News, notes and observations about politics around here:
• He’s baaaaack!
Former County Executive Joel Giambra has been lying low for the past decade, toiling for former Sen. Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm and launching his own real estate development business. But Giambra has savored politics since his 20s, starting as Niagara council member, and he acknowledges that at 60, the itch still needs scratching.
“I think I’ve got one more campaign in me,” he said a few days ago as he revealed he is discussing a campaign for governor with Republican leaders.
Now the former county executive must convince a skeptical GOP. He says only a “moderate Republican” in the mold of Nelson Rockefeller or even George Pataki can expect any success in deep blue New York.
Giambra is making the rounds among leaders of county organizations firmly committed to President Trump, none of which will be thrilled about his past support for Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo and other Democrats. And the welcome mat is not exactly awaiting at Conservative Headquarters either.
But Giambra has a story to tell and is already reaching out to old associates for help. He now launches a bold experiment in New York politics as he tries to break the mold of a GOP that the former Democrat never embraced anyway.
If anything, it will be interesting to watch.
• Speaking of Republican candidates, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua stopped by Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy’s holiday party at the airport Holiday Inn on Tuesday just after officially launching his bid to challenge Cuomo. Others are expected to join him soon.
• Still speaking of potential Cuomo opponents, has anyone even heard from Harry Wilson lately? The Westchester businessman who ran a competitive campaign for comptroller in 2010 seems to answer the wishes of most party leaders, but has yet to commit. The need to spend millions of your own dollars might be contributing to his indecision.
• The Erie County Legislature will also offer some interesting politics watching in the days ahead as Democrats prepare to assume control of County Hall. Those interested in such things should especially watch who emerges as chairman. Buffalo Democrat Peter Savage, who is close to Mayor Byron Brown as well as Rep. Brian Higgins, continues to be mentioned.
Savage’s City Hall relationship raises the possibility of the mayor/state Democratic chairman exerting increased influence in key legislative decisions such as appointments to the Water Authority and as elections commissioner.
• Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner hosted about 300 of his closest friends last week at his annual holiday party. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was among those attending, demonstrating that with a gubernatorial election looming, the sometimes strained relations between Erie Dems and the Cuomo organization will probably be smooth in 2018.
• Back in December of 1999, the Politics Column slogged with Sen. Chuck Schumer through the mud (and other substances) at a Kinderhook-area dairy barn as he fulfilled his promise to visit all 62 New York counties at least once a year. Again in 2017, Schumer finished up his statewide promise with another expedition to Columbia County.
The senator has visited all 62 counties every year he has been in office, but his latest odyssey gains special significance after he began this year as Senate minority leader with duties stretching far beyond Columbia County.
In 2017 he made 107 visits to upstate and Long Island, including 14 to the Capital Region, 12 to Western New York, 11 to Central New York, 17 to Rochester-Finger Lakes, 13 to the Southern Tier, 17 to the Hudson Valley, nine to the North Country and 14 to Long Island.
• Quote of the Week comes from Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter on the “flawed process” of Cuomo’s economic development grants awarded in Albany: “I maintain my belief that major changes need to take place in order to ensure that these appropriations are being made as ethically and effectively as possible.”