Winners and losers from primary day; Walter steps forward; what we will be watching for

The 2015 primary election is now history. I know the readers of this blog are politically astute and many are actively involved. But in case anyone missed it, we had a primary election yesterday.

With only one countywide primary and no citywide primary election in Buffalo, turnout as expected was pretty low. Countywide turnout was about nine percent for the Democrats and less than seven percent for the Republicans. In Buffalo’s Fillmore district the turnout was about 9 percent and about 15 percent of registered Democrats came out in the Masten district.

There were, however, a number of local contests that produced greater numbers of voters. Cheektowaga’s turnout was about 14 percent.

Here is a short review of the winners and losers from primary 2015 based on results posted on the Board of Elections website. Keep in mind that the margins reported in some of these races are very small and are subject to change when the results are certified:

The winners

  • Kelly Brinkworth had the Democratic Party endorsement for Family Court, but in judicial races candidates can freely circulate petitions to compete in the primaries of parties other than the one they are affiliated with. That left Ms. Brinkworth to defend her own party line against two other well-funded opponents. Her win in the Democratic primary could give her a slight advantage in the November general election because of the party’s large enrollment edge, except that …
  • Brenda Freedman had the Republican Party endorsement and found herself in a similar situation to that Brinkworth. Freedman won the opportunity to fight it out in November. It appears that Freedman also won the Conservative, Green, Working Families and Independence primaries. Having five lines on the ballot to Brinkworth’s one will make Freedman formidable.
  • David Franczyk, as expected, easily won Democratic primary for Fillmore District Councilman, and with no real November opponent, he is re-elected.
  • Ulysses Wingo, with the help of Mayor Brown’s political team, won over two opponents in the Masten District. He likely will soon be sworn in as the new Masten District councilmember, replacing Demone Smith.
  • Diane Benczkowski won a hard-fought campaign in the Democratic primary for Cheektowaga supervisor with the help of the town and county committees’ leadership. With no Republican candidate in November, Ms. Benczkowski will be the new supervisor.
  • Mark Wegner, the Cheektowaga Democratic chair and a candidate for re-nomination as town highway superintendent carried his own race and the supervisor race, but won only one of the three council seats up for nomination.
  • Frank Max and his insurgent Democrats in Cheektowaga won two of the council seats. So does the political battle continue at the town council or is there some way to reconcile the Cheektowaga factions?
  • Mark Saltarelli, the endorsed Republican candidate for City of Tonawanda Judge, won the Republican, Conservative, and Independence nominations over two opponents, but G. Michael Drmacich appears to have won the Democratic primary. The Working Families nomination seems to be a tie with both Mark Doane and Mark Saltarelli having 16 votes.
  • Christine Bove has defeated incumbent Sheila Meegan for West Seneca town supervisor. Meegan is the daughter of former West Seneca Councilman, town Democratic chair and Steve Pigeon mentor Chris Walsh. Bove had the assistance of Pigeon loyalist Steve Casey. Hard to figure that out.
  • Thomas Best Jr. defeated incumbent Cheryl Potter-Juda for the Democratic nomination for Hamburg town council.
  • Paul Dyster appears to have narrowly won the Democratic nomination for Niagara Falls mayor. He has a Republican opponent to beat in November.
  • Roger Sherrie won handily over his opponent to secure the Democratic nomination for mayor of Lockport. The Republican incumbent, Anne McCaffrey, goes into general election campaign as the favorite. Lockport government has serious financial problems and is under the scrutiny of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. It should be interesting to see if Lockport voters will hold the party-in-charge accountable for the financial mess.

The losers

  • Michele Brown spent at least $235,000 of her and her husband’s money on a losing campaign. The crew of political assistants that she retained for the campaign did her no good.
  • Team Pigeon, which included Joe Makowski, Steve Casey, Maurice Garner, Louis Turchiarelli and others assembled to assist with the Brown campaign did not produce a victory although some of them made some money off the campaign.
  • David Hartzell, Clarence Supervisor, was opposed for re-election by his own Republican committee and lost decisively. He was able, however, to make some money for his committee by serving as a vendor to the Brown campaign, contracting out people to serve as petitioners for her.

Ray Walter steps forward

Three months after becoming the Republican candidate for Erie County Executive, Ray Walter this week finally released a major position paper in the campaign, proposing a change in the formula for the three percent of the County sales tax that is distributed among the county, cities, towns, villages and school districts. I do not understand or accept the proposition that there was no need to comment on public issues until Labor Day. A candidate creates interest in an election by old-styled campaigning at parades, picnics, fundraisers, etc., and from what I have seen on Twitter, Ray has been quite active in that manner. But if you want to get someone to vote for you, you need to give them reasons. The reasons develop from what you propose or what you oppose as you campaign.

As to Walter’s tax re-distribution plan, it is a standard practice for the non-incumbent to say, as Ray has said this week, that he can do what Mark Poloncarz cannot, which is to convince the common councils of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda plus the county legislature to agree to reduce the cities’ take of the sales tax to give more to the towns and school districts. Reducing the cities’ shares of the sales tax will require the cities to reduce services. For that reason there is no reason for the cities to agree to such a plan. The logical question to Walter would be, what city services should be cut? Police, the fire department, parks, streets, senior services – what should it be? And then there is that pesky problem about what to do with the state law that restricts movement of city sales tax receipts in Buffalo. This is not one of those “on my first day in office I will…” issues. The 1977 agreement that Walter proposes to change requires the county or one of the cities to give one year prior notice to terminate the agreement. It is the County Legislature, not the County Executive that must give such notice for the county.

But all that being said, now that you have dipped your toe into the water of county issues Ray, follow up for the next seven weeks with some other proposals. Let’s create a little excitement here.

What we will be watching for

With the primary election out of the way, there is still some political business to attend to both before and after the November election. Here are a few things to look for:

  • The financial disclosure reports of the Right Democratic Team in Cheektowaga to see how much they raised and what they did with the money. This of course presupposes that the committee actually files the required disclosures.
  • The disclosure reports of the Family Court candidates who won their primaries to see what they have left in their campaign treasuries with seven weeks to go until the election.
  • The long-anticipated announcement of Frank Sedita for Supreme Court.
  • Financial disclosure statements of Sedita and the other Supreme Court candidate Emilio Colaiacovo to see what they do with their campaign treasuries which, combined, add up to more than a quarter of a million dollars. Judicial candidates are required to disband their political committees and refund unused campaign funds to donors after the election. With no real campaigns to run, the Sedita and Colaiacovo donors should be seeing some nice refund checks later in the year.
  • The future financial disclosure statements of supervisor candidates Hartzell and Bove to see if they declare the profits they made from the Brown petitioning work as income to their committees, with the required payment of taxes. Let’s not hold our breath on that one.
  • Whether the Women’s Equality Party files any Certificates of Nomination for the 2015 local elections. The deadline is next Tuesday, September 15th.
  • The political maneuvering that will occur concerning who will be the next Erie County District Attorney. That process, which is in pre-season activity at the moment, will shift into high gear about five minutes after Sedita is nominated for judge.
  • How much of a contest there will be for control of the Erie County Legislature. The two prime targeted seats are those held by Democrat Tom Loughran and Republican Ted Morton. Since County Executive Mark Poloncarz seems to get along pretty well with the current Republican-controlled Legislature, those elections may not even matter much to the functioning of county government in 2016 and 2017. Note to the Buffalo News: the current Legislature has a 6-5 Republican majority, not 5-4.