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Big run up the political middle

Some September Sunday semi-sizzling stuff:

• South Buffalo’s Pat Burke, winner of this month’s Democratic primary for county legislator in a Cheektowaga-centered district, is avoiding the boiling cauldron known as Erie County politics.

Both of the party’s feuding camps are already claiming him. He’s supposed to have already met with the headquarters and anti-headquarters factions (he says he hasn’t). And both sides in County Hall expect he’ll join them in the Legislature should he win the general election and take office on Jan. 1.

That could all very well be. But for the moment, the 29-year-old rookie is lying low.

“I’m not aligning myself with anybody right now,” he told the Politics Column a few days ago, “not to even the slightest degree.”

Maybe that’s the kind of wisdom even young guys like Burke, a bartender and manager at the Buffalo Irish Center, gain from the opposite side of the mahogany. You can learn a lot like that.

And Burke was also smart enough in this election to realize he could run up the middle while headquarters candidate Lynn Dearmyer and opponent Rick Zydel battled along factional lines. Burke labeled himself “independent,” and won. He also took advantage of mayoral turnout in the district’s city portion, and once again ran up the middle between Cheektowaga’s two entries.

So now, the Democratic candidate in a Democratic district is sitting pretty as both sides come a-courting. He replies like this: “I ran against you guys.”

“I don’t owe any of them anything,” he said last week.

Burke may eventually have to line up with somebody, or maybe he won’t. But on this September Sunday, he likes his independence just fine.

• Still in South Buffalo, State Sen. Tim Kennedy has been gearing up for 2014 ever since he eked out a primary victory over Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant in 2012. He already has about $268,000 in his campaign treasury, and this past primary he dropped $85,000 on a committee largely financed by former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon that set its sight on Grant and other headquarters-backed candidates (Grant won with 71 percent of the vote).

It’s a bit of a departure for Kennedy, who has always enjoyed the party’s support, even last year when he was endorsed over Grant. But he described Chairman Jeremy Zellner’s backing as “in name only,” pointing out that Grant is vice chairwoman of the party.

You would almost think Kennedy’s generosity to Pigeon’s WNY Progressive Caucus would mark a final break with headquarters. But the senator keeps supplying surprises.

“Sure I will apply for the endorsement of the party,” he said a few days ago. “I have a Democratic record and the credentials.

“It would be hard-pressed for someone to make the case against me,” he added.

It should prove an extremely interesting Senate endorsement meeting come some time next May.

• One of the fascinating developments of the 2013 campaign season is the re-emergence of former County Executive Dennis Gorski in Cheektowaga, his long-time base. Gorski, 69, remained politically invisible after he lost his bid for a fourth term to Republican Joel Giambra in 1999.

The former county executive did well in the private sector for many years and is now retired. But friends say he misses politics, and maybe that’s why he has showed up at various Cheektowaga Democratic functions in recent months and even endorsed unsuccessful Legislature candidate Zydel – backed by Cheektowaga Chairman Frank Max.

Those same friends say it is possible Gorski could even run for Cheektowaga town justice next year.

• Potentially pivotal general election matchup: Ted Morton versus Wynnie Fisher in Legislature District 8 (Alden-Cheektowaga-Lancaster). Fisher, winner of the Democratic primary, shoots for November with only the Democratic line. Morton has three – Republican, Conservative and Independence.