Political musical chairs

Politics and Other Stuff reported last Friday on the impending decision of Erie County Legislature Chairman Peter Savage to decline the nominating petitions that were filed on his behalf for the 3rd District Erie County Legislature seat. Savage made that action official on Monday.

So the race – actually more like a one hundred yard dash – is on for the Democratic Party to substitute a new candidate in the 3rd District. The decision will be made on April 11.

When petitions were filed last week two other candidates had also filed for the nomination, Cindi McEachon and David Amoia. Of the two, McEachon would appear to have done more of the homework necessary to actually be an active candidate.

Last Friday’s Politics and Other Stuff post also mentioned Town of Tonawanda Councilmember Lisa Chimera and former State Senate candidate Amber Small as the possible party endorsed substitute candidate. Chimera is a teacher as well as a councilmember. Small is attending law school and has been a leader of the Parkside Community Association. County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner told the Buffalo News that those two are in the running for the party designation but that he will entertain other candidates as well.

Chimera could have the inside track on the designation, but assuming their petitions hold up, McEachon and Amoia will also contest for the nomination in the June primary. So what might have been a somewhat easy opportunity for Savage to be re-elected has turned into potentially a real contest for the seat. There is a Republican candidate, Juan Rivera, but the district is more than three-to-one Democratic by affiliation.

So far, so good. But here is the rest of the story.

Savage confirmed on Monday that he had declined his nominating petitions for the Legislature and instead will seek an appointment to the City Court bench. Chief Judge Tom Amodeo is retiring around the end of April.

The Chief Judge position is an elected office. But since the time for petitioning which would have opened up an opportunity for a June primary for the office has passed, whoever is designated by the Democratic Executive Committee will be the candidate. The Republicans will either endorse the same candidate or come up with a name for the ballot who doesn’t have much of a chance in November.

Look for current Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah to be appointed interim Chief Judge by Mayor Byron Brown. Hannah will then likely receive the Democratic designation for Chief Judge in the November election. Peter Savage will then at some point be appointed to the City Court seat that Hannah will leave. Savage will not need to worry about a Democratic primary either, since the time for petitioning to create a primary election has passed.

See Through NY lists the 2018 salaries of Judges Amodeo and Hannah at $194,407. City Court judges have ten-year terms. Savage has been making $52,588 as Chairman of the Legislature, with a two-year term.

Then there is the issue of who will replace Savage as Chairman of the County Legislature. Here things get a bit more complicated.

Assuming Savage leaves the Chairmanship sometime in the next few months, a majority of the remaining Democrats in the Legislature will appoint his successor as legislator. The entire Legislature will elect a new Chairman from among the Democratic Caucus. Here’s where the complication comes in.

The Democratic members of that Caucus are or would be:

  • Savage’s replacement – a rookie
  • April Baskin, current Majority Leader who is a freshman in only her 16th month as a legislator. Baskin has a primary coming up in June.
  • John Bruso, who is also a freshman in only his 16th month as a legislator.
  • Tim Meyers, a recent appointee who took Pat Burke’s place in December.
  • Barbara Miller-Williams, who is leaving the Legislature as she runs for Buffalo Comptroller.
  • Tom Loughran, who is retiring from the Legislature at the end of this term.
  • Kevin Hardwick, who is still technically a Republican.

So from that line-up will emerge the new Chairman of the Erie County Legislature.

One more thing. If Lisa Chimera is appointed to Savage’s vacant legislative seat the Tonawanda Town Board will need to appoint her replacement.

Ain’t politics grand?