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COMMENTARY

Bob McCarthy: A Conservative change

Robert J. McCarthy

Some hot tidbits for Western New York’s frozen political observers:

• Call it a “major minor” change in New York politics as state Conservative Chairman Mike Long announces his retirement after more than 30 years of leading New York’s top minor party.

Long, a straight shooter who is always accommodating to reporters, quietly exerted major influence in New York politics by “wagging the GOP dog” from his Brooklyn liquor store.

But now the party that often provides the winning edge in local and state elections (just ask former Gov. George Pataki) looks ahead. And Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo is emerging as a serious candidate to succeed Long.

“I’m in it, I’m going to pursue it, and I have a plan about how to approach it,” Lorigo says.

The local guy faces stiff opposition from Bronx Chairman Jerry Kassar, another state vice chairman and veteran Senate staffer whom many view as heir apparent. But Lorigo will now lobby all 53 members of the party’s Executive Committee for their Feb. 23 vote.

• New Assemblyman Pat Burke of South Buffalo said during his 2018 special and general election campaigns that abortion was a “frustrating” issue for him as a Catholic who supported the concept of Roe v. Wade.
A few days ago, Burke voted for the Reproductive Health Act that expands abortion rights in New York – including allowing late term abortions.

“How can we not be in line with what is already a constitutional guarantee?” he asked, adding that while he still “struggles” with allowing late term abortions, he joined the vast majority of his Democratic colleagues in favor of the new law.

“What if after 24 weeks a woman is diagnosed with cancer and needs chemotherapy?” he said. “If this is codification, I vote for it.”

Burke becomes the first assemblyman from the South Buffalo-based district to cast a pro-choice vote, though Brian Higgins acknowledged he had evolved from a pro-life stand in the latter part of his Assembly career before running for Congress.

• Republican Sen. Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda has compiled the Conservative Party’s second highest rating in the State Legislature, with an 85 percent score. If Ortt ever pursues a congressional candidacy should a vacancy occur in the 27th District now represented by Chris Collins, it’s a sure bet the Conservative rating will get special emphasis in such deep red turf.

• A local group committed to electing more women to office is urging the Common Council to appoint either Vanessa Glushefski or Barbara Miller-Williams to the Buffalo comptroller vacancy stemming from the resignation of Mark Schroeder.

But Diana Cihak of WomenElect says her organization’s effort to recruit female candidates for the all-male Council is producing little interest. She cited low pay and the need for immediate campaigning under the state’s new political calendar as factors.

“There might be one woman, but I wish there were a lot more,” Cihak said. “It’s not for a lack of trying.”

• Legislator Lynne Dixon is showing up at the Saturday gathering of pols at Christe’s Restaurant in West Seneca, and not because she likes their pancakes. The weekly breakfast founded by the late Conservative honcho Billy Delmont serves as a venue to see and be seen for aspiring candidates.

If State Sen. Chris Jacobs declines a GOP challenge against County Executive Mark Poloncarz this year, Dixon could emerge as Republican answer, though others such as Legislator Ed Rath also remain in the hunt.

• But questions surround the ability of Dixon, a member of the Independence Party, to raise the $1 million needed to wage a viable countywide effort. Come to think of it, the $445,000 Poloncarz reported last month hardly raises eyebrows, either.

• Fifty years ago this week, The Buffalo Evening News reported the State Legislature planned to shift Primary Day from June to September. The Legislature voted a few days ago to shift the primary form September to June. When will those people get their act together?

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