Labor Day has passed, so it’s on to the final sprint to Election Day, November 8th. The level of drama is somewhat subdued.
Here are some facts, observations, and heard-on-the-streets:
- The losing candidate in the recent Republican primary for Congress in NY23 is concerned about “statistical irregularities” in the vote results and is contemplating a lawsuit. The winning side, of course, says they “have the utmost faith in the commissioners of the Board of Elections…” (There is no reason to doubt that.) Neither of the candidates, however, has had a word to say about the allegations of fraud involving some independent petitions of their party’s candidate for governor, Lee Zeldin.
- As has been the case for the entire year, the statewide focus is on the race for governor. Raise your hand if you can name all three of the Republican-Conservative candidates for United States Senator, State Comptroller, and Attorney General.
- Nine weeks out from the election is probably too early to declare winners, so I will just randomly mention some names: Charles Schumer; Kathy Hochul; Antonio Delgado; Thomas DiNapoli; and Leticia James.
- The candidates have been busy raising money for the next wave of the campaign (or perhaps in the case of Joe Pinion, Michael Henry, and Paul Rodriguez, their first wave). We will have to wait until October 2nd to see where the state officer seekers stand. There will be new financials for congressional candidates on September 30th.
- With the primaries usually in June there is nearly a three-month gap between published campaign financial reports. The Legislature should add another reporting date somewhere near Labor Day.
- Here are the numbers of funds available that we saw for statewide candidates as of July 15:
- Governor – Hochul $11.7 million; Zeldin $1.6 million
- Comptroller – DiNapoli $1.8 million; Rodriguez $3,024
- Attorney General – James $2.7 million; Henry $63,756
- U.S. Senator – Schumer $37.9 million; Pinion $25,150 (As of June 30)
- Local races of interest are pretty much boiling down to the contests for one of the five Supreme Court seats (there are four cross-endorsed candidates); the race for Erie County Clerk; and the election for State Senator in the 61st District where incumbent Democrat Sean Ryan will face off against incumbent Republican Ed Rath.
- Democrat-Working Families endorsed City Court Judge Shannon Heneghan is running against Republican-Conservative County Legislator Joseph Lorigo for the Supreme Court seat.
- As of July 15th, Heneghan reported $176,425 in her campaign treasury, which included a loan of $100,000 from Vincent Lepera, her husband. Loans that have not been repaid by Election Day convert to donations, which are subject to standard limitations on contributions. Lorigo’s Supreme Court Committee hadn’t been formed yet when the July 15th reports were filed.
- Lorigo does have $109,313 in the campaign account that he has used for his County Legislature elections. There could be a problem, however, with using those funds in a race for the Court seat. The Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook includes a provision requiring that a judicial candidate, within six months of the election, “must return any unexpected campaign funds to donors on a pro-rata basis.” Lorigo’s legislative account has been accumulated over an eleven-year period. Sorting out and apportioning donations that might be required to be returned could be a hassle.
- There is a limitation on the amount of money that family members, in the aggregate, can contribute to a candidate. For this year’s election in the 8th Judicial District the family limit is slightly more than $25,000.
- Political observers are anticipating that Heneghan and Lorigo may each need to raise and spend $300,000-400,000 in their campaigns.
- The Erie County Bar Association may be issuing its ratings of judicial candidates soon. The three Democratic candidates for Supreme Court, incumbent Tracey Bannister, newly appointed Craig Hannah, and Heneghan, are all sitting judges who have previously been rated by the Association. State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy has apparently advised his candidates not to seek Association ratings. Kelly Vacco is a Town Justice in Boston. Gerald Greenan, in the two previous races he ran for the position, was not rated. It is not known whether Lorigo will seek a rating.
- In the election for senator from the 61st district, we have a new, Special Master-designed map. The district is 80 percent suburban. Rath has been representing the Town of Amherst, which has 41 percent of the new district’s registered voters. Ryan has been representing a portion of Buffalo, the Town and City of Tonawanda, and the Town of Grand Island, which includes 59 percent of the new district.
- The 61st district includes 93,396 Democrats; 50,416 Republicans; and another 57,249 voters who are not affiliated with a political party.
- As of July 15th, Ryan had $411,442 in his campaign treasury, while Rath had $145,176.
- Democrat Melissa Hartman decisively defeated incumbent Mickey Kearns in the Democratic primary for Erie County Clerk in June. Kearns is running as the Republican candidate for the office in November. The July campaign financial filings as of July 15 had Hartman with a balance of $27,378 while Kearns had $22,497.
- There is one more political event on the calendar that may or may not draw any attention, the bi-annual election of party officers. The parties will conduct these elections later this month.
- There were very few contests for party committee members in Erie County this year. It is expected that there will not be any problem re-electing the leadership of the Democratic, Working Families, and Conservative Parties.
- The Republican Party, however, could be in for some changes. Nick Langworthy could leave his state chairmanship position in September or later this year. Erie County Chairman Karl Simmeth could be replaced. Names circulating as a possible replacement include Michael Kracker, a senior advisor for the State Senate minority, and Tonawanda Republican Matt Braun.
Nine weeks can be an eternity in politics, or it can fly by quickly. Outside factors and candidate activities will determine the pace. TV ads for the candidates will have most of us by mid-October hoping that the days and weeks fly by.