Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

“As someone who has lived most of his life as a participant and an observer of local politics, I have to admit that the local scene isn’t quite as exciting or interesting as it was in years past. I’ve been wondering why.” Politics and Other Stuff, January 19, 2021
I guess you cannot depend on what you read these days.
It was just three weeks ago that I wrote those words. It certainly seemed to me that 2021 was going to be a pretty dull election year in Western New York. Maybe it will still be, but it is looking more likely that we are going to have some interesting political contests after all.
Here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets:
• At the moment it is still true that the race for mayor of Buffalo is firmly in control of the four-term incumbent, Byron Brown. His relatively small campaign treasury can be built up quickly and he has an experienced campaign crew to run the campaign.
• But… India Walton. Raising money, putting together a campaign crew, checking out alternatives to winning a Democratic primary by using a different line on the ballot. Does the Working Families Party stick with Brown or do they endorse someone who might be a different or better spokesperson for the party’s platform? A third party or independent line could continue a Walton candidacy through November.
• Scott Wilson, another potential candidate, is also exploring his minor party options.
• A mayoral campaign that carries on through November would likely serve to benefit the Democratic candidates for sheriff and county comptroller. Candidates for those offices have in other election years been disadvantaged by low turnout in Buffalo in November.
• Petitioning for the public officers in New York State this year will be simplified with lower requirements for petition signatures (generally 1.5 percent of the active enrolled voters of the political party in the political unit, but lesser amounts apply in Buffalo and Erie County). The petitioning process is starting later than originally planned and will now kick off on March 2, running through filings no later than March 25.
• The interest of people wanting to run for Erie County sheriff has been amazing, with a dozen potential candidates expressing an interest.
• Democrats have a smaller field. Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief Brian Gould is likely to receive the Democratic endorsement. Canisius College Public Safety Director Kim Beaty, who previously served as a deputy commissioner of the Buffalo PD, could run in a primary.
• The Republican Party appeared headed toward selecting Karen Healey-Case, a former Buffalo Police Officer, as their candidate for sheriff. Given his greater financial resources already collected and the support he is gathering, however, former Buffalo police officer John Garcia could wind up as the party’s choice.
• The Conservative Party would likely support Healey-Case, but they will follow the Republicans’ lead on the race. If there is a primary and Healey-Case as the endorsed Republican loses, that would present a problem for the Conservatives. She is not an attorney so the Conservatives cannot use their usual procedures when their candidate loses a Republican primary – that is to run the original Conservative candidate for State Supreme Court in New York City, allowing the party to substitute the winning Republican candidate on their line. That could conceivably leave Case on the ballot, setting up a three (or four, see below) way race in November.
• The State Constitution requires all public officers to affirm the following oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of ________, according to the best of my ability.”
• Sheriffs are public officers. The current Sheriff of Erie County, Tim Howard, has chosen to discharge his duties, not always as required by the federal and state constitutions, but as he sometimes sees fit, choosing the laws he will enforce.
• We now have Republican candidates for sheriff of Erie County saying they will choose the laws they will enforce. Cancel culture? Trump would be proud, but it seems that if a candidate for sheriff says he or she will choose which laws to enforce they should be disqualified from holding the office.
• The United State Supreme Court in 2016 declined to review a lower-court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the New York ban on assault weapons.
• Sheriff Candidate Karen Healey-Case told the Buffalo News that she will refuse to enforce the SAFE Act. The same for another contender for the office, Steve Felano.
• But wait, there’s more. Amherst police lieutenant Ted DiNoto has said that he will not seek the endorsement of the Republican Party and plans to run for sheriff as an independent candidate on the “Public Service Over Politics” line that he will create, setting up a three-way race for the office in November, (or potentially a four-way race).
• DiNoto this past weekend told Politics and Other Stuff “As Erie County Sheriff, it will be my job to enforce the law — not to agree or disagree with them. Regardless of my personal opinion, it’s my duty to enforce the laws that our legislature enacts – and that’s what I’ll do, with REASONABLENESS, DISCRETION, and on a CASE-BY-CASE basis. The essence of professionalism in law enforcement. That includes the NY SAFE Act. Now more than ever we need to get politics out of the Sheriff’s Office — period.”
• I asked Healey-Case via email how she would square her oath of office with the refusal to enforce the SAFE Act. She did not reply to my question.
• Lynne Dixon officially became the Republican candidate for county comptroller this past weekend. The Democrats are looking at the possibility of a primary between their endorsed candidate, County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, and businessman Hormoz Mansouri. A little early, but this one could be interesting too.
• And if all this is not enough excitement for you, there is always the campaign for supervisor of the Town of Hamburg. Stay tuned on that one.
• The Erie County Legislature has begun the process of redistricting its legislative seats for 2022 and beyond based on the new federal census. Applications are now being accepted for membership on the re-districting commission. There may be some time to prepare for the work of the commission, since the Census Bureau data will probably not be available until early summer. Would this be the time to suggest that the Legislature cut its size down one more time, to nine members?
• The State Board of Elections on January 25th revised its style and format for presenting information about political candidates’ finances. The old format wasn’t the greatest, but the new system is much worst. The search system is cumbersome and difficult to navigate. The question is, are they trying to hide something or is this just your basic governmental screw-up?