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Political party mixer, with ice Bill Clinton to join Golisano to see Sabres

A pair of new pals -- former President Bill Clinton and Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano -- will be together Wednesday night in HSBC Arena for a matchup not only of the Sabres and Dallas Stars, but also of two political heavyweights.

Golisano spokesman G. Steven Pigeon said late Thursday that Golisano had invited Clinton to watch his Sabres play the Stars as part of a burgeoning friendship. It centers around the Rochester billionaire's support of the Clinton Global Initiative, designed to focus world leaders on tackling some of the planet's toughest problems.

But politics are a fair bet to join hockey and anti-poverty efforts in discussions in the owner's box. Golisano is weighing a run for governor next year that could put him at the top of a Republican ticket against a Democratic slate that includes Clinton's wife -- Hillary Rodham Clinton -- who is seeking re-election to the Senate.

"It could be quite interesting," teased Pigeon, the former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party who now serves as a close adviser to Golisano.

While the "Bill and Tom at the hockey game scenario" already is raising eyebrows among some Democrats, Golisano has thrown state Republicans into a tizzy by recently joining their party and threatening to spend tens of millions of his own dollars on a GOP gubernatorial contest. In fact, Golisano was scheduled to meet late Thursday with Robert E. Davis -- chairman of the Erie County Republican Party and first vice chairman of the state party -- to discuss his status.

It was the first discussion between Golisano and GOP leaders. Stephen J. Minarik III, the party's state chairman, has expressed solid support for former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld.

But Pigeon emphasized that despite the classic case of strange political bedfellows shaping up for Wednesday, the hockey game is primarily a way for two men to cement a growing friendship.

"Tom met Bill Clinton for golf while he was still president, and they really have developed a good friendship," Pigeon said. "Tom has been very enamored with the Clinton Global Initiative concept and what it's done in the world, and he loves Bill Clinton's ideas and energy on it."

Jay Carson, Clinton's spokesman, said Thursday that Golisano has aided the William J. Clinton Foundation and its effort to "generate solutions through provocative discussions, debates and workshops."

"Tom Golisano has been a major supporter of the non-partisan Clinton Global Initiative," Carson said. "President Clinton has appreciated that support and is looking forward to supporting his Sabres next week."

Carson said the effort supports programs fighting poverty, as well as others that promote study of climate and environmental change, religious reconciliation and good governance.

Indeed, Golisano made what the foundation called a "major contribution" last September to a Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York coinciding with the opening session of the United Nations. The conference participants included Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, President Jacques Chirac of France and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Pigeon said Clinton is expected to have dinner with Golisano in the arena before the game and may meet with several community and political leaders.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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