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Jockeying under way for 2016 election

Election Day 2016 still dwells deep into the next calendar and most New Yorkers are paying more attention to their rosebush than Jeb Bush. But make no mistake – the race is on.

Indeed, the Politics Column last week outlined a trio of local heavy hitters eager to back Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the 2016 GOP nomination. But other contenders, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are picking teams around here, too. First up for him is 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

“He’s a gladiator who’s not afraid to enter the arena,” Paladino said a few days ago. “It’s early, but right now he’s the most attractive to me.”

The former Florida governor, however, continues to draw on long ties to the Bush family – precisely his advantage at this early point. That includes Congressman Chris Collins, who is assembling another team that has already raised about $100,000 for the Bush Super PAC called Right to Rise. On board with him are developer Nick Sinatra, who served in the Bush 43 White House, and Hamburg businessman and GOP fundraiser Paul Harder.

“Chris would love to see the governor run,” said Collins spokesman Chris Grant. “He thinks he’d be a great president.”

All of this means the local group is not only contributing its own money, but is eager to import Bush for a Buffalo or Rochester fundraiser, too.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy, meanwhile, travels down to Manhattan’s Union League Club Monday for a luncheon featuring Walker. The chairman remains uncommitted.

• Back on the home front, County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo sat down a few days ago to review the state of politics around these parts, and darned if the subject of this year’s election didn’t pop up.

Democrat Poloncarz, you see, is running for a second term. It would be nice to have another line on the ballot that often provides the edge in close elections. And for the first time since Joel Giambra’s initial term following his 1999 election (and only the second time since Ed Rutkowski lost to Dennis Gorski in 1987), the Rath County Office Building’s 16th floor occupant arrived without Conservative backing.

So it seemed like a good idea for Poloncarz – the heavy favorite in 2015 – to discuss the Conservative line for extra insurance. And Lorigo would certainly love to re-establish the influence he traditionally enjoyed.

But it doesn’t appear that the dalliance between Poloncarz and Lorigo will ever get serious. “He’s probably not going to go down that road,” said one Poloncarz confidant.

Lorigo said the county executive is interested, but appears reluctant to get encumbered by some Conservative positions.

For all the reasons behind a Poloncarz-Conservative relationship, there are just as many working against it. Though he likes to tout his fiscal conservatism, the county executive would probably feel much more comfortable in the old Liberal Party.

Right now, Poloncarz can easily avoid those hot-button social questions: What is your opinion on late-term abortions? Do you approve of same-sex marriage? And how about that SAFE Act?

Indeed, Poloncarz need only glance across Niagara Square to City Hall and question what good the Conservative nod has done for Byron Brown. The Buffalo mayor has taken great pains over the years to maintain his spot on the Conservative line, even losing a party primary to new best friend Kevin Helfer in 2005.

Brown can only wonder what might have been without that “C” behind his name. His reluctance to embrace Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun control law may have very well cost him a shot at becoming lieutenant governor last year.

• Back to Democrats, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday was slated to attend the Democratic Rural Caucus in Syracuse, one of the Politics Column’s favorite gatherings. More than once it has proven a very early testing ground for those who eventually run for governor or senator. Just sayin’.