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Pataki had to miss straw poll

It must have been frustrating for Gov. George Pataki to watch the Sunday news shows last weekend as they highlighted the presidential straw poll in Memphis.

A parade of GOP hopefuls strutted before the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, led right there in his home state by Bill Frist. The Senate majority leader won, followed by all those other guys.

The governor, meanwhile, was home in Garrison, having difficulty eating solid foods, let alone running for president.

But that doesn't mean he wasn't represented at the Memphis conclave. Erie County Republican Chairman Bob Davis was minding the store for Pataki, along with former state Chairman Sandy Treadwell. It didn't make the scoreboard, but Davis reports the governor tallied about 3 percent in the poll without really competing.

"Some of the candidates were very aggressive in the straw poll, and then there was us, with no real overt campaign," Davis said. "But other than the votes for George W. Bush, we came in first among those who weren't there."

Pataki's presidential ambitions often draw snickers even in GOP circles, and the polls aren't exactly encouraging. But the idea is that you never know what will happen in politics, and it's worth the effort. After all, whoever thought the mayor of Peekskill would ever be elected governor?

To that end, Davis stands to be a key player in the Pataki presidential effort. Ostensibly, he is chairman of the governor's 21st Century Freedom PAC, which is devoted to Republican ideals of "less government and lower taxes."

But the PAC allows Pataki, along with Davis, to play in the presidential game. Davis will join the campaign as coordinator of efforts in Delaware and Michigan, which just happen to loom as key primary battlegrounds.

"The governor is taking a look at what he might do after he is no longer governor of New York," Davis said. "It's early, but it's all about building networks and building relationships in anticipation that something may come of it."

Davis remains a key Pataki ally and now expects to be part of whatever lies ahead for him. He does not anticipate reseeking the chairmanship of the Erie County GOP after a 10-year run, but will always be the kind of guy destined to keep scratching the political itch.

"It's a new challenge that will involve meeting a lot of new people in a lot of new places," he said. "It's a big stage, and I'm honored to be part of it."

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* There's no doubt that Masten Council Member Antoine Thompson is making good on his promise to challenge new State Sen. Marc Coppola in the September Democratic primary. Thompson is already flooding the Senate district with slick mailings highlighting his resume.

* Speaking of Coppola, he has hired attorney Jeremy Toth as his chief of staff. A former candidate for the Common Council, Toth has long been associated with city Dems like Coppola and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt.

* In a year in which no vacancies for State Supreme Court were anticipated, the retirement of Justice Joe Forma means there will be 2006 judicial competition in Western New York after all. While the governor is expected to fill the vacancy with an appointment, GOP sources say no names have yet surfaced.

Not so on the Dem side, where a pair of Tims have both expressed interest. City Judge Tim Franczyk and County Judge Tim Drury are both expected to vie for Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan's nod, while others are sure to jump in, too.

It also appears at this juncture that despite U.S. District Judge John Gleeson's ruling declaring unconstitutional the judicial nominating convention method of selecting Supreme Court candidates, that process will be employed again this year until appeals of his decision are heard -- possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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