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A few questions any self-respecting political junkie should ponder while lying on the beach this afternoon:

Does anyone really believe Bill Paxon's troubles in Washington will hurt him back home?

The bet here is that Paxon's connection to a failed coup against Speaker Newt Gingrich won't make a particle of difference when he returns to the district.

Paxon's identification with the right-wing cabal that sought to topple Gingrich may not endear him to the congressional moderates who thwarted the coup, but those views seem to reflect the Amherst-to-Auburn district specially carved out for him some years ago.

What other plums does the local GOP have planned for Akron's Bob Lichtenthal?

After the one-time Assembly candidate landed the $22,500-plus-car post at the Erie County Water Authority last year, he is now handling the Erie County Republican Committee's business affairs at $37,000 a year, according to campaign records.

And speaking of GOP plums, isn't Ralph Mohr just plum popular on public payrolls these days?

Mohr, a close ally of Assembly Minority Leader Tom Reynolds, already holds the GOP's top patronage post as Erie County elections commissioner at $82,559. But state records also show Mohr -- an attorney -- on the Assembly payroll since February in a $19,945-per-year plum as "assistant special counsel."

Just when is Democratic sheriff candidate Mike O'Rourke going to file his campaign finance records?

The Buffalo attorney says he concentrated on qualifying for the ballot in the campaign's early stages, and hasn't raised any funds. But state election law says anyone filing designating petitions is also required to file finance reports.

Will the Cookfair-Stamm team pull off another major upset in the race for sheriff?

Syracuse political consultant Jack Cookfair is handling Republican Pat Gallivan's campaign for sheriff, teaming with campaign manager Brad Stamm. In 1976, Cookfair and others joined Stamm's father -- Greg -- to shock all the repositories of conventional wisdom and elect Ken Braun sheriff of Erie County.

And like Gallivan, Braun ran that year on the Republican-Liberal ticket.

Could the GOP have a chance in a Cheektowaga County Legislature race?

Incumbent Democrat Greg Olma vows he'll win the primary challenge he faces from former Cheektowaga Councilman William Wielinski. But it will be a tough race, and Erie County Republicans know it.

That's why they're wondering if Republican Janice Kowalski-Kelly just might have a shot if Olma loses the primary and then splits the Dem vote by appearing on the Conservative and Independence lines.

We're wondering, too.

Will we hear more from two political hopefuls recently visiting Buffalo?

Richard Kahan, the former Carey administration Urban Development Corporation chief who would like to run for governor next year, made the rounds in these parts a few days ago touting his long-shot bid.

He insists he's in the race to stay, no matter what Comptroller Carl McCall decides early next month about his own gubernatorial ambitions.

And Congressman Rick Lazio, the Long Island Republican, was in town to conduct hearings on housing issues. But insiders say housing is not the only reason he is traveling around the state. Several reports peg the congressman as a challenger to Sen. Pat Moynihan in 2000.

Will Buffalo ever again experience the unique character of the late Stanley Stachowski?

When "Stack's" funeral procession left beautiful old St. Casimir's Church a few days ago, a phenomenon unique to the funerals of kings and presidents materialized along the streets of Kaisertown. As the long line of Stachowski friends headed toward St. Stanislaus Cemetery, people by the dozens came out of their homes to watch in respect.

They stood on their porches, they stood along the sidewalks, or they simply stopped whatever they were doing. Some held little kids in their arms; some even held their hands over their hearts.

Life along Clinton Street, for just a moment, came to a stop.

Stachowski, the longtime political leader who called Kaisertown his base for 81 years, was neither a king nor a president. But the people lining the streets that day seemed to recognize him as a leader of sorts; somebody important to their lives.

And they knew the answer to the question. There will never be anybody to replace Stanley Stachowski.

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