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McCarthy: Political feuds and surprises

Some leftovers from a most fascinating primary election:

. Back in 2011, Albany's top Democratic honchoes looked west and pronounced the Erie County Democratic Party a mess. They set out to fix it despite the failure of many before them.

So they traveled here, brokered all kinds of arrangements behind the scenes and forced Chairman Len Lenihan to announce his retirement. Then Lenihan reneged, stayed on for a year and then announced his retirement again.

The Albany pols - top representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo - swung into action one more time. This summer they proposed former Mayor Tony Masiello as their candidate for chairman as a way to achieve the elusive goal of Democratic unity in Erie County.

But the idea of Masiello as lobbyist and chairman together caused problems, while some suburban Dems never bought the idea anyway.

Result? Mess continues.

Now, the Albany Dems and County Executive Mark Poloncarz (who had previously vowed he would have a say in the process) say they will back off and let the committee members decide in a secret ballot on Saturday. Someone will emerge victorious - but without agreements that might bring together the warring clans.

Bottom line: More than a year after Cuomo's Democrats thought they could unify Erie County, they now acknowledge that all things may not be possible. They may have harnessed state government over the last two years, but unifying Erie County's fractious Dems lies beyond even their powers.

. Late last week, elections officials were still counting votes in the super-close Democratic primary contest for State Senate between incumbent Tim Kennedy and challenger Betty Jean Grant. In the spending category, however, the margin is much wider - Kennedy almost $400,000; Grant around $20,000.

In most political calculations, spending 400 grand translates into a big win. Not this one.

. Lenihan, meanwhile, probably takes some delight in showing the Cuomo folks he can still muster a few wins as he prepares to exit Ellicott Square. His guy Mike Amodeo demolished archenemy Chuck Swanick, the candidate of co-archenemy Steve Pigeon.

In addition, endorsed candidate Sean Ryan scored a big Assembly win over challenger Kevin Gaughan. And though Kennedy was still very much alive late last week, the suspicion here says the outgoing chairman won't lose too much sleep should Grant pull it out.

Grant, after all, remains a Headquarters type as a party vice chairwoman. Kennedy, meanwhile, was strongly backed by Mayor Byron Brown, another official entry on the list of Lenihan archenemies. And nobody in Headquarters has ever forgotten Kennedy's political dalliances with Republican Chris Collins when both served in county government.

"He settled a lot of family business on his last go-around," one interested observer said of Lenihan.

Significant factoid: In 2008, Republican county comptroller candidate Phil Kadet lost the Independence primary. A few days ago, Republican Stefan Mychajliw won the Independence Party primary against the Democrat-inspired candidate.

. The big feud between friends of Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti (former County Executive Joel Giambra, former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek and Sen. George Maziarz) continues against Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo. Forces close to that trio mounted a furious and nasty primary effort against Lorigo allies in contests for the Conservative State Committee, with the anti-Lorigo team claiming victory in a significant number of contests.

After Lorigo built the strongest weighted vote in all of New York for Erie County after Carl Paladino scored so well locally in the 2010 gubernatorial contest, much of that influence may now have been squandered.

Indeed, some observers say Lorigo got so nervous over the situation that he slated his biannual reorganization meeting for Thursday morning at a campground in convenient Colden.