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Race is on for county executive

Nov. 8, 2006 -- the day after Election Day, and a day enshrined in eternal glory by a politics-weary Western New York.

That's when those endless commercials for the Jack Davis-Tom Reynolds congressional campaign finally vanished from the airwaves, and TV re-embraced its normal low standards by hawking Viagra or applying Head-On directly to the forehead . . . directly to the forehead.

But it's now January, and the commercials are back as Bill O'Loughlin launched a series of radio and television ads last week introducing himself as a Republican candidate for county executive.

"I know it's not normal to advertise in January for a November race," O'Loughlin said. "But I like the fact it's unexpected. I like the fact that, right now, I can be a single voice in the media."

O'Loughlin's efforts are nothing on the scale of a Davis or Reynolds. A mere $14,000 worth of air time? Trifling.

But the ads reinforce the notion that the campaign for county executive is well under way. They also underscore the continuing friction between O'Loughlin and local Republican leaders as he launches a full-scale campaign and they abide by a "process."

"It was not friendly," O'Loughlin said of his conversation with Erie County GOP Chairman Jim Domagalski. "He was steely, testy and cold about me being out there when the party has not endorsed."

Domagalski is not known for being steely, testy or cold. In fact, he's a rather friendly guy. But O'Loughlin's tactics make Domagalski less than warm and fuzzy as his top-level search committee tries to find a candidate.

"I don't think the voters are looking for a horse race or gamesmanship in January," the chairman said last week. "Nor do I think it's an effective use of resources. If he thinks it will force our hand, it could force it the wrong way."

O'Loughlin will appear before Domagalski's search panel this week, the one headed by former Attorney General Dennis Vacco and National Fuel CEO Philip Ackerman. But it will rank as a courtesy call more than anything else.

"I'm not going to subordinate the passion and conviction I have to run for this office at this time to some formality," O'Loughlin said.

Meanwhile, back in Democratland, Jim Keane was slated to make it all official on Friday night. It is a solid step for the former deputy county executive's effort to capture the Democratic nomination, which pits him against West Seneca Supervisor Paul Clark, Amherst Council Member Dan Ward and Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli.

Keane, Clark and Ward now all have announced officially, while Marinelli has made her intentions quite clear in a letter to the party's Executive Committee. While Clark and Keane furiously spin the virtues of their campaign coffers, they are just as furiously vying for the affections of Congressman Brian Higgins, a man with friends in high places (except the pulpit of St. Thomas Aquinas Church).

Clark rightly points out that Higgins has contributed $250 to his campaign, and that they have worked closely together since competing in the 2004 Democratic congressional primary.

But Higgins has also contributed $2,000 to Keane, and their mutual South Buffalo roots are deep. Keane, in fact, managed Higgins' hard-fought congressional race in '04.

Besides the party endorsement itself, the nod from Higgins could prove one of the most important of the campaign.


For the second week in a row, the Politics Column offers a public service reminder to Independence Chairman Tony Orsini to file his campaign finance reports with the state Board of Elections, just as other chairmen do and just as the law requires.


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