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Paladino’s role in 2016 – and 2018

With major presidential decisions looming over the next few weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire, local Democrats and Republicans alike are choosing up sides. And just like on the playground, choosing up sides means some get picked, some get left out.

While prominent Western New Yorkers are helping major candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, the most fascination – of course – surrounds Donald Trump. And now a leading role for Trump in New York State is expected for Buffalo’s own Carl Paladino – of course.

Paladino, who ran his own Trumpesque campaign for governor in 2010, says he expects the campaign to assign him a significant leadership role later this month. If the GOP field remains as unsettled by the time of the April 19 primary, Paladino could find himself in the center of the fray.

“They look at me as a guy who could best attract a crowd in upstate New York,” he said a few days ago. “And I think there’s an opportunity here as the political landscape of the country and state changes.”

Few people or subjects wind up Paladino like Trump, whom the Buffalo developer and others strived mightily – and unsuccessfully – to lure into the 2014 contest for governor. That’s not surprising. Paladino shot from the hip and gained huge success within the New York Republican Party in 2010. Now Trump shoots from the hip on a national stage and leads the GOP polls.

“He’s unfiltered,” Paladino says. “He’s very frank. He’s very open. The man has leadership qualities and he’s not afraid. That’s the kind of guy I want at the table.”

Sound familiar?

If the nomination remains unsettled and if New York remains in play come springtime, watch for Paladino to orchestrate a grand stage for his main man. He has big plans for Buffalo and maybe Syracuse, too.

“I’m considering putting him in First Niagara Center and filling it,” he said. “I’m trying to work out some dates now.”

All of this plays against Paladino recognizing something in the Trump phenomenon. Trump says something outrageous and soars in the polls. In 2010, Paladino worked hard on the outrageous and won the state’s GOP primary 2-to-1. He won Erie County 94 to 6 percent.

Now the possibility of “Trump on steroids” looms as Paladino sounds more and more serious about running for governor in 2018. His approach worked within the New York Republican Party in 2010, he reasons, and is working for Trump on the national stage now.

Part of Paladino’s strategy is to aim squarely at an old nemesis – state GOP Chairman Ed Cox. “I’m so sick of Ed Cox. I can’t stand him. I can’t stand him,” he said, throwing 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino into the mix for good measure.

“I’ll kick Rob Astorino’s [butt] in the primary and everyone who gets in my way,” he said, adding Trump is already causing problems in 2016 that will come home to roost in 2018.

“Ed Cox is apoplectic. All these establishment guys are apoplectic,” he said.

The 2016 campaign for president is underway. So is the 2018 campaign for governor.

They buried Norman McConney Jr. in Albany on Friday, possibly the state Capitol’s most powerful voice for Buffalo and minorities you never heard of.

McConney, 69, was chief of staff to Arthur O. Eve at a time when the former deputy speaker of the Assembly and State Sen. Dale Volker of Depew led a Western New York delegation to be reckoned with. McConney died on Jan. 1.

Over the past few days, Western New Yorkers like Volker and former Assembly Majority Leader Dan Walsh have all weighed in on McConney’s place in Albany history, praising him as a behind-the-scenes power broker who got things done.

Perhaps former Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Jerry Kremer of Long Beach said it best in an email to the Politics Column: “Nobody in Albany maneuvered the corridors of power better and no one had as many quiet successes as Norman had. That’s a major statement.”