A few things to know about politics around here:
• Donald Trump may not even realize it, but a wealthy and influential supporter is about to adopt his cause in Erie County.
Jack Davis, the Akron industrialist who spent about $8 million of his own money on four congressional candidacies in the 2000s based on his anti-free trade views, admires Trump’s similar policies. He plans to buy and distribute lawn signs and bumper stickers for Trump, and has hired his old media consultant – Curtis Ellis – to help. Davis says he’s on board whether Trump invites him or not.
“If they don’t do it, I’ll do it myself,” he said of a Western New York effort – which could prove important should the GOP nomination remain unsettled by the time the New York primary rolls around on April 19.
Though his days as a congressional candidate may have passed, Davis’ opposition to free trade most certainly has not.
• Another local Trump guy, Republican Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora, is awaiting word from Trump HQ in the next few days on a New Hampshire assignment. He expects to coordinate Western New York volunteers in advance of the Granite State’s presidential primary on Feb. 9.
“I’ve got a lot of people who say they want to be part of it,” DiPietro said. “I’ve never seen anything like this groundswell of support.”
• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, meanwhile, campaigns for Hillary Clinton Sunday in Iowa.
• Speaking of presidential support, Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy expects an interesting roundtable of party leaders on Feb. 13. He will query his town chairs and others on their presidential preference from a still-crowded field of candidates via voting machines. That means a private vote with no public show of hands and a true reflection of the feeling of Erie County leaders.
• Langworthy, meanwhile, has slated former White House spokesman and current media consultant Ari Fleischer for his Lincoln Day reception at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens on Feb. 23. But his big local event is set for March 4 when the state Republican Party convenes in Buffalo at the Marriott HarborCenter.
There the party faces the unenviable task of nominating a candidate to face Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is seeking a fourth term and is expected to lead Senate Democrats next year.
Langworthy last week spoke with Wendy Long, a noted attorney who ran against Gillibrand in 2012 and got clobbered by 44 percentage points. Still, the Dartmouth grad acquitted herself well in the eyes of New York Republicans, and could provide a spirited effort against Schumer – who has never lost an election dating to his first run for the Assembly in 1974.
• On the Democratic side, Erie County Chairman Jeremy Zellner is making no commitments in this year’s big race for district attorney, but will soon seek “consensus” from party elders.
“Right now I’m open to anything, including Mike Flaherty, who reached out to me last week,” he said, also mentioning Democrats John Flynn and Mark Sacha as possible candidates.
• While most of this year’s DA action is expected among the Dems, Langworthy is not discounting electing one of his own, even though no Republican has occupied the office since Richard Arcara in 1988.
To that end, Langworthy has appointed former Attorney General Dennis Vacco to head a panel charged with finding a GOP candidate, even though hardly anyone expects Republican success during a presidential turnout year in heavily Democratic Erie County.
The chairman counters with two words – Stefan Mychajliw. The Republican county comptroller won handily in the presidential year of 2012.
• Zellner, meanwhile, is closely watching the Cheektowaga/Lancaster Assembly district claimed in 2014 by Conservative Angela Wozniak. He considers it Democratic turf and has been approached by Cheektowaga Councilman Jim Rogowski, but seems intrigued by the interest of Monica Wallace, former law clerk to U.S. District Judge William Skretny.
“I think she’d be a dynamite candidate,” he said.