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Chris Jacobs to run for Panepinto seat; Ryan still considering candidacy

The contest for the 60th State Senate District will solidify at least on the Republican side Friday, just three days after Democratic incumbent Marc C. Panepinto announced he would not seek a second term.

Christopher L. Jacobs, the Erie County clerk, announced his long-anticipated candidacy Friday morning.

Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan of Buffalo, meanwhile, said Thursday that he continues to consider running as the Democratic candidate, though any decision does not appear imminent.

“I certainly won’t be making any decision on this for a few weeks,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

Albany Republicans consider Jacobs their top candidate. Not only does he bring considerable personal wealth to any potential race, he has also scored overwhelming victories in two countywide races for clerk as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic county.


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Still, Jacobs could face a formidable challenge from Kenmore attorney Kevin T. Stocker, who won the 2014 Republican primary against incumbent Sen. Mark J. Grisanti – who eventually lost the general election to Panepinto. Stocker is already campaigning door-to-door, and is expected to attempt to run once again as a party outsider – and in a year when Republican outsider Donald J. Trump is scoring significant successes in the race for the presidential nomination.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to take control of the GOP-led, 63-member chamber. They have said the 60th District tops their defense list among Senate contests this fall. Dominated by Democratic voters, it was taken over by Democrats with the Panepinto victory in 2014.

No matter who emerges from the Democratic side, the 60th District is expected to loom as the statewide focal point for control of the Senate, involving millions of dollars and possibly the most intense election effort in New York.

Asked if Senate Democratic leaders have made any financial promises if he runs this fall, Ryan said: “They haven’t made any commitments to me on any of that.”

Ryan noted that the district is far larger geographically than his Buffalo Assembly territory. It stretches from Grand Island, through part of Buffalo and south to Brant.

Ryan, seen talking Thursday to Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie outside the Assembly chamber, said there have “been some conversations,” when asked if there had been any overtures by Assembly Democrats for him to remain. He said he is trying to gauge what could be lost or gained in going to the Senate and joining Democrats who, currently, do not have the power to control legislation.

The Senate seat has about 300,000 constituents, compared to about 130,000 in his Assembly district.

“There’s not one person making any decision who they think the best candidate will be,” he said. “I’d like to try to dispel the notion that at the snap of the fingers, a Senate candidate is going to emerge. That’s not how it’s going to work.

“It’s a big seat that covers a lot of area,” he added. “There’s a lot of different levels of political players and government players involved, and what nobody wants is anyone to impulsively jump into the race and then, regardless of whether they’re well-received, try to crowd out people underneath the basket.”

Besides Ryan, other Democrats expressing interest include:

• Amber A. Small, executive director of the Parkside Community Association, who was passed over earlier this year by the county Democratic Party in favor of Panepinto. She has already declared her candidacy and begun campaigning.

• Michael P. Quinn Jr., an attorney and former ironworker who is Hamburg Democratic chairman. He had previously expressed interest, and is again exploring a candidacy.

• Alfred T. Coppola, a former Buffalo Common Council member from the Delaware District, who briefly held the Senate seat after a special election in 2000. He almost won the 2014 primary against Panepinto, coming within 613 votes.

• Lisa M. Chimera, a Town Board member in Tonawanda who has frequently been mentioned as a Senate candidate.