When Mayor Masiello enters the room for the annual fund-raising event for area Democratic Assembly candidates Oct. 7, tongues are likely to be wagging.
Also in attendance will be Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. So will Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve. The two didn't mince words last week when Masiello endorsed Gov. Pataki the day after Democrats selected their candidate for governor.
Some other members of the local delegation -- such as Assemblymen Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga -- also will attend. They've complained about how the mayor's move will affect their efforts to persuade downstate Democrats to help balance Buffalo's budget each year.
In short, this fund-raiser will be anything but routine.
With the mayor's endorsement expected to serve as a major Republican propaganda tool this year, Masiello finds himself entering a new phase of his political career. For the first time, he may find his longtime Democratic allies less than enthusiastic over his presence.
"It just makes it very, very difficult for us to be as gracious to the mayor as we have in the past," said Tokasz.
"Is there real concern about retribution from Albany?" Hoyt added. "The answer is yes."
Not only did the Masiello endorsement of Pataki steal some of the post-primary spotlight from Democratic nominee Peter F. Vallone, but the media event Wednesday also included every Republican candidate for the State Legislature.
While area Democrats say they will fight as tenaciously as ever to bring home from Albany every available dollar, the mayor's decision will make the task much more difficult in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Most say the move ignores the political realities of the Capitol.
"Quite frankly, I rely on other Democrats," Sen. Anthony R. Nanula said of his dependence on downstate Assembly Democrats to accomplish things for Western New York. "It's going to be tough, because for every action there's a reaction. I struggle to see the logic in it."
Hoyt has warned all along that such a reaction is bound to occur. Some legislator from Brooklyn, he warns, is bound to question support
for a Buffalo project sought by a Democratic mayor who is an ally of Pataki.
"I won't allow anybody to hurt my city because the mayor has made this decision," Hoyt said. "But I fully expect it. That will be the prevailing attitude."
"It just makes my job that much tougher," Tokasz added.
Masiello has taken his Republican support one step further. He also has announced his backing for Sen. Dale M. Volker of Depew and Mary Lou Rath of Williamsville, whom he credits as helpful to Buffalo's efforts in Albany.
But he continues emphasizing his allegiance as a Democrat. He says he understands and expects the negative reaction from Democratic officeholders. But he will not stand for any animosity toward him rubbing off on the city and its needs.
"If people want to hurt me for it, fine," he said. "Just don't hurt the city for it."
The mayor insists he had no choice but to support Pataki, citing several areas where the governor has assisted the city. And he challenged the area's representatives to equal the efforts of the New York City delegation, which he said has always united to advance its own causes.
"I expect the same from them," he said. "I don't want to hear any of these idle excuses about the difficulty of helping the city because of me. That's baloney."
Volker, dean of the region's Senate delegation, also dismissed any thought that the area cannot fend for itself in the Capitol. Yes, he acknowledged, Democrats are upset. But he reasons Masiello has signed on with an almost certain winner this fall who is committed to helping with major projects such as brownfields development.
"Now you're having the governor of the State of New York on your side," he said. "Do I believe that will hurt Buffalo? I've been around Albany for 26 years and I think I know. Definitely not."
Volker said he does not believe Silver will abandon the city's needs. And he said Democrats should get used to the idea that Pataki will be the key player in Albany's political dynamic.