Political points to ponder in the merry month of May:
• Local Republicans feel good about Ray Walter, their choice to oppose Democratic incumbent Mark Poloncarz for county executive.
But Walter’s first real test occurs July 15 when campaign finance reports are due at the state Board of Elections. Though lots of calendar lies between July and November, that date should provide some indication of whether the GOP’s candidate is catching fire.
Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy promises Walter will “have the necessary resources” – standard campaign lingo to indicate a competitive race.
Poloncarz, by the way, enters the race with $422,000 on hand and the expectation of more to come – especially because he is considered the overwhelming favorite. But it is interesting to note he began his successful 2011 campaign with only $33,000 on hand, even as the incumbent county comptroller.
The role of money in politics occupies a dark side of politics that finds itself highlighted in this column on just about a weekly basis. But anybody serious about winning elective office knows that a fat campaign treasury looms as a requirement for disseminating the message.
• Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo continues his on-again, off-again relationship with the Erie County Democratic organization. The strange dance began back in 2010 when he challenged longtime Democratic incumbent Bill Stachowski for the Senate, and a miffed headquarters backed the incumbent.
Kennedy prevailed in that contest, and rebounded in 2012 to gain the party endorsement – even though primary opponent Betty Jean Grant served as vice chairwoman of the party. He won by a mere 139 votes.
Then came 2013, when Kennedy dropped about $80,000 into a political committee with close ties to Steve Pigeon, former Democratic chairman and official headquarters archenemy. The WNY Progressive Caucus then raised about $267,000 for campaigns against organization candidates and headquarters again pulled its welcome mat for Kennedy.
The senator in 2014 displayed his own Irish-American chutzpah by claiming he deserved the party nod in a rematch against Grant. Not surprisingly, party leaders disagreed.
But now Kennedy and Democratic leaders are holding hands once again following the senator’s strong primary victory against Grant in September. Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner said the senator recently contributed $2,000 to the party, that he meets with Kennedy regularly and they will be together in backing Poloncarz this year.
“It’s not my job to hold grudges but to bring people together,” Zellner said.
A Kennedy insider, meanwhile, points to the senator’s 20-point win last year.
“That kind of victory brings people together,” the insider said.
• Carl Heastie on Saturday was slated to visit Buffalo for the first time since his January election as Assembly speaker at the annual dinner of the Grassroots political club. It’s no accident the new speaker would choose that venue, given his long association with the group that counts Mayor Byron Brown and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes among its founders.
• Congressman Chris Collins has been named a deputy whip by the House of Representatives’ Republican leadership, which assigns him vote-counting duties and recognizes his growing status. Collins has also emerged as a key fundraiser for House Republicans with a similar role in the upcoming Jeb Bush presidential campaign expected as well.
• Last week’s Politics Column on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train in Buffalo has prompted attorney Ralph Halpern to ask a host of civic and political leaders why nothing marks the Washington and Eagle streets site – currently M&T Bank headquarters – where the president’s body was viewed by tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers on April 27, 1865.
Isn’t Halpern on to something this community has overlooked for 150 years?