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Bob McCarthy: A fight for the 142nd

Robert J. McCarthy

News, notes and observations about politics around here:

• The April 24 special election for the 142nd Assembly seat, vacated by Mickey Kearns’s November election as county clerk, will offer fascinating politics watching in the days to come.

The local Dems, who control special election nominations, are lining up behind Legislator Pat Burke. Some say the hierarchy supports Burke’s graduation to the Assembly to rid County Hall of his “pesky independence.”

But Burke has also impressed with his legislative initiatives and ability to coalesce many Democrats in the South Buffalo-centered district.

Not so fast, says Erik Bohen, a Buffalo Public Schools teacher who maintains vast ties in the district and has raised significant money so far. Count among his backers Carl Paladino, who often reaches into his deep pockets for favored candidates – as he did for Kearns in the past.

Bohen brings connections through his father, William Bohen, business agent for Ironworkers Local 6. But Burke maintains strong union ties too.

Both will ask for the Democratic nod when the committee meets Monday night. But if Bohen leaves without it, as expected, he may turn to a Democrat-running-as-a-Republican-Conservative option that worked for Kearns in his initial Assembly run in 2012 as well as his 2017 clerk candidacy.

GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy has so far committed to nothing, but is expected to decide soon whether to attempt another “Kearns maneuver” and make April 24 a calendar date worth circling.

• A Democratic primary for lieutenant governor this year? Seriously?

State election law provides for it, and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn is planning a primary challenge against Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul this year. He even ventured into hostile territory a few days ago in Hochul’s Buffalo home turf.

Williams told the Politics Column he is contemplating a run without Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval to transform the nature of the office.

“There’s the governor’s lieutenant governor and the people’s lieutenant governor,” he said, adding he views the office as a bully pulpit for issues like housing, homelessness, gun violence, police reform, climate change and health care.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner leaves no doubt that his organization is solidly behind Hochul.

• Zellner, who is also Erie County Democratic elections commissioner, recently appointed former mayoral candidate Betty Jean Grant to a job at the Board of Elections. We can only imagine the reaction in the big office on City Hall’s second floor, occupied by the winner of the 2017 mayoral election – Byron Brown.

• Sam Hoyt, the former assemblyman who last fall resigned his high profile state job as local head of Empire State Development following allegations of sexual harassment, is returning to the Capitol’s halls – sort of. He has hung a shingle for his Upstate Strategic Advisors lobbying firm outside his new office at the Innovation Center on Ellicott Street.

“I anticipate lobbying in the traditional sense and offering advice to clients on how to work through the challenges presented by all levels of government,” he said.

Hoyt has already signed up the FAIR Committee, which lobbies Albany for state construction resources.

• And far beyond Erie County and New York State, Israeli Knesset Member Yoel Razvoznov made the rounds through Buffalo a few days ago as the guest of former Attorney General Dennis Vacco, who is increasing his business ties in Israel. A former judo champion who competed in the 2004 Olympics, Razvoznov visited with several local business types who say he is a Israeli figure to watch.

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