News and notes on politics in Erie County and New York State:
• There’s something to be said about competition in our political system. It spawns debate on the issues and stimulates the basics of democracy.
But don’t look for much of that dynamic around here. The latest candidacy filings with the Erie County Board of Elections underscore a startling lack of competition that points toward 2015 as a yawner year in politics.
Take the County Legislature, for example, where contests loom in only five of 11 districts. Democrat Todd Potter, a recent SUNY Buffalo Law School graduate, will face Republican incumbent Kevin Hardwick in District 4, while Republican Guy Marlette, an Amherst Council member, will challenge Democratic incumbent Tom Loughran in District 5.
In District 6, Democrat Riyam Wannas, co-founder of a non-profit immigrant aid group, will challenge Republican incumbent Ed Rath. In District 8, former Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce President Debra Liegl will take on incumbent Republican Ted Morton in what many label the hottest contest of 2015, while insurance man Daniel Hawrylczak will challenge incumbent Lynne Dixon in District 9. She belongs to the Independence Party but caucuses with the GOP.
All of this stems from redistricting efforts that often produce lopsided registration advantages. What Republican, for example, will challenge Democratic incumbent Betty Jean Grant in District 2? Democrats outnumber Republicans there 33,605 to 3,144.
Republicans don’t enjoy any such overwhelming registration advantages, but enough in districts like Joe Lorigo’s District 10, where the Conservative who organizes with the GOP is unchallenged this year. Or did something else guide that race?
Back in May, Marlette predicted Lorigo would gain a free ride in exchange for Conservative backing of Loughran – his opponent. Democratic and Conservative leaders said they were shocked, saddened and appalled at such a suggestion.
But this week’s candidacy filings indicate Lorigo will face no opponent.
• Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy is preparing to arrive Monday in Milwaukee, where Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will officially announce his candidacy for president. While a recent New York Times story questioned whether Walker’s efforts might be losing steam before they even started, the latest Quinnipiac University poll still shows him leading the crowded pack in Iowa – home of the crucial and early Iowa caucuses.
Walker and other Republicans now find themselves very much dealing with Donald Trump, advancing in some polls despite his controversial remarks about illegal Mexican immigrants.
Just over a year ago, Langworthy was trying to entice Trump to run for governor of New York. But he now firmly supports Walker, whom he calls a “transformational leader.”
“I’ve developed a personal friendship with Mr. Trump,” the chairman said, “but the best candidate we can put forward to be president of the United States is Gov. Walker.”
• Buffalo attorney Ralph Halpern continues his efforts to commemorate the corner of Washington and Eagle streets in downtown Buffalo – current site of M&T Bank headquarters – where the body of President Abraham Lincoln lay in state on April 27, 1865. Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in several major eastern cities en route to his burial in Springfield, Ill.
Halpern is asking the Buffalo History Museum to issue a commemorative marker for the site, which has gone unnoticed for 150 years. Museum officials are at least initiating the process.
• Quote of the Week belongs to Sen. Chuck Schumer, who last week said in Clarence that he is “sticking with” his recommendation of former U.S. Attorney Denise O’Donnell for a federal judgeship in Buffalo.
O’Donnell’s recommendation has languished in Washington since Schumer launched his efforts more than a year ago.
“It takes the White House forever to vet people,” Schumer said.