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Wrangling marks DA race

Political pondering points for frigid February:

• The Democratic endorsement of Tonawanda’s John Flynn for district attorney this weekend marks a major turnaround for the local party. In bypassing the acting district attorney – Michael Flaherty – Democrats here essentially reversed their long support for the last DA – Frank Sedita III.

The party supported Sedita in 2008 for DA, and again in 2012. Last year it engineered bipartisan support for his election to State Supreme Court. Dating to the new judge’s grandfather – the late Mayor Frank Sedita Sr. – and his father, the late Supreme Court Justice Frank Sedita Jr. – it’s been a long and successful run for the family.

But it became crystal clear that the party’s move to distance itself from Flaherty (Sedita’s former top assistant) was deliberate. Dems call it a “new direction.”

Like presidents, governors and mayors, district attorneys also experience the bane of shelf life. Even a Sedita.

• Flaherty supporters say they view an element of pure politics in the DA endorsement. Chairman Jeremy Zellner has successfully united the oft-bickering Dems into a semi-placid bunch in recent months. But Flynn enjoyed strong support from Elections Commissioner Len Lenihan (the former chairman), Tonawanda Chairman John Crangle and others – all key members of the fragile coalition expected to re-elect Zellner as chairman in September.

Nobody believes Zellner’s arm had to be twisted on this one. But any other direction for him would have spawned a fight he doesn’t need.

• Still on the apparent DA Democratic primary featuring Flynn, Flaherty and former Assistant District Attorney Mark Sacha, the Flaherty forces strongly deny headquarters hints of links to Steve Pigeon. The former chairman, now under investigation for his ties to a political fund active in the 2013 elections, always ranked as a strong Sedita supporter.

But Jim Eagan, the state party secretary who is running Flaherty’s financial operation, says Pigeon has no connection with the DA race.

“In no way, shape or form has Pigeon been part of this campaign,” he said, adding the Flaherty team wants no association with someone under investigation.

• On the GOP front, Erie County Chairman Nick Langworthy scored a statewide coup by landing the party’s state convention for the new Marriott HarborCenter on March 4. The conclave will nominate Wendy Long (who opposed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012) to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Chuck Schumer this November.

Given Schumer’s electoral invincibility over the last 40 years, don’t look for the Buffalo session to bubble with optimism. But it is sure to be crawling with potential gubernatorial candidates for 2018, still a heavy lift in overwhelmingly Democratic New York – but worth the shot. And radio commentator Laura Ingraham, who will address the convention luncheon, ought to at least make things interesting.

• Western New York’s only competitive congressional race this year will feature former naval officer John Plumb’s challenge to Republican incumbent Tom Reed of Corning. Plumb, a Jamestown Democrat, reported $293,846 on hand for his effort. Reed has $879,000 on hand.

In Erie County, the GOP’s Langworthy promises he will field a candidate against incumbent Brian Higgins, the heavily favored Democratic congressman. With designating petitions hitting the streets in March, that announcement is expected soon.

• Two top-notch Democrats, Cheektowaga Council Member Jim Rogowski and law professor Monica Wallace, look like they will wage a primary contest for the right to face Conservative/Republican Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak this fall. After political confusion dominated the 2014 election following the resignation of veteran Democrat Dennis Gabryszak, a member of the Assembly from Cheektowaga now caucuses with the GOP for the first time in memory.

But the enrollment numbers alone for the 143rd District should foster optimism for the challengers: Dems, 42,430; Repubs, 20,707.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com