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St. Pat's luncheon kicks off season

If you're looking for official blarney this St. Patrick's weekend, try this column -- it's all about politics. Here are some of the latest developments:

*Remember all that talk about civility in our public discourse after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords back in January? As promised, Buffalo's Oishei Foundation will help sponsor a discussion on that topic at the Chautauqua Institution on July 5. The session will be moderated by former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, now chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Oishei President Robert Gioia said elevating such a discussion to the level of Chautauqua should focus attention on the need to discuss our politics in a civil tone.

*Albany sources say that reports indicating Mayor Byron Brown considered a position in the Cuomo administration are not entirely devoid of politics. Albany Dems are not partial to factions loyal to Brown, Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan or Congressman Brian Higgins. But the thinking was that City Hall's exit from the boiling cauldron known as Erie County politics might significantly lower the temperature.

*We'll give our governor and lieutenant governor a temporary pass for infrequent visits to Buffalo in their administration's early days. Hey, they've got a difficult budget to craft by April 1.

But we have noticed Comptroller Tom DiNapoli dropping by on a quite regular basis for official duties and helping local Democrats raise money. Along with a few hundred other politicos, DiNapoli was slated to visit the big St. Patrick's luncheon at the Buffalo Irish Center on Friday.

After serving three years as an appointee, and then dispatching a tough opponent last November, DiNapoli has now emerged as a political force in his own right.

*As usual, the Irish Center event featured a whole lot of merrymaking and speech making, along with the corned beef allowed by a dispensation from Lenten rules. There was no dispensation against politicking, however, since the annual event remains the official kickoff of Politics Season around these parts.

*County Clerk Kathleen Courtney Hochul has always proven a regular at the St. Pat's affair at the Irish Center, and was slated to attend again this year. She was expected to be the center of attention as the local political world awaited her decision on whether to declare for the congressional seat vacated last month by Republican Chris Lee.

*It's interesting to watch the machinations of the Conservative Party, even more important now since regaining the third line on the state ballot. When state leaders weighed the 26th District congressional race, they never even waited for Hochul to decide. Following state Chairman Mike Long, they unequivocally backed Republican Jane Corwin.

But Hochul remains a friend of the locals, and throughout her decision-making process remained a serious possibility for county executive this fall in the eyes of Erie County Conservatives.

*Speaking of Hochul, several sources say that while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has shown no real enthusiasm for financing a Dem in heavily Republican NY26, she has benefited from their counsel -- sort of.

The sources say an old DCCC hand with experience in special elections was advising Hochul as she pondered her decision.

*In all of this, there has never been a scintilla of doubt about GOP intentions. From the moment that aghast Repubs caught their breath after Lee's resignation, Corwin was their choice.

Now she is on television with the requisite "warm and fuzzy" introductory ads. And one reason why the GOP settled on Corwin so early and so forcefully is that her open checkbook means there are a whole lot more ads where that one came from.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

Get the latest from the campaign trail at the Politics Now blog on buffalonews.com

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