Maybe it’s that the presidential campaign is sucking up all the political oxygen. Or maybe it’s just getting harder to encourage non-incumbents to run for state legislative seats. Whatever the reason, there is hardly any excitement in such races in 2016.
Technically there are races in the majority of Assembly and Senate Districts in Western New York. See how many names you recognize (perhaps I should have run a contest on this):
- Assembly 140th District – Incumbent Robin Schimminger(D,C,I); Danielle Rotolo (R, Ref); Anthony Baney (G)
- 141st District – Incumbent Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D,WF); Ross Kostecky (R)
- 143rd District – Monica Wallace (D,WF,WEP); Russell Sugg (R,C,I, Ref)
- 145th District – Incumbent John Ceretto (D,WF); Angelo Morinello (R,C,I,Ref)
- 146th District – Incumbent Ray Walter (R,C,I,Ref); Steven Meyer (D,G,WF,WEP)
- 149th District – Incumbent Sean Ryan (D,WF,I,WEP); Arnold Kacelski (R)
- Senate 59th District – Incumbent Pat Gallivan (R,C,I,Ref); Tom Casey (D)
- 60th District – Amber Small (D,WF,WEP); Chris Jacobs (R,C,I,Ref); James DePasquale (G)
- 61st District – Incumbent Michael Ranzenhofer (R,C,I,Ref); Tom Loughran (D,WF,WEP); Ruben Cartagena, Jr. (G)
Incumbents Mickey Kearns (142nd AD), Michael Norris (144th AD), David DiPietro (147th AD), Robert Ortt (62nd SD) and Tim Kennedy (63rd SD) have no challengers.
In reality, there are only four districts where there is or there could possibly be a real race: the 145th Assembly District; the 146th District; the 60th Senate District; and the 61st Senate District. Only the 60th Senate District is attracting any attention.
The 60th District, and its immediately preceding version of the district, has a strange history. In the past 20 years it has been represented by seven different senators: Anthony Nanula, Al Coppola, Byron Brown, Marc Coppola, Antoine Thompson, Mark Grisanti, and Mark Panepinto. (Another lost opportunity for a contest – “name the senators!”)
The November 8th ballot in the 60th District will include the winners of the September primaries, Democrat, Working Families, Women’s Equality candidate Amber Small and Republican, Conservative, Independence, Reform candidate Chris Jacobs. There is also a Green Party candidate, James DePasquale, who just won a court fight to remain on the ballot. The Party’s leadership tried to throw him off the ballot, claiming he was not really Green. I tried but cannot resist wondering where Kermit the Frog fits into this. DePasquale will probably draw some votes away from Small.
The district is heavily Democratic in enrollment (46 to 27 percent). In the primary Small received 6,991 Democratic votes. Jacobs received 4,560 Republican votes. Neither party, despite spirited campaigns, broke 12 percent turnout. Advantage Small because of the enrollment.
New financials reports are due with the State Board of Elections today. The previously posted 10-Day Post-Primary reports showed Jacobs with considerably more cash on hand than Small, $326,184 to $16,766. So certainly, advantage Jacobs.
It has long been anticipated that out-of-the-area money would play a big role in this campaign, as happened in the 2014 donnybrook in the district which saw more than $2 million spent by all candidates and their supporters, resulting in a win by Senator Mark Panepinto with just 34 percent of the vote. The outside money played a role in funding anti-Kevin Stocker mailings and ads this year. The respective Albany-based Senate campaign committees and unions are expected to pony-up big.
Or maybe not.
Time Warner’s Capitol Tonight blog does extensive reporting on state legislative races. What they have noted recently might have some impact on this Senate race.
Start with the involvement of Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is doing a major fundraiser for Senate Democrats, but it will be held just two weeks before the election. Some Senate candidates are getting special treatment. The Governor is headlining a big fundraiser for Senator Todd Kaminsky on Long Island.
And then there are the unions.
The super PAC aligned with the New York State United Teachers has started spending in two general election races in support that could decide control of the state Senate. The NYSUT-supported Fund For Great Public Schools is taking its efforts to the open 7th Senate district in Nassau County and the Hudson Valley race where Democrats hope to unseat Sen. Bill Larkin.
The union spent $206,376 so far in the Nassau election, and $40,835 in the Hudson Valley campaign. Nothing noted, thus far, for Small.
The Communications Workers of America has transferred $269,000 to an independent expenditure committee which in turn has started spending on ads, mailers and polling in key Senate races.
Records filed with the Board of Elections on Monday show the labor group, which has been aligned with the Working Families Party, transferred the funds to the New Yorkers Together super PAC.
The committee has in recent days turned its attention to a trio of battleground Senate races on Long Island and in western New York. The IE spent $140,751.57 on mailings and radio advertising in the 5th and 6th Senate districts. An additional $15,000 was spent in both races on a targeted digital ad campaign.
The group also reported spending $29,000 on a telephone survey in the 6th district, represented by Hannon. An additional $27,000 was spent on a phone survey in Marcellino’s 5th district.
In western New York, the group reported spending $11,000 on a poll in opposition to Republican Senate candidate Chris Jacobs, the Erie County clerk who is running for the open seat in the Buffalo area, facing Democrat Amber Small.
So some help for Small from the CWA, but not much yet compared to the Long Island and Hudson Valley districts. Small needs outside organizations to step up big time in the last month of the campaign. The folks in Albany who are most likely to support Small are perhaps still evaluating the chances in Senate District 60.
Finally, we can take a look at some real numbers that might give us a hint about how this race might turn out.
Chris Jacobs has been elected twice as Erie County Clerk. Interpolating the county-wide Jacobs’ numbers into the portion of the county that includes the 60th Senate District shows Jacobs has already won handily in the areas included in the Senate District. In the portion of Erie County that includes the Senate District, Jacobs in 2014 won 68 percent of the vote. Advantage Jacobs.
Another way to assess this race is to factor in how the presidential campaign might impact turnout or party voting. Again, we have some real numbers to look at.
In the April Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, here was how votes broke down in the 60th Senate District: Hillary Clinton 18,404; Donald Trump 13,486. Head-to-head, Hillary had 58 percent to Trump’s 42 percent.
For a little more info, assign 80 percent of Bernie Sanders’ primary vote in the 60th Senate District to Hillary and her total goes to 34,730. Adding 80 percent of John Kasich and Ted Cruz’s primary numbers in the Senate District would bring Trump’s total to 19,477. Head-to-head projections with those numbers give Hillary a 64 to 36 percent margin in the Senate District. So on the presidential impact, advantage Small.
So take your choice of indicators in the 60th Senate District. It could be close – but maybe not. There is still a month to go. We’ll see.
Happy birthday, Mary Hajduk!
Several national blogs and news aggregators regularly post information about birthdays, weddings, who has been seen where. This blog hasn’t gone there.
But there are exceptions for every rule, and this post is making one. Mrs. Mary Hajduk, Registered Dietitian and Director of Dietary Emeritus at DeGraff Hospital, recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She was my wife Sophia’s idol when they worked together in the 1980’s.
We attended Mrs. Hajduk’s 90th birthday party and she told me she enjoys the blog, checking in regularly. That is an honor for me. Happy birthday Mary Hajduk!