 13
CSEA Rejects 4th Poloncarz Contract

In a 947 to 829 vote, the CSEA membership rejected the third contract proposal offered by County Executive Poloncarz and their leadership. The contract included generous raises, conversion of two holidays into more flexible personal days, and a vacation buy back program. Givebacks included an end to the very expensive but coveted retirement health care program for new hires and the elimation of summer hours. Summer hours were a practice that started before air conditioning, where employees could go home one half hour early in warmer months to get out into the fresh air earlier. The building has had air conditioning for nearly 30 years but the practice lives on and a majority of union workers will not surrender it. 

This is a major blow for a county executive who claims to be a 'son of labor,' and Poloncarz is livid over it but he hasn't said a word. This isn't the first time Poloncarz has been a no-show in terms of public comments on relevant issues. The void is so large this time that WGRZ turned to Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw to talk about the contract - and he has nothing to do with it. 

 Silent on this major impasse, Poloncarz still found time this morning to bash local radio stations on Twitter. UPDATE: the County Executive issued a statement later in the day. 

Updated: 12:00 AM ET February 11
Ortt to challenge Schimminger?

Republican North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt attended the recent Erie County Republican Committee Roundtable at Brounshidle Post on Delaware in Tonawanda. In his remarks, Erie County GOP chair Nick Langworthy hinted that the popular Republican was giving thought to another run in the very near future. Insiders say Ortt is being courted to run against longtime New York State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Notably, Langworthy also brought rising star Angela Wozniak, Town of Cheektowaga Council Member, to the podium to speak. Wozniak told attendees she is headed to Albany this week and might run for disgraced Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak's vacant seat. Hope somebody wipes it down first.

Updated: 8:00 AM ET February 10
Grisanti gets tough GOP reception

Republican New York State Senator Mark Grisanti addressed a tough room at the Erie County Republican Roundtable on Saturday. The maverick legislator took heat from several attendees for his votes in favor of gun control. His loudest detractor, former congressional candidate Mike Madigan, stood up to criticize Grisanti, calling him untrustworthy. Other audience members assailed the senator, as well, including gun rights advocates from the Shooters Committee on Public Education. Grisanti was also grilled about his emissaries meeting with the Democratic Party seeking support for his re-election.

Far more interesting: Grisanti expressed concern that the Republicans may lose their hold on the majority in the State Senate. Perhaps warning against a bruising GOP primary for his seat, he noted that four key Cuomo programs are targeted for early passage if the Dems gained control of the chamber: abortion of babies in the 9th month of pregnancy, taxpayer funded elections, fusion voting limitations, and the DREAM Act - free tuition for illegal aliens. Notably, the fusion changes Cuomo seeks could spell the end of the Conservative Party, the endorsement Grisanti has coveted and been denied.

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