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Kearns gains Conservative nod for clerk as Democrats fume

The first piece in a complicated puzzle surrounding the Erie County clerk race fell into place Monday night when the Conservative Party endorsed Democrat Michael P. Kearns.

Kearns, a South Buffalo assemblyman, continues his unorthodox approach to running for the post as he appears on track to secure the support of every key party but his own Democrats. He boasts solid support from Erie County Republicans, while attracting official scorn from Democrats.

“It’s appalling he seems to have nailed this down with Conservatives and Republicans already, and we’re very upset about that,” Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said Monday.

But Kearns now maintains his long relationship with the state’s top minor party that extends to his days in the Common Council and all his candidacies for the Assembly. Indeed, Kearns has run for the Assembly several times on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines.

Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said Monday he sees no reason for that scenario to change now as Kearns also plans to compete in the September Democratic primary.

“We believe Mickey is an excellent, constituent-oriented assemblyman and this is a constituent-oriented position,” Lorigo said of the clerk position. “We feel this is an excellent fit for him.”

But Zellner remains unhappy as Kearns continues his dalliance with traditional opposition parties. The chairman pointed out that Kearns lost Democratic backing for the Assembly in 2016 even though he faced no opponent.

“I asked Mickey not to take the Republican endorsement last year because of Donald Trump and all he stood for,” Zellner said, adding that any effort by Kearns to seek the backing of Democratic leaders this year will be interpreted as a “slap in the face.”

Zellner plans to endorse a clerk candidate on Saturday, and expects two Democrats to apply. They include former Buffalo Board of Education member Janique S. Curry, a close ally of Mayor Byron W. Brown, and Steve Cichon, a former WBEN Radio reporter and news director, who drew early and glowing praise from Zellner.

Lorigo said he had reached out to Cichon about the Conservative nod but received no response.

“I feel as if I made my effort,” he said.

Zellner, meanwhile, said he continues to field inquiries from Amherst businessman Hormoz Mansouri, who has been close to Democratic Headquarters for many years. Mansouri, who has also maintained traditional ties with Conservatives, said Monday he would not seek Conservative backing but remains interested in a Democratic candidacy for either clerk or comptroller.

Erie County Republicans, meanwhile, continue to express their support for Kearns for clerk, even sporting shamrock-surrounded stickers for Kearns during recent St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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