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Republicans tight-lipped on key state legislative candidates

Designating petitions for the 2020 primary and general elections hit the streets Tuesday under the state’s accelerated political calendar, but Erie County Republicans aren’t divulging their candidates for key posts such as the 60th State Senate District seat being vacated by congressional candidate Christopher L. Jacobs.

Chairman Karl J. Simmeth Jr. did not return phone calls seeking information on the party’s candidates, and Executive Director Jesse Prieto would not comment. Most interest centers on the Jacobs seat with its Democratic enrollment edge. But Republicans such as Jacobs and Mark J. Grisanti have in recent years demonstrated an ability to win the district.

Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo, who usually cooperates with local Republican leaders, said a list sent to him by the Erie GOP indicates no candidate for the 60th State Senate District nor the 140th Assembly District seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Robin L. Schimminger.

Simmeth said earlier this week that former Legislator Lynne M. Dixon, who lost the county executive race in 2019, is “still in the mix,” as is former State Sen. Alfred T. Coppola, a Democrat.

“She’d be a great candidate,” Simmeth said Monday of Dixon. “She has plenty of name recognition and has proven she can win in this district. We’re working to come to a decision.”

Dixon would not comment Tuesday afternoon.

Coppola, a long time Delaware Council member who briefly occupied the same state Senate seat in 2000, said he was willing to run as a Democrat on the Republican line as well as in a Democratic primary. Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan of Buffalo is the endorsed Democrat seeking to succeed Jacobs.

“I would do it, but I have not heard back,” Coppola said, adding he had also contacted the Conservative Party for its backing. “I don’t know why they can’t make a decision.”

In addition, the local GOP is not discussing the Schimminger seat. Democrats have endorsed Tonawanda Council Member Bill Conrad, but Marc A. Coppola – another former state senator and current State Parole Board member – is weighing a primary challenge.

Republicans have vowed to field a candidate in the district that includes Kenmore, the Tonawandas and Buffalo, but would not return calls Tuesday.

Democratic regulars, meanwhile, are now seeking signatures for Amherst Council Member Jacqualine G. Berger in the 61st State Senate District from which Republican Michael H. Ranzenhofer will retire. But a primary appears guaranteed with challenges from Joan Elizabeth Seamans, a Williamsville businesswoman, and Kim Smith, a retired case manager for the Monroe County Department of Public Health.

Seamans continues to register her displeasure over the process in which Berger gained the Democratic endorsement. She thinks voters should have had a say in the committee decision.

“I’m staying in because I received dozens of calls from people who are not happy with the process,” she said. “The beauty of this is that the voters will decide.”

Democrats have also endorsed Brian Higgins in the 26th Congressional District and Nate McMurray in the 27th. Democrats had already backed McMurray for the April 28 special election, and it is significant to note that they are now backing him for the November general election as well.

But while Republicans are supporting Jacobs in the 27th, County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. and former Darien Town Justice Beth A. Parlato are circulating their own petitions for the June 23 GOP primary and Nov. 3 general elections. Republicans are also not yet revealing their 26th District candidate against Higgins.

Other contests include Democrat Jason W. Klimek against Republican incumbent Patrick M. Gallivan in the 59th State Senate District; incumbent Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy in the 63rd State Senate District, with no Republican revealed. Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes will run again in the 141st Assembly District (no Republican revealed).

Other Assembly contests include: 142nd District, Democrat Patrick B. Burke against Republican Matthew Szalkowski; 143rd District, Democrat Monica P. Wallace against Republican Frank C. Smierciak II; 146th District, Democrat Karen M. McMahon against Republican Robin Wolfgang.

Republican Assemblyman David J. DiPietro appears unchallenged in the 147th District.

And Republicans have not indicated an opponent for Democrat Jonathan D. Rivera in the 149th Assembly District, which Ryan leaves to run for the Jacobs seat in the state Senate.

In another significant nomination, Democrats are backing Republican Kenneth F. Case for Erie County judge, ensuring his re-election to a second term in November. The GOP also previously announced its cross-endorsement of Democrat John J. Flynn to a second term as district attorney.

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