Handicapping the June primaries

Round One of WNY politics 2021 is scheduled for Primary Day, June 22, less than 80 days from now.  In some cases the primary will effectively end the election season, while for others its then off to November.

Once again this year requirements of the Election Law have derailed some campaign efforts.  The Working Families Party takes the prize for most significant screw-ups.  The party will have no candidate for Erie County sheriff because they didn’t come up with enough signatures to qualify their “placeholder” candidate, an attorney who wasn’t even from Erie County.  Then they topped things off by failing to counsel their candidate for mayor of Buffalo, India Walton, that she needed to file an acceptance of the party nomination form with the Board of Elections on a timely basis, which resulted in her disqualification from the November ballot on the Working Families line.

Mayor of Buffalo

Regardless of the baggage that anyone in office 15+ years accumulates, and regardless of some very serious issues with the city’s financing, police department operations, education system and community relations, Mayor Byron Brown remains in the driver’s seat for re-election.  With no opposition from the Republican, Conservative and Working Families Parties in November, he is set to be for all intents and purposes re-elected on June 22.

That is not to say that community activist India Walton is not running an aggressive and spirited race.  It appears that she has attracted a considerable number of supporters.  How much she is raising to pay for brochures, mailers, electronic ads, etc. will not be known until she files a report with the state Board of Elections on May 21.  (For Walton and all other candidates, financial reports to the state might as well be going to Timbuktu since the state Board has essentially closed off reliable public access to such data.)

Even if Walton is successful in raising money, Brown started the year in January with about $100,000 more in the bank that Walton and he has the ability to collect substantial donations without much effort.  He also has a built-in campaign team that knows the drill concerning running a campaign.

Erie County Sheriff

For pure political entertainment value nothing will beat the race for sheriff in 2021.  As this is written in the first full week of April, there are still at least seven contenders for the office.  Things will clarify after the primary.

The Republicans have a three-way primary coming up.  Retired Buffalo police officers John Garcia and Karen Healey-Case plus gun rights person Steve Felano have filed petitions.

Garcia’s campaign financial report in January showed him far ahead in dollars in the bank.  Can the Erie County Republican Committee find a way to match that money?

Garcia also began the year with some heavy hitter politicos support which included retiring Sheriff Tim Howard along with the Buffalo PBA and a major gun organization.  Party leadership leaned in and Garcia has lost some of the heavy hitters, including Howard.

Healey-Case has the Conservative Party endorsement which it would seem is mostly for bragging rights until after the primary.  If Healey-Case loses the Republican nomination to Garcia she will remain on the ballot in November.  This race is a toss-up with Garcia holding an edge because of the money he has in his campaign account.  Also the Republican Party in Erie County doesn’t have much experience with primaries.

The Democrats also have a three-way primary for the office.  The endorsed candidate is Cheektowaga Deputy Police Chief Brian Gould.  Challengers, assuming petitions are cleared, include Canisius College Public Safety Director Kim Beaty and community activist Myles Carter.  Will Gould and Beaty need to resign or take leaves of absence from their current jobs in order to run in the primary?  Gould will have the edge in the primary because of his party endorsement but don’t underestimate Betty Jean Grant’s skills with the Beaty team.

Adding to the strange dynamics of the sheriff’s race are the reports filtering out about the professional history of the candidates.  Garcia as a Buffalo officer once led a raid on the wrong apartment.  Gould has a couple disciplinary reports in his file (along with various accommodations.)  Healey’s greasy shoe, she said, caused a police vehicle accident which cost Buffalo $825,000.  There is a second story making the rounds about Healey-Case; who knows if there are additional stories about the other candidates, given that police department records are more easily available.  Do any of these things make a difference in a 2021 campaign?  We’ll see.

Erie County Comptroller

With Stefan Mychajliw off to Hamburg to run for supervisor, which he is doing in his spare time when not Twitter trolling, Democrats will have a primary for the right to challenge Republican Lynn Dixon in November.

Endorsed candidate Kevin Hardwick will face businessman Hormoz Mansouri.  Hardwick has run multiple times for county legislator and has served in that body for twelve years.  This is Mansouri’s first run for office.

Hardwick’s party support will be very helpful.  Mansouri’s personal bankroll will provide advantages.  Both men are knowledgeable about public issues.  Mansouri will have a lot of explaining to do about his long-time association with convicted ex-party Chairman Steve Pigeon, who has not been very visible in recent years as he awaits sentencing, but his highly negative reputation could prove toxic to Mansouri.  Look for Hardwick’s party assistance to trump Mansouri’s money in this campaign.

A couple other primaries

Hamburg Democratic voters will have a choice to make about a candidate for town supervisor.  Randall Hoak is the endorsed candidate and the Hamburg Democratic Party is primed and ready to assist. 

Hoak’s opponent is Bob Reynolds, who served briefly in the County Legislature a couple decades ago.  This race may have more to do with personal issues of some people involved in the campaigns than it does about how to manage the Town of Hamburg.  Hoak will have the edge.

In Amherst there will be Republican, Conservative and Working Families primaries for town justice.  Incumbent Kara Buscaglia has the Democratic nomination locked up and has been endorsed by the Conservatives but has also entered in the primaries of the Republican and Working Families parties against former radio personality Kathy Weppner. There is also a Conservative primary.

It is interesting to see that the Republicans passed on endorsing a well-qualified incumbent judge.  It is also interesting to see that the Republicans could not come up with a candidate for town justice who has a law degree in a town with hundreds of attorneys.  Buscaglia should do well in the primaries and in November.

State law does not require town justices to be lawyers.  Perhaps in towns with just a few thousand residents that does not matter much, but in larger towns like Amherst judicial matters are often much more complex.  The law should be changed to require a law degree.

The party of ideas versus the party of Dr. Seuss

“The liberals now want to cancel Dr. Seuss.  I’m drawing a line in the sand on this one.  And that, is why I’m asking you to stand with me.  In 2013, while filibustering ObamaCare, I read Green Eggs and Ham to my daughters on the Senate floor.  If you’re willing to stand against cancel culture by donating $60 right now, I’ll sign a copy of Green Eggs and Ham and send it to you.” Senator Ted Cruz fundraising appeal

The first seventy days of the Biden administration have drawn a serious contrast between the Democratic Party and the Republican (aka Trump) Party.  The evidence is in both words and activities.

Ted Cruz, once and future Republican/Trump candidate for president, has been having a great time promoting Dr. Seuss books in the face of the publisher’s decision to remove certain books from sale.  What a great contrast he shows of what the parties are offering voters:  Cruz signs copies of Green Eggs and Ham while Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan.

That plan provides relief for individuals, families, schools and universities, and businesses while ramping up COVID vaccinations and treatments.  Polling has consistently shown bi-partisan support in the 70 percent range.  Even Republicans are in favor, polling about 60 percent positive.  Another poll found that more than 30 percent of Republican voters believe that Republicans in Congress supported the Rescue Plan despite the fact that not one of them voted for it.

The Trump administration left Biden to deal with the prosecution of the January 6th Trump insurrection plus crises concerning the vaccination rollout, the unemployment and economic collapse, climate matters, and assorted international problems that need serious attention.  Don’t bother looking for proposed Republican solutions to any of those issues.

Another serious matter is the problem along the southern border, a dilemma that has confronted this country and several administrations for decades.  Getting a handle on the immigration issues will need more than Executive Orders.  Legislation will be a challenge in a Congress that is essentially divided right down the middle by party, with aggressive and uncompromising elements on the fringes of both sides.

The Republican approach to the immigration issues is to send gaggles of House and Senate members to observe the border.  Lots of photo ops for those people, but they offer no legislative solutions.

The Democratic approach to the issues facing this country is to propose legislation from Biden and from members of Congress – real words on paper, intended to be debated, hoping to be enacted.  That is are how laws are made – one of your basic civic lessons in school.

Republicans have no proposals on the table to improve health care, education, the environment or jobs.  No plans to deal with the border issues are forthcoming.  “No” is not a solution to any problem.

For many years now there has been lots of talk in Washington about the need to repair and replace aging roads, bridges, airports, and transit facilities.  In fact it was discussed so much over the last four years that the Trump team’s “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke.

Infrastructure is a trillion dollar problem that will require making some hard choices.   Some of the cost should be borne by tax increases like rolling back 2017 Trump tax cuts to the wealthy.  An increase in the gasoline tax, which hasn’t changed since 1993, should be on the table.  But ”tax increase” to Republicans is like kryptonite to Superman.  While actual legislative proposals will be coming from Biden and congressional Democrats, Republicans will busy themselves with opportunities to promote culture wars that are intended to divide America.

There was a time when Congress actually debated proposed laws and when policies could be proposed and compromises could be developed for the good of the country.  Tip O’Neill could work with Ronald Reagan.  Republicans like Jack Kemp made their mark by promoting their ideas and looking to make those ideas laws.  No more.

Both parties share some blame for allowing debating and legislating to be abandoned.  Congressional rules, particularly the filibuster, have stymied the ability of well-intentioned legislators to get something done.  But changes to the filibuster rule come with its own obstacles.

Ideas can have power; words can lead to action.  Democrats are now the party of ideas, and they need to keep plugging away at it.  Maybe someday Republicans will have more to talk about than Green Eggs and Ham.

Politics on the radio

Veteran political journalist and participant Tony Farina has debuted a new radio show where he discusses politics of the day along with guests and call-ins. The show airs on Wednesdays at 6 PM on WEBR AM 1440.  Give it a listen.

For detailed reporting and analysis of local news, check out the latest articles on Investigative Post, including my Money in Politics reports.   This week we are reporting on Congressman Chris Jacobs’ fundraising.  www.investigativepost.org

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