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Kennedy making exit from Legislature ; Supports Whalen as his successor

Timothy M. Kennedy told his Erie County Legislature colleagues Thursday that he has cast his last votes as a county lawmaker and will step aside, both to make room for his successor and to assume his seat in the State Senate come January.

Kennedy's successor is to be selected Saturday when Democratic Committee members in his 2nd Legislative District meet. Their selection could then be accepted by the full Legislature on Tuesday afternoon, in time for the new lawmaker to cast votes in the crucial budget session scheduled for 2 p.m.

The Legislature, expecting County Executive Chris Collins to veto the spending it rearranged for next year's budget, will meet to decide whether to override his vetoes and protect the extra money it devoted for libraries and cultural agencies, and to protect about two dozen employees in line for layoffs.

Kennedy, a South Buffalo Democrat elected to the Senate in November, also sits on the Democratic Committee, and he said he supports Timothy J. Whalen, a city employee connected to the Whalen and Keane clans of South Buffalo, both of which are woven into the political fabric there. He's a brother of Gerald J. Whalen, a State Supreme Court justice.

Kennedy said Rep. Brian Higgins, also a Democratic force in South Buffalo, supports Whalen, as well. So it appears that Whalen has the inside track, though others, such as Buffalo Board of Education member Louis J. Petrucci and Common Council aide Brian Bollman are said to be in the field.

If a glitch arises and a successor is not selected Saturday, Kennedy said, he would return to the Legislature on Tuesday to cast votes in the override session.

Kennedy is among the nine Democrats who, in rare unity, adopted a series of budget amendments that gives $4 million more to the library system and $1.2 million to the dozens of museums, theaters and galleries that Collins bypassed for 2011. The Democrats will need at least one of the six Republican bloc lawmakers to join them in order to override vetoes by the Republican Collins.

Last month, Kennedy defeated Republican Jack F. Quinn III and longtime incumbent William T. Stachowski in a hard-fought race in the 58th State Senate District. He entered the County Legislature in 2005 in a situation similar to the one his successor will find.

Kennedy was just 28 when appointed in late 2004 to fill the seat vacated by Mark J.F. Schroeder, who had just been elected to the Assembly. Kennedy was thrust into a County Legislature divided over how to deal with the historic budget meltdown of that year.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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