News, notes and observations about politics around here:
• Even Erie County’s crustiest political observers can’t recall the last time voters got fired up over a county clerk contest.
Hey, if your driver’s license gets renewed without problems, then life is good.
But big league politics unfolded last week when GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy endorsed Democratic Assemblyman Mickey Kearns. He will run in this November’s election to fill the unexpired term of former Clerk Chris Jacobs, now a state senator.
Kearns has successfully run on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines since 2012. In the process, he has not exactly endeared himself to Jeremy Zellner. The Erie County Democratic chairman continues to laud former WBEN newsman Steve Cichon as a potential Democratic candidate.
“Steve is a fresh face out of the private sector who has a public profile,” Zellner said last month. “He’s the type of candidate people look for, in contrast to Mickey Kearns, who seems to just want to further his political career.”
But now Kearns and Langworthy are hinting at what lies ahead. The GOP chairman wasted no time in reminding voters that Kearns represented one of the few members of the Assembly to call for disgraced former Speaker Shelly Silver’s resignation – or that he was never on board with Silver to start.
“It’s fun to watch the leadership of the Democrat Party locally reject Mickey because he works across party lines,” Langworthy said. “It’s asinine.”
Kearns has proven in his overwhelming Democratic Assembly district that he can win while representing both parties. But whether Zellner ends up with Cichon, former Board of Education member Janique Curry or businessman Hormoz Mansouri (still exploring a candidacy), you can bet the Democrats will use every trick to link Kearns to President Trump during the primary campaign.
Then we repeat in 2018. If Kearns wins, he runs again in a higher-turnout gubernatorial year, and chances are we’ll hear a lot more about Democratic ideals then.
• Sometime in the next six weeks, Chairman Ralph Lorigo and his Conservatives will finally face up to a contest they would just as soon avoid – mayor of Buffalo. The city represents no Conservative bastion, but it’s a touchy subject since Democratic incumbent Byron Brown has always sought the line. Now Brown is the state Democratic chairman and a faithful ally of Conservative arch-enemy Andrew Cuomo. It looks like Brown’s long Conservative romance is over. That leaves Mark Schroeder, the city comptroller and Brown challenger, and another Conservative darling.
A Conservative nod for Schroeder would automatically produce a general election face-off in November that Brown would like to avoid. The mayor would rather keep Schroeder off the minor party line and cruise in November by eliminating his challenger in the September Democratic primary.
But Lorigo will hear from Langworthy on this one. The GOP chairman wants no part of a contested mayoral election in November that would entice voters to the polls in heavily Democratic Buffalo – not when he hopes to win three countywide offices on the ballot.
One real possibility: Conservatives will take advantage of New York’s sneaky election law and nominate a “placeholder” attorney for mayor. If Schroeder somehow wins the Democratic primary, they could then nominate him for mayor while substituting their placeholder on a State Supreme Court ballot in the Bronx or some other Democratic stronghold.
Your New York election law at work.
• Still on the mayoral election, we’re sure Brown was just positively ecstatic when Cuomo – out of the blue, according to sources – appointed him head of a special site selection committee for a new Buffalo railroad station during an appearance at Roswell Park Cancer Institute last October.
If Brown’s panel recommends a downtown location – as many predict – it hands a campaign issue to Schroeder, a Central Terminal advocate who says the neighborhoods are ignored in favor of downtown.
Make that a big-time, gift-wrapped, cherry-on-top campaign issue.