If you plan to vote in Tuesday’s party primaries, scheduling extra time for long lines probably won’t be necessary.
Party leaders, Board of Elections officials, and political observers agree turnout will prove extremely low for the few contests on the ballot. Blame it on election fatigue.
“The last two primaries have been really low,” said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner. “And with the presidential primary and school board races and now this primary, there have just been a lot of elections this year. People are burned out.”
Indeed, a dearth of primaries last year combined with a rare Thursday election day (because of conflicts with Jewish holidays) produced near-record low turnout levels of around 11 percent. And not much else is expected on Primary Day 2016.
“My gut tells me maybe 15 percent, though we’d like to get to 20 percent,” said Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Leonard R. Lenihan. “But it’s not going to get beyond much more than that if it’s not governor, or county executive, or mayor.”
Lenihan agreed that lots of publicity and excitement accompanied the April 19 presidential primary in New York, producing turnout levels approaching 40 percent.
But with such a paltry presence at the polls predicted, party leaders are hoping their endorsed candidates will prevail. That’s because history points to committed party members as most likely to trek to the polls when others stay home. And they are most likely to be contacted by volunteers working phone banks and ringing doorbells urging them to vote.
“That’s certainly the case on the Republican side,” said Erie County GOP Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. “We typically get out the vote for our endorsed candidates, and the results could be a little different on the other [non-endorsed] side.”
As a result, endorsed candidates often benefit from party volunteers toiling on their behalf right up until 9 p.m. when the polls close. But nothing is certain in any of the few but intense local primaries.
Erie County District Attorney
Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. is trying to hold on to his job despite major efforts from Tonawanda Town Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. and former Assistant District Attorney Mark A. Sacha.
Flynn is backed by Erie County Democrats and will be aided by teams of party volunteers and labor unions manning phones and knocking on doors. Zellner noted Democratic Headquarters on Seneca Street will again buzz with activity in the party’s own phone banks, while labor unions backing Flynn and other endorsed candidates will also prove busy.
Flaherty has received help from many in his office, while Sacha has recruited a large contingent of friends and family to help get out the vote.
Flynn, meanwhile, faces a double challenge on Tuesday since he must also compete in the Conservative primary. Though he is a Democrat, Flynn is backed by Conservative leaders. But enrolled Conservative Joseph V. Treanor III, who also has Republican backing, is attempting to secure the line, often crucial for the November general election.
Republicans, especially, now seem to be working for Treanor in the Conservative primary. Langworthy called his effort a “scalpel” operation because it targets the much smaller membership of only 13,442. A win for Treanor would provide a valuable extra line in November.
60th State Senate
Republicans and Democrats alike are conducting primaries Tuesday in a rare electoral double header.
For the Democrats, former Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola is challenging Amber A. Small, the endorsed candidate who is executive director of the Parkside Community Association. Small will also benefit from an army of party workers, but faces a tough assignment against Coppola, a political veteran with an ethnic base and widespread name recognition. Coppola came within a few hundred votes of beating Marc C. Panepinto in the 2014 primary.
On the Republican side, Erie County Clerk Christopher L. Jacobs is also expected to enjoy major help from Langworthy’s party organization. Volunteers will also be making phone calls and knocking on doors, and Senate Republicans in Albany have sponsored a spate of negative ads against his opponent.
Jacobs faces Kenmore attorney Kevin T. Stocker, who has shown considerable party strength in the past, especially in the 2014 primary when he defeated incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti in a landslide.
Stocker is not expected to field a large army of volunteers to get out the vote on Tuesday. But he has spent the last 13 months personally knocking on doors throughout the district.
If there is one race gaining the full attention of Democratic Headquarters it is the effort to succeed departing Conservative Assemblywoman Angela M. Wozniak in the Cheektowaga-Lancaster district. Endorsed candidate Monica P. Wallace, a University at Buffalo Law School professor, is facing former television reporter Kristy L. Mazurek.
Wallace is backed by big dollars from groups associated with the New York State United Teachers union, providing another plus in addition to organization support. But headquarters Democrats are also working hard to defeat Mazurek, a close ally of G. Steven Pigeon, the indicted former party chairman to whom she has always been close.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Erie County; noon to 9 p.m. in all other upstate counties.