The calendar says Election Day 2017 is upon us, but the pols are already looking to 2018.
Take all three local races for Congress. Republican Chris Collins of Clarence now faces two declared candidates, former Erie County Assistant District Attorney Sean Bunny and businessman Nicholas Stankevich. They face long odds against all the advantages enjoyed by a powerful incumbent fueled by brimming campaign coffers and, if needed, a healthy personal bank account.
And, oh yes. Collins’ close relationship with Donald Trump buoys him in a district where the president enjoys semi-deity status. Still, the congressman has left open a crack in his invincibility door. The Office of Congressional Ethics has recommended further investigation of his relationship with an Australian biomedical firm, and all of that will dog him throughout 2018.
Bunny, meanwhile, is getting serious. The Army veteran issued his first official press release last week, complete with campaign logo and the kind of things a challenger should say.
Now Democratic sources say that businessman John Bair also may be lurking on the sidelines. The president of Forge Consulting (a structured settlement advisory firm), Bair is another Army veteran with the significant advantage of knowing how to raise campaign funds.
He has helped high-profile Democrats like Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Edwards with events at his downtown headquarters, and has strong links to the legal community. He is worth watching.
Then there’s the race for the seat now held by Democrat Brian Higgins, a traditional shoo-in. Republican construction executive Roseanne DiPizio is talking to local power brokers about a shot at Higgins next year, and spoke with the Politics Column, too.
“I’m taking a serious look at it,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about all the problems we have with our federal and state governments for some time.”
DiPizio has waged a lawsuit against the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. for two years, accusing the state agency of conspiring against her Cheektowaga construction company. A federal suit was dismissed last month, but she said her effort continues.
“I know this community and I know firsthand what government does to business,” she said, noting Erie County’s significant support for Trump in the last election. She is also a close associate of GOP money man Carl Paladino, an outspoken Higgins critic who has been known to drop lots of money on favored candidates.
And in the Southern Tier, Democrats are stirring in the 2018 congressional campaign against Republican incumbent Tom Reed of Corning. Some of them gathered last week in the Cattaraugus County Town of Randolph for a very unofficial straw poll among 11 Dems aiming at Reed next year.
Businessman Ian Golden of Tompkins County finished first with 30 percent, followed by attorney Eddie Sundquist of Chautauqua County, 26 percent; college administrator Tracy Mitrano of Yates County, 24 percent; and Air Force retiree and attorney Max Della Pia of Tioga County, 14 percent.
The big one for 2018 – governor of New York – drew State Sen. John DeFrancisco to a North Tonawanda fundraiser on Thursday evening. The Syracuse Republican, a major figure in the State Capitol, is weighing a challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year along with businessman Harry Wilson, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
DeFrancisco told the Politics Column that the political situation resembles 1994, when the governor’s father – the late Gov. Mario Cuomo – was dethroned by the unknown George Pataki.
Now DeFrancisco is more than ready to take on Cuomo economic development efforts like the Buffalo Billion. He says a Republican can win if he can convince New Yorkers that the state’s population drain continues with disastrous effects.
“It’s a question of credibility. If people heard that he has saved upstate economically once, they’ve heard it a thousand times,” he said. “The results don’t in any way show what he claims is happening.”