Final arguments of the primary season

The state and local primary election is just one week away. That day may effectively settle things in some local races and will clarify others.

Erie County District Attorney

Most attention will be focused on the Democratic Party primary for Erie County District Attorney. The hard fought battle among John Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Mark Sacha has gotten testy and personal, particularly with the recent anti-Flynn robocalls that the Flaherty team disowns.  Such action is out of character for Mark Sacha, so some people might draw the conclusion that the only other team challenging Flynn, perhaps through some “uncoordinated committee,” had some hand in it.  The phone calls actually are something right of Steve Pigeon’s playbook, which is ironic since Pigeon is also being attacked in the calls.  Earlier in the campaign, Flaherty’s finance chairman, Jim Eagan, admitted to an amateurish prank involving a phony Flynn domain name.

There is also a Conservative Party primary for the office between the endorsed candidate Flynn and Joseph Treanor, a registered Conservative who is also the Republican Party candidate for the office. That election is mostly flying under the radar with the candidates doing door-to-door work and mailings.  With only 13,440 registered Conservatives among county voters, door-to-door actually means neighborhood-to-neighborhood and town-to-town as the candidates hunt for supporters scattered throughout the county.

The three Democrats plus Treanor squared off at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in a debate on August 25th sponsored by the Association of Black Journalists.  Flynn and Sacha were the aggressors and Flaherty was mostly on the defensive, explaining his record as the acting incumbent as well as his time as First Assistant under former DA Frank Sedita.  The well-attended event scored points for Flynn and Sacha.  Flaherty seemed somewhat out of his element.  Treanor mostly talked about his experience as an attorney in the military.

The volume of ads that Flynn and Flaherty are running has been expanding as we get closer to September 13th and mail boxes are getting filled with those now-common oversized postcards. Team Flaherty is telling people that they have the election in the bag, offering as evidence a poll they commissioned that shows Flaherty substantially ahead.  The poll, however, appears to be a classic “push-poll” where a campaign offers descriptive and self-serving statements disguised as questions to elicit the desired responses.

Look for a countywide turnout in the vicinity of fifteen percent of registered Democrats, meaning a total of 40,000 to 45,000 votes divided up three ways. Neither Flaherty nor Sacha have any significant geographic or ethnic bases to bulk up their numbers.  Flynn has a pretty-well unified County Democratic Committee rallied around him.  In low-turnout races that usually makes the difference.

State Senate, 60th District

The results in the election for the 60th Senatorial District could impact control of the Senate for the next two years.  It is likely that, all told, a couple million dollars might be spent here before it is all over in November.  Both Democrats and Republicans have primaries going in the 60th.

The Democratic primary candidates, Amber Small and Al Coppola, invite some interesting contrasts.

Small is young and a first time candidate. She has raised and self-provided a significant amount of campaign money.  She has staked out a number of liberal positions on issues.  She has the endorsement of the County Committee.

Coppola is a veteran of Democratic politics, going back several decades. He has limited campaign cash available, much of it coming from his personal resources.  He served on the Buffalo Common Council and was briefly a member of the Senate.  His positions on issue are more conservative.  He is running as an independent.

Coppola also ran for this seat in 2014 and on a very small budget came close to winning the party nomination against Mark Panepinto.

The Republican primary for the seat sees County Clerk Chris Jacobs running against Kevin Stocker. Stocker defeated incumbent Mark Grisanti in the Republican primary two years ago, but lost to Panepinto in the general election.

There is no reason to think that the voter turnout in these two primaries will be much better than the countywide Democratic turnout in the DA race. That should work to Small’s advantage as well as Jacobs.  Word on the street, however, is that the Jacobs-Stocker race is close, with Jacobs’ lead in the mid-single digits.  That explains the heavy attack that is being waged against Stocker in radio ads by an outside committee.

State Assembly, 143rd District

Why there is even a campaign in this district remains a mystery. Endorsed Democratic candidate Monica Wallace – attorney and law school professor – appears well qualified for the legislative seat.  Her opponent, Kristy Mazurek, is a Pigeonista, neck deep in the WNY Progressive Caucus scandal that still remains to be played out.

Ms. Mazurek does have her Pigeon political friends. Here is an exact excerpt from an Artvoice editorial:

Reformer and award winning journalist, Kristy Mazurek, for Assembly

September 1, 2016

Kristy Mazurek, the award winning journalist whose career spanned decades in a half dozen American media markets …

A formidable political contender with fundraising prowess and a network of supporters …

Mazurek has strong name recognition attributable in part to her time as a local television personality and news journalist…

Erie County Democratic Party headquarters, and a political action committee have been executing – purportedly without coordination – an aggressive negative campaign against Mazurak. Some of the attack has focused on her business and political relationship with Steve Pigeon, who was recently indicted by Attorney General Eric Schniederman, who some are saying is a case tainted with political overtones.

Mazurek has maintained that she is a loyal friend, that Pigeon is innocent until proven guilty and that she is the candidate, not Pigeon and that she should be judged on her merits…

“I stand by my friends, family and my community, and without political calculations,” said Mazurek.

I guess that says it all.

The cash count

The last pre-primary financial filings were due at the State Board of Elections on September 2nd for the status of accounts as of August 29th.  Here is a summary.  Raised and spent numbers refer to the period between August 8 and 29, 2016:

Erie County District Attorney

Flaherty (D)       Raised:  $59,681   Spent:  $157,681               8/29/16 Balance: $143,729

Flynn (D, C)        Raised:  $74,966   Spent: $172,943                8/29/16 Balance: $29,593

Sacha (D)              Raised: $1,974        Spent: $6,792                     8/29/16 Balance: $4,699

Treanor (C,R)      Raised: $3,000         Spent: $235                        8/29/16 Balance: $3,438

State Senate, 60th District

Jacobs (R,C)          Raised: $19,895  Spent: $43,679                  8/29/16 Balance: $453,972

Stocker (R)             Raised: $2,235      Spent: $0                             8/29/16 Balance: $20,392

Coppola (D)            Raised: $0               Spent: $5,893                     8/29/16 Balance: $12,814

Small (D)                 Raised: $10,482    Spent: $32,836                  8/29/16 Balance: $33,028

State Assembly, 143rd District

Mazurek                  Raised: $8,453       Spent: $12,425                  8/29/16 Balance:  -$1,545

Wallace                    Raised: $13,011     Spent: $12,425                  8/29/16 Balance: $49,702

It should be noted state law requires that any contributions or loans of $1,000 or more that a committee receives now through primary day must be reported to the State Board of Elections within 24 hours.

John Flynn again outraised Michael Flaherty in this reporting period. Assistant DAs continue to be generous to Flaherty.  Flynn in this period outspent Flaherty in media, $165,000 to $127,370.  Flaherty, however, has substantially more money left in his account.

The amount Flaherty has left ($143,729) is just slightly more than the $140,000 loaned to the campaign by Flaherty, his family and Jim Eagan. Perhaps Flaherty is planning a very large TV buy for the last week or two of the campaign, or maybe the money is being held back to repay some portion of the loans.

Most of what candidates have been spending has been for printed literature and staff or consultants.

There is one more interesting note.  Kristy Mazurek’s filing indicates a $2,000 contribution from WNY Freedom, a Pigeon aligned committee that is administered by David Pfaff, Mazurek’s campaign manager and a member of Senator Panepinto’s staff.  WNY Freedom has yet to file an 11-day pre-primary report, but its 32-day pre-primary report indicated a balance of $5,040.

One thought on “Final arguments of the primary season

  1. I saw a Jacobs ad where he promised to get “our fair share” of money from Albany insinuating NYC vacuums in all the dollars. My understanding is that this is factually untrue. WNY gets back far more than it pays in tax dollars. Am I correct? If so someone needs to call shenanigans on Jacobs.


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