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Election accusations fall into a black hole

Over the past year, The Buffalo News has reported on several complaints lodged with the state Board of Elections regarding alleged Election Law violations in Erie County.

One involved a political committee called the WNY Political Caucus with close ties to Buffalo operative Steve Pigeon. Another concerned allegations that then-Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward ripped up the designating petitions of an anti-headquarters candidate for county committee (which the current State Supreme Court justice denied). Still another centered around Amherst Council Member Mark Manna’s charge that the local Democratic leadership unlawfully paid for mailing objections to petitions for committee and judicial nominating convention candidates in the September primary.

Serious stuff. We’re talking about allegations of breaking the law here.

But while combatants on both sides of the Erie County Democratic split lodge charges and countercharges, New York’s voters are left in the lurch. The state Board of Elections, even though it voted more than a year ago to investigate the WNY Progressive Caucus, refuses to discuss the case because it was referred to its enforcement counsel. It will also not discuss the cases involving Ward and Manna, indicating it has no record of whether it voted or didn’t vote to refer the cases to counsel.

Meanwhile, Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the Division of Election Law Enforcement, said in an email she will not comment.

Reputations on both sides of Erie County’s Eternal Democratic War are on the line. But questions about charges affecting those reputations appear to dwell in an Albany black hole.

• You may have missed it with all the attention paid to the Jeb Bushes and Hillary Clintons of the world, but our own George Pataki is quietly making the presidential rounds, too.

Indeed, the three-term Republican governor of New York was working New Hampshire again earlier this month as he has throughout 2015. The strategy appears to get his moderate Republican reputation noticed close to home in the Granite State and then break out of a crowded GOP pack.

He’s not getting much notice, though he was slated to appear Thursday morning on Fox News.

Still, he’s out there, with a Super PAC called “We the People – Not Washington” to boot. The PAC’s website describes its mission as to “support Gov. Pataki’s future agenda to empower the citizens of our great nation, dismantle the perpetual growth and overreach of the federal government and begin reducing the size of the federal government to a more appropriate level.”

Pataki has always harbored presidential ambitions, and at 69, is again telling naysayers that nobody put much stock in a Peekskill senator against Mario Cuomo back in 1994 either.

• Still on presidential politics, Buffalo’s Pigeon was part of the host committee for the “Ready for Hillary” PAC in Washington on Thursday. He is a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the former secretary of state.

Ready for Hillary has been paving the way for Clinton’s expected presidential bid for some time now, and many observers believe it will be among the PAC’s last efforts before Hillary is, indeed, ready.

• Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will set up a local office in Empire State Development offices at 95 Perry St., where Howard Zemsky will also work as new ESD head.

• Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino was spotted in Washington last week making the rounds on government business and a little politics, too. GOP sources around the state say the 2014 candidate for governor has always kept in mind a 2018 return appearance.

Others mentioned for 2018 include the 2014 Republican candidate for attorney general – John Cahill – expected to help statewide fundraising efforts in the months to come. Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, meanwhile, will visit Buffalo on April 11 – and not just to sample chicken wings.