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Bob McCarthy: Giambra tries another approach

A few political developments in our town and around the state:

• Joel Giambra will head down to Manhattan this week for the Republican State Convention, his dalliance with running for governor over and his ideas for a “big tent” GOP never advancing past the door flap. But now Giambra sets his sights on snaring the party nod for comptroller, which looms as a tall order within the GOP and in November against Democrat Tom DiNapoli, a well-entrenched incumbent.

The former county executive and lobbyist will arrive armed with some strong arguments. With much of the party looking to Jonathan Trichter as its comptroller nominee, Giambra is expected to emphasize his Republican bona fides and ask why the convention would turn to a registered Democrat.

Indeed, Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey asked the same question a few days ago: “I have a real problem with us supporting a registered Democrat who helped get Democrats elected in New York City and who refuses to register as a Republican,” he said.

But Giambra’s past support of Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo presents its own set of convention obstacles. And the forceful thumbs down offered by state Conservative Chairman Mike Long remains a major problem, especially since no Republican has won statewide office without the minor party’s support since 1974.

• Leecia Eve, the Buffalo native and Harlem resident with significant contacts throughout the state Democratic Party, said last week she will not seek the Legislature’s interim appointment to the suddenly vacant post of attorney general. Her announcement, however, said nothing about her future plans.

The bet here is that Eve will run in the September Democratic primary and prove a force. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if she shows up to work the room at this week’s party convention at Hofstra University on Long Island.

Ditto for much of the rest of the Western world, with a cast of AG aspirants including New York City Public Advocate Tish James, 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout, Sen. Mike Gianaris, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Rep. Kathleen Rice and Alphonso David, counsel to Cuomo – among many others.

• Some day this may rank as a vexing political trivia question: Who was Rep. Brian Higgins’ Republican opponent in 2018?

The answer, of course, is Renee Zeno, a party activist and Buffalo resident who is a member of the party’s county committee. Chances are few could supply her name even in 2018, since she is regarded mainly as a “placeholder” candidate who is not expected to wage an active campaign in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Even the Conservative Party did not bother to nominate Zeno for its line.

• Here at the Politics Column we occasionally look semi-far off into the future, even as far as 2019. But more and more chatter surrounds Crystal Peoples-Stokes as a potential majority leader of the Assembly come next Assembly session.

The veteran assemblywoman from Buffalo has gained high marks as a legislative tactician in recent years, and is close to Speaker Carl Heastie. While upstaters have occupied the influential post since Franklinville’s Dan Walsh in 1979, Peoples-Stokes would be the first woman and first African-American.

Lots of political hurdles lie ahead, including a victory for current Majority Leader Joe Morelle of Monroe County as he seeks to succeed the late Louise Slaughter in the House of Representatives. So, serious discussion will not even begin until just before the Legislature returns to Albany in early January.

• Quote of the Week comes from AG candidate and NYC Public Advocate Tish James, telling The Buffalo News she will pursue public corruption cases and singling out those pending against former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon and defendants in the Buffalo Billion case.

“Without a doubt,” she said, “I look forward to continuing to focus on public corruption. The public demands it.”

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