Democrats look at Joe Mesi and see one of their best hopes for taking control of the State Senate.
And that's why Attorney General Andrew Cuomo -- the latest in a series of party heavyweights -- traveled here Tuesday to stump for the former boxer.
"This race is important," Cuomo said after a news conference announcing his support. "This is probably one of the three most important [Senate] races in the state."
Cuomo's endorsement came just a day after Republican Michael H. Ranzenhofer revived allegations that Mesi is breaking New York's campaign finance law.
Ranzenhofer, an Erie County legislator, claims his Democratic opponent is working hand in hand with longtime adviser G. Steven Pigeon, even though Pigeon is now required by law to be wholly independent of Mesi's campaign after becoming administrator of the Responsible New York political committee.
"Political operative Steve Pigeon is working in the shadows," Ranzenhofer said, "and it's time for Joe Mesi to shine some light on his unsavory ties."
Ranzenhofer's allegations mirror those made by Mesi's Democratic Primary opponents and, just like those, are based on Pigeon's earlier role in Mesi's campaign.
Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic Party chairman, was one of three people overseeing Mesi's fundraising committee when it was first formed in April. One of his political action committees also gave Mesi $3,000.
"It's time for Joe Mesi to finally do the right thing," Ranzenhofer said in suggesting he return the money.
Pigeon could not be reached to comment Tuesday, but during the primary, he repeatedly denied the allegations he is secretly working hand in hand with Mesi.
He said his individual ties to Mesi's campaign ended when he joined forces with Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano and his new political committee, a claim Mesi echoed Tuesday.
"We've been down this road before," Mesi said. "It's nothing new."
While Mesi welcomed Cuomo's support Tuesday, Ranzenhofer was poised to get an endorsement of his own from the National Federation of Independent Business.
The group, one of New York's biggest small-business associations, will announce its support later today.