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One more Democratic battle

Political points to ponder on a sultry summer Sunday:

"Peace in our time" often proves elusive for diplomat types, as noted by Charlie King, executive director of the state Democratic Party. His recent shuttle diplomacy seemed Kissinger-like as he seeks harmony in the Erie County Democratic Party, but the local factions appear headed for one more showdown -- just for old times' sake.

King, a political confidante of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has helped arrange the graceful exit of Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan -- leader of the headquarters group -- to smooth the local waters.

That remains on track. But key players like Cheektowaga Chairman Frank Max are steaming over their exclusion from peace talks involving Lenihan, Mayor Byron Brown, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and Congressman Brian Higgins. Max is very much pursuing another run for chairman after Lenihan departs in July.

But the week's significant development centers around the new resolve of Tonawanda Chairman John Crangle, who has moved from the "also mentioned" category to committed candidate for chairman. Crangle is doing what it takes to win.

"Bottom line is I think I can work with everyone," he said.

Unlike past Democratic fights in Erie County, this one qualifies as a "spat" rather than a "blood feud." Max and Crangle are friends, but Max is determined to let King and others know his exclusion from the process remains unappreciated.

*Hoyt is putting the kibosh on rampant rumors that he will soon resign for a job in the Cuomo administration. The same rumor often surrounds Hoyt, but he insists that after 19 years in Albany he still relishes his job. Hoyt issues the standard "never say never" caveat, and he says he is always open to offers. But he also says nothing has been offered, and nothing is imminent.

*Over in Republican Land, it appears the recent GOP strategy of sitting out city elections will continue -- especially in this election year for county executive. The thinking in some Republican quarters is that winning Council or other posts in overwhelmingly Democratic Buffalo remains impossible. So why turn out city Democrats to the detriment of the Republican county executive's re-election effort?

In 2009, you recall, the Buffalo GOP failed to field a mayoral candidate for the first time since the Civil War in another "drive down the city vote" strategy.

"I believe we will look toward the overall prize for the total slate this year," said Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy.

*The Politics Column departs from its usual chronicling of Dems and Repubs today to note the recent death of Gene McCarthy, proprietor of the Old First Ward tavern that attracted pols of all stripes for generations.

"Genie" (no relation to this columnist, but suspicion points to some common ancestor back in County Cork) and his wife, Mary, became First Ward institutions, not only for their roast beef sandwiches and cold beers, but for the friendship and welcome they extended to all.

Noting the McCarthys' retirement for a 2006 Politics Column, former Congressman Jack Quinn said he knew he had "made it" when his photo graced the tavern wall -- right next to JFK and Pope John Paul II.

"Everybody talks about Chef's as the place where lots of politics happens, and that's true," Quinn said then. "But there's been lots of politics conducted over the years in that back room over roast beef, fries and gravy."

Hundreds and hundreds of friends packed St. Joseph's Cathedral a few days ago for the funeral honoring a low-key tavern owner. That was fitting. Gene McCarthy might very well have been the most beloved man in the City of Buffalo.


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