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Democratic State Senate campaign head says Grisanti can be beaten

State Sen. Mark Grisanti's 2010 campaign win was a "fluke" that will not be repeated if local Democratic Party officials can get together behind a candidate to take on the Republican lawmaker from Buffalo, the head of the Senate Democratic campaign committee said Wednesday.

Senate Democrats say Grisanti is the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for re-election this year in the battle for control of the current 62-member chamber. It is slated to grow to 63 seats, if a GOP plan seeking to protect Grisanti holds up in court.

"We're trying to make sure we don't end up dividing our efforts as Democrats and making sure what is our best opportunity for a [Senate Democratic] pickup is not squandered by divisions within the Democratic Party," said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, who has the Democrats targeting Grisanti in the fall elections.

He said much effort is being made to "get all the Democratic forces in Erie County on the same page" to defeat Grisanti, who he said is in "a world of political trouble."

Gianaris was in the Buffalo area over the weekend meeting with Democrats, including Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan.

He also talked with Charles Swanick, who has already beaten Grisanti for the backing of the county's Conservative Party in the November election. "He's certainly a credible candidate," he said of Swanick, adding that he is still meeting with Democrats interested in taking on Grisanti.

Grisanti declined to take Gianaris' bait. "My focus always has been and continues to be job creation for Western New York and for New York State as a whole, cutting taxes, cutting government and moving forward in a positive direction And I think what has been shown the past 16 months is that that is coming to fruition," said Grisanti, who cited his successful push for a University at Buffalo expansion plan as evidence of his achievements.

Gianaris insisted Senate Democrats will be ready to fund a field of candidates, even though the main Senate Democratic fundraising account has only $115,000 in it, compared with a GOP bankroll of about $4 million.

He said he is hopeful the Senate Democrats will be assisted by the state Democratic Party, which is controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has not indicated he will be working full time this fall to oust the Senate GOP -- a group that has supported many of his policies.

Gianaris said Grisanti is vulnerable even if Republicans made his new seat more GOP-friendly during this year's redistricting process, though it still has a more than two-to-one Democratic voter enrollment edge. He said the Democrats are "very anxious to retake that seat."

email: tprecious@buffnews.com