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MASIELLO LATE GETTING TO THE PARTY

Forty-eight hours before Western New York voters go to the polls on Primary Day, here are a few items you need to know:

That spate of radio ads touting State Sen. Anthony Nanula's bid for Buffalo comptroller emphasizes to city voters that Nanula is supported by Mayor Masiello. But that support came only after a flurry of lobbying activity Thursday afternoon.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, Mayoral spokesman Peter Cutler had indicated the mayor was remaining neutral -- despite claims of mayoral support Nanula began airing early in the week.

"We've maintained a neutral position," said mayoral spokesman Peter Cutler. "The mayor has made no formal endorsement in that contest."

That suddenly changed Thursday afternoon when Masiello finally, and after weeks of uncertainty, granted his long awaited formal endorsement of Nanula's candidacy in a phone call to The News.

On the day Nanula launched his candidacy back in May, Masiello was conspicuous by his absence as a host of party stalwarts joined the senator for his announcement. Despite assurances in some quarters that Masiello would eventually join the Nanula team, it just never happened -- until Thursday. Neither did the formal session with Masiello that the Nanula camp had requested.

Still, Nanula aides insist they asked for and received permission from the mayor to use his name as a "supporter" in their ads early on.

While most of our attention is focused on the executive and legislative branches of local government this preprimary weekend, there will also be elections for the judicial branch come November. But those slots will not be considered seriously until after Tuesday's election, when party leaders begin concentrating on judicial candidates.

They'll need that time to mull over qualifications, you ask? Or maybe party leaders will grill candidates on key factors like judicial temperament or experience? More like who will help draw voters to Dennis Gorski for the Dems, and Joel Giambra for the Reps.

Speaking of Giambra, the help promised by state and national Republicans appears to be materializing. The candidate has a busy couple of days next week, when national GOP star Jack Kemp hosts a fund-raising event for him Sept. 19, followed by a similar soiree hosted by Gov. Pataki on Sept. 20.

Remember Grandpa Al Lewis and his 1998 gubernatorial candidacy on the Green Party line? Well, the Greens have nominated their own slate for top local offices this year. They will appear on the ballot with businessman and licensed acupuncturist Mo Saladin as county executive candidate; business owner and activist Andy Goldstein for Council member at large; publishing company owner Bill Metzger in the county legislative district represented by Republican Mike Ranzenhofer; and Valerie Neiderhoffer, a longtime activist and volunteer, as candidate for Ellicott Council member.

The party has also endorsed Democrats Mary Martino in the South District and Susan McCartney in Niagara.

Did anyone doubt that Rep. Tom Reynolds would somehow find himself in the thick of the GOP presidential race? The freshman from Clarence has been named to a 25-member "Bush for President House Steering Committee" that will involve key House Republicans in the Bush presidential effort. The Reynolds effort is expected to dovetail with the Oct. 4 fund-raising event slated for the Rich Renaissance Atrium chaired by Buffalo's official GOP money-raising guy, Tony Gioia.

Reynolds, meanwhile, was recently featured in the respected Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call as a rising star of the GOP contingent. The words potential "majority leader down the road" were even mentioned in the Aug. 16 article.

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt reports his annual fund-raising clambake drew 800 people a few days ago, double the usual attendance for what some say is the best food fund-raiser around. But there is some thought the event swelled this year after a recent News story explained Hoyt wants to someday change his title from assemblyman to mayor.

It was only a year ago that Andrew Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, was leading the charge against statewide candidates who he said were ignoring upstate New York's tattered economy.

But in the 1999 race for county executive, the area's top business maven says he's heartened by both sides' talk about fixing the local economy -- especially with tax cuts. And that's why Rudnick offers today's Quote of the Week:

"From our point of view, we need to work with any serious incumbent or challenger who has major tax reductions on his platform," Rudnick said. "That's the critical factor here. And it's only happening now."

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