The 2017 election year is beginning to take shape. Here are some new developments:
• Hormoz Mansouri has loomed as a major behind-the-scenes force in Democratic politics since around 2000. Never shy about writing checks to political candidates, he also served on a number of local boards.
A few years ago, Mansouri’s name entered county comptroller speculation. Now his name is mentioned for county clerk.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said a few days ago, pointing to “deep financial trouble” within the Erie County Medical Center Corp. that governs the county hospital. “This, to me, is very disturbing,” he said, referring to what he calls a “kick the can down the road” approach to ECMC finances.
It would seem that financial concerns would point Mansouri toward the comptroller’s post, but he likes Republican Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. And Mansouri would not be the first local pol to eye the clerk’s office as a bully pulpit.
His possible candidacy is news to party leaders. And he may be simply venting his frustration. But Mansouri has proven influential in the past, and will find a way – maybe by running for office – to make his points.
• Despite Mansouri’s interest, the name mentioned most often for clerk among Democratic insiders remains former Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli. But Marinelli is one of those people who works for a living, and leaving her state economic development post to campaign through most of 2017 would prove a challenge.
Of course, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could appoint her to the vacancy created by the November election of Chris Jacobs to the Senate. But the governor prefers to let the voters fill vacancies. Filling the post would mark a major departure from his philosophy, and a nod toward a county organization to which he is not particularly cozy.
• More clerk news: Assemblyman Mickey Kearns of South Buffalo is eyeing a Democratic primary, he said, and will make his case once again to a GOP that has consistently backed his Assembly candidacies. Kearns appears to have surprised Democrats, who must now deal with him.
Ditto for the GOP, which likes Kearns but remains interested in Joanna Pasceri, the former Channel 7 anchor and current district attorney spokeswoman. She recently chatted about the post with leaders of the Conservatives – her newly affiliated party.
• A Democratic primary for clerk featuring Kearns would answer all of Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s prayers. Kearns would surely spur a major South Buffalo turnout on Primary Day – the same constituency that Schroeder desperately needs in any mayoral primary against Democrat Byron Brown.
• Two signs that Schroeder’s mayoral ambitions remain serious: He spent last Sunday morning at St. John Baptist Church (one of the city’s prominent black congregations), and labor sources report he has applied for the AFL-CIO endorsement.
Schroeder said a few days ago he expects to poll Democratic voters in February, which should provide a clear indication of his initial chances. The Brown forces say Schroeder will have to register impressive numbers to surpass their own polling results.
• Vice President Pence’s pre-inaugural press conference should leave no doubt as to the inside status of at least two New Yorkers on the Trump-Pence team. He specifically thanked two transition team members – former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Corning Congressman Tom Reed.
• Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a top GOP candidate for governor next year, reports more than $2.5 million in his campaign account. But he probably needs most of that in 2017 in a tough contest for re-election to a third term.
Meanwhile, 2010 state comptroller candidate Harry Wilson continues to explore the governor’s race. Wilson’s personal bank account negates any real need to raise funds, a point he will make while meeting with Erie County Republicans on Feb. 11. Wilson appears serious. He is not visiting Buffalo in February to enjoy the weather.