County executive hopeful James P. Keane said Friday the Democratic Party is coalescing around his candidacy, citing several endorsements scheduled for today and key support from former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski at a Friday fundraiser.
Gorski, Keane's old boss in the Rath County Office Building, was slated to speak at the Cheektowaga event in a rare political appearance since he was defeated for a fourth term in 1999.
Keane said that the "Gorski wing" of the party constitutes major support and that the former county executive's backing is significant.
"Dennis Gorski ran a very tight fiscal ship when he was the county executive," Keane said. "He left behind an $80 million surplus plus $220 million in cash from the tobacco settlement. That was good government."
Keane has emphasized his role as second in command in the Gorski administration throughout his campaign. The former county executive, meanwhile, only rarely makes political appearances since becoming an executive at Health Now. The last time he endorsed a candidate was in 2005 on behalf of Byron W. Brown's mayoral effort.
Keane faces what is expected to be a bruising primary battle against West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark and possibly County Legislature Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli following the expected endorsement of the Erie County Democratic Party on Tuesday.
While Clark is also building significant support from several party factions, Keane said he has signed up several key Democrats.
They include Council Members Demone E. Smith, Dominic J. Bonifacio and Joseph Golombek Jr., as well as Legislators Barbara Miller-Williams and Betty Jean Grant. He said he has received new support from several town chairmen: John J. Crangle in Tonawanda, Terry McCracken in Lancaster and Vincent J. Sorrentino in Hamburg.
He also counts Brown, Cheektowaga Supervisor James J. Jankowiak and Lackawanna Mayor Norman Polanski, among others.
But Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max, a key Clark supporter, said new support is building for his candidate since it became apparent earlier in the week that Keane would receive the endorsement of Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan.
"There's a long, thin line supporting Keane," Max said, "because we're picking up lots of committeemen."