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Romney expected for June 15 fundraiser at art center

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is slated to visit Buffalo on June 15 for what could be his only Western New York appearance in the 2012 campaign.

The announcement was made in a Wednesday interview with The Buffalo News by Ronald N. Weiser, finance director of the Republican National Committee, who referred only to "the candidate," since Romney is still officially facing some opposition in the remaining GOP presidential primaries.

Still, the event, set for Burchfield Penney Art Center, is all but certain to feature the former Massachusetts governor.

And Weiser said the local event will serve as a major fundraiser for the Victory Fund that jointly raises money for the candidate and the RNC. It will be hosted by local businessmen Anthony H. Gioia and Mark E. Hamister and, according to Weiser, will serve as part of a massive GOP effort to counter a campaign treasury for President Obama that is expected to top $1 billion.

"It's all about the message," said Weiser, a former ambassador to Slovenia, "and getting it out to the small number of swing voters to make sure they hear it. And that will be about jobs, the economy, and for some -- Obamacare."

Gioia, a veteran Republican fundraiser who helped stage a major event at Albright-Knox Art Gallery for 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, said the effort also will reach out to top donors in Rochester and Syracuse.

"As I told the Romney campaign, between Mark Hamister and I, there will be no leaves left on the trees," Gioia said.

Since New York is one of the nation's most heavily Democratic states, most election analysts believe that it will witness virtually none of the presidential campaign this year, as the candidates concentrate on battleground states. But New York State -- especially New York City -- will host a number of fundraising events, including the one in Buffalo.

"This will be the major fundraiser for the Republican candidate [in Western New York]," Gioia said.

Gioia, a former ambassador to Malta, would not speculate on how much money the event will raise for the Romney campaign. But the affair he hosted in 2008 raised more than $1 million for McCain.

Gioia said that as part of the event, he and his wife, Donna, also will host a dinner for high-end donors at their Meadow Road home that evening. Also involved as hosts are H. Douglas Barclay, a former ambassador to El Salvador from the Syracuse area; and David M. Flaum, a major Republican fundraiser from Rochester.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com