Primary results answer some questions about the November elections

Tuesday’s primary election results have likely settled a couple local campaigns while leaving one of the three highlighted campaigns to continue on to November.

John Flynn’s victory in the Democratic primary for Erie County District Attorney points to a Flynn win in November. The Democratic contest was particularly significant, given the financial resources and incumbency advantages of acting DA Michael Flaherty. The Flaherty campaign overplayed its hand right to the end, with the last minute murder indictment that the office played up big to the media. The next financial report will tell us whether Flaherty’s team was holding back money in order to repay the loans to the campaign from the candidate, his family and campaign manager Jim Eagan.

Flynn lost the Conservative primary to his Republican opponent, Joseph Treanor. The primary campaign substantially depleted the campaign account that Flynn had built since last February, but it is likely that he can raise sufficient funds to complete the election process through the next eight weeks. Treanor, who committed to self-funding his campaign, is fulfilling his promise, but the $11,000 that he has so far provided would need to be substantially increased to give him a real chance of competing and winning. Flynn also carries the Working Families and Women’s Equality party lines. Erie is a heavily Democratic county that will back Flynn.

Monica Wallace, with only token Republican opposition, is ready to move on to the State Assembly with her decisive win over Kristy Mazurek in the Democratic primary in the 143rd District. Ms. Mazurek can now concentrate her energies on the fallout yet to come from the WNY Progressive Caucus scandal that she helped organize and run.

In the 60th Senate District a serious contest remains. Chris Jacobs’ 52 point win over Kevin Stocker gives him a good springboard into November. Perhaps this latest defeat will cool Stocker’s electoral interests for a while. Amber Small’s two-to-one victory over Al Coppola in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat is also impressive for the newcomer.

Small heads into November with a substantial (46-27 percent) Democratic-Republican enrollment edge in the Senate District. Jacobs heads into the general election with considerably more financial resources and the experience of having already been elected County Clerk twice in the heavily Democratic county. It is going to be a real donnybrook. The outside-the-area money will be flying fast and furious in this election over the next few weeks given the seat’s potential impact on control of the Senate.

One more point worth noting: the total countywide turnout in the Democratic primary was about 11 percent. Turnout in the Conservative primary for DA was less than 9 percent. The Republicans did not have a countywide contest to compare with.

In the highly contested Republican and Democratic State Senate primaries the turnout for both parties was less than 12 percent.

The numbers are about the worst they have ever been. It makes you wonder what November will be like.

Some other campaigns to watch heading toward November

State Supreme Court

The year began with only one State Supreme Court seat expected to be on the ballot. Democrat Lynn Keane and Republican Mary Slisz have for several months been expected to carry their respective party banners. Then the case of Justice John Michalek came up, and suddenly there was a second court seat available this year.

Keane and Slisz remain the first choices of their parties. Cross-endorsements seem to be out of the question this year. The judicial conventions, which will be held no later than September 26th, are likely to choose Grace Hanlon, a Chautauqua County law clerk as the second Democratic candidate, and law clerk Daniel Furlong, formerly a Democrat and a recent convert to the Conservative Party, the likely second Republican candidate. The minor parties will sort out the rest of the nominations which will influence how the candidates line up on the ballot.

The contests for Supreme Court will be heavily influenced by who shows up to vote and who does not in this presidential election year. In recent presidential election years Democrats easily prevailed, with Paula Feroleto being elected in 2004’s only competitive court race, and Tracey Bannister winning in 2008 where only one seat was really in play. Both won by substantial margins. The minor parties were not decisive in either of those elections.

146th Assembly District and 61st Senatorial District

There is a re-run going on in Assembly District 146, with incumbent Ray Walter running against Steve Meyer. Walter ran behind the head of the ticket in 2012 but ahead in 2014, when Meyer was also his challenger.

The election for Senator in the 61st District leans toward the incumbent, Michael Ranzenhofer. He carries the advantages of incumbency in the form of the state taxpayer-paid brochures, plus an overwhelming $760,978 in his campaign treasury. His Democratic opponent, County Legislator Tom Loughran, had $34,717 as of August 29th. Ranzenhofer will need to defend his refusal to let legislation out of the Senate Committee he chairs that would respond to the abuses of limited liability corporations (LLCs) in campaign financing.

The things that make both of these seats interesting are that in both districts Democrats have an enrollment edge, although a small one; and that both districts are based in Amherst. The town represents 88 percent of the Assembly District, and 39 percent of the Senate District. The town trends Democratic in presidential election years. President Obama won 50 percent of the Amherst vote on the Democratic line in 2008 and 53 percent in 2012.

Turnout in Amherst was much higher in the 2012 presidential election (58,917) than in the 2014 gubernatorial election (35,351), which can work to Meyer and Loughran’s advantages.

I would not at this time put these seats in the same category as the 60th Senate District in terms of competitiveness, but a surprise would not be surprising.