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Gaughan wins some, loses some

A few items you need to know about politics in Erie County and New York State:

* Regionalism advocate Kevin Gaughan is noting forward progress in his eternal quest to win office, even in retreat.

Gaughan, you recall, held an important ace last month when he gained the Working Families Party endorsement and stood ready to diffuse the special election ballot to replace Mayor Byron Brown in the State Senate. Gaughan loomed as an official threat on Feb. 28 after winning three Council districts in the 60th Senate District in last September's mayoral primary.

Combined with Republican Chris Jacobs, another proven vote-getter in Board of Education races, the presence of Gaughan on the ballot proved a genuine concern for Delaware Council Member Marc Coppola, the endorsed Democrat.

Enter Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan. According to several sources, Lenihan went to work to talk Gaughan out of the race. He succeeded, and the result is now a one-on-one Coppola vs. Jacobs contest in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6 to 1.

The bet here is that local Democrats will not forget Gaughan's withdrawal. There could be important openings in the local political world in coming months, and Gaughan's exit, along with significant funding sources he has recently identified, may make him a player.

The flip side is that the Working Families Party won't forget Gaughan, either. Chairman Jim Duncan and his crew are fuming over Gaughan's withdrawal.

* Speaking of Coppola, when we call him the endorsed Democratic candidate, we mean endorsed Democratic candidate. Some of the state's top Democrats -- Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, Denny Farrell and Paul Tokasz -- are among those sponsoring an Albany reception on Tuesday for him at SEIU Local 1199 headquarters.

* Add Jim Spencer, a well-known Boston direct mail consultant, to the list of heavy hitters that Akron industrialist Jack Davis has compiled for his expected campaign against Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds.

* Add nobody to the list of challengers to incumbent Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins. After former Comptroller Nancy Naples elbowed out other Republicans to wage a ferocious battle against Higgins in 2004, there is no such flood of candidates this year.

In fact, there's not even a trickle.

* Speaking of potential congressional candidates, County Executive Joel Giambra still needs major image repair if he is serious about running in 2008. One recent poll, according to knowledgeable sources, showed Giambra fails to crack double digits in favorability ratings.

* And speaking of county executives, the whispering campaign of potential candidates is beginning to pick up steam. One new name that still works magic in Democratic circles is Henry Nowak Jr., the Buffalo city judge and son of the former congressman.

Another new name entering some discussions: former lieutenant governor candidate Leecia Eve, who sports the same name as her father, former Deputy Assembly Speaker Art Eve.

* State Conservative Chairman Mike Long will prove Mr. Popularity when his tiny party convenes in Albany Monday. Every Republican candidate and his brother wants Long's almighty blessing this statewide election year.

Two familiar sayings come to mind: "It's nice to be a Conservative." And: "Only in New York."

* Quote of the Week comes from former Secretary of State Randy Daniels, among those courting Conservative favor as part of his campaign for governor. During a recent swing through Buffalo, the African-American former CBS television reporter offered this thought on the GOP and minorities noting steady gains in New York State:

"Until the Republican Party gets past lip service about being a big tent and backing candidates from those communities with real resources like the Democrats do, we won't get there."


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