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Political watching and waiting

Some things to know about politics in Erie County and New York State:

* Card-carrying political junkies are salivating over a potential mother of all congressional primaries should reapportionment pit Democratic incumbents Kathy Hochul and Brian Higgins against each other. It would be a barn burner.

But others are more realistically looking toward the general election. Now, some Republicans and Conservatives are urging Republican Dennis Vacco -- the former attorney general -- to take on Higgins this year. Name recognition is no problem for a onetime statewide office holder; he carried Western New York even when he narrowly lost re-election in 1998, and the bet here is he never threw out his old fund-raising list.

Vacco has kept a low profile since Eliot Spitzer sent him back to the Town of Boston. But he has never lost the political "bug."

A few weeks ago, he surfaced at a statewide meeting of the Conservative Party in Albany. And this week he will be honored with the Erie County GOP's annual Lincoln Leadership Award along with his father, Carmen, the veteran Republican leader from the Town of Brant.

Vacco isn't talking. But others are. And while the political world waits for district boundaries to be finally settled by the State Legislature, the former attorney general is watching and waiting.

* Don't look now, but a March 20 special election for the Assembly is sneaking up. Last week, candidates Chris Fahey -- the Democrat -- and Mickey Kearns -- a Democrat running on the Republican line -- each tried to "outlabor" each other with union endorsements. Fahey racked up the most, and will run on the labor-backed Working Families line, too. And if any local pols underestimate the power of union support, they should look no further than County Executive Mark Poloncarz's impressive victory last November. Labor played a huge role.

The money factor is at work here, too. Carl Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor, has backed up his verbal support for Kearns with $4,000 in contributions from his various companies headquartered in Ellicott Square.

That pales in comparison to several companies doing business on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation funding the bulk of Kearns' campaign to the tune of $30,000, according to Board of Elections reports.

Fahey, meanwhile, posts a predictable amount of union money. But he is also enjoying support from the South Buffalo political establishment -- $2,500 from Higgins, $2,000 from Sen. Tim Kennedy and $500 from Comptroller Mark Schroeder.

* Speaking of Paladino, the Buffalo developer still says he will sponsor a "very viable, very strong" Republican primary opponent against embattled Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo. But now Paladino and his tea party allies will ask all Republican Senate candidates to commit to removing Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre as majority leader.

"He's got to be made an example of," Paladino said.

If not, Paladino says the tea party coalition that gave him 63 percent of the statewide primary vote in 2010 will be whipped up in the 2012 primary, too.

"I'm still mad as hell," he said last week.

* Democratic District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III would very much desire cross-endorsement from Erie County Republicans this year -- a move Chairman Nick Langworthy has not ruled out. But now Langworthy is under pressure from some quarters of the party to run a Republican -- even in a tough year when Erie County's overwhelming Democratic majority will turn out in force for the presidential election. Some influential types are urging the chairman to remind all those lawyers who someday covet posts like U.S. attorney or judge that one way to earn party stripes is to lay it on the line in a tough election for DA.