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

The 2023 election ballot is coming into focus eight months before the election.  That leaves lots of time to develop campaign strategies, raise money, and discuss the issues.  Hopefully this year, an off-year for federal and state elections, there will be some serious discussion about issues of local concern.

Here are some facts, observations, and heard-on-the-streets:

  • Following the decision of Nate MacMurray not to run in a Democratic primary against Mark Poloncarz for County Executive, the three-way lineup for the November is (tentatively) set:  Poloncarz on the Democratic and Working Families lines; Chrissy Casilio-Bluhm for the Republicans; and Harold Schroeder for the Conservatives.  The betting odds (I’m making this up; there are none that I know of) favor Poloncarz.
  • It is possible for the party endorsements to change after petitions are filed in April.  The only potential change could be with the Conservatives, but that seems unlikely at the moment.
  • Casilio-Bluhm is a newcomer as a candidate, having never previously run for or held any public office.  She is the owner of a public relations firm.
  • Casilio-Bluhm is now on Twitter with her full name. Her previous Twitter account was under the handle @chrissycaboom and was locked, but some enterprising internet sleuths and more recently Investigative Post are suggesting that she posted some conspiracy theory items concerning Damar Hamlin and the 2020 election.
  • Casilio-Bluhm claims, in a statement to Investigative Post, that commentaries about her past Twitter posts are intended to “distract voters from the issues.”
  • Not having the Conservative Party line will make her campaign more difficult, in addition to the matter of running against an incumbent with a large campaign account, a solid record on county finances and other issues, and a strong party enrollment edge on his side. No countywide candidate on the Republican line has won without also having the Conservative line except for County Executive Chris Collins and Sheriff John Garcia. Some Republican countywide candidates running with the Conservative line have lost elections.
  • The County Legislature’s four Republican members are being challenged in various ways either from a Conservative opponent who will run in November, or in the case of the 10th Legislative District, by Republican and Conservative primaries where recently appointed member Jim Malczewski will be on the ballots against Lindsey Bratek-Lorigo.  This follows from a threat made by Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo to the incumbent legislators after they declined to follow his recommendation for filling the vacant legislative seat.  A post on this blog two years ago pointed out that in hardly any Erie County elections did the a Conservative or Working Families ballot line make the difference in a candidate winning an office.
  • The Buffalo Common Council with have at least two new members, with Darius Pridgen and Ulysses Wingo both deciding not to stand for re-election.  There will be primaries in both the Ellicott and Masten Districts.  In addition, two incumbents running for election, Joe Golombek and Rasheed Wyatt, will both be challenged in a Democratic primary.
  • The State Legislature is edging closer to the April 1 deadline for the approval of the 2023-2024 budget.  Issues such as bail reform, cigarette taxes, and housing highlight the agenda. 
  • County governments are concerned about the state laying claim to $625 million in federal Medicaid funds which the counties say was intended to go to them.  Senator Chuck Schumer’s previous statements support the counties’ claims.  Considering that the state is reporting a substantial surplus and funding to reserve accounts, the rationale for the state’s action is weak.  If the funds are not passed on to the counties there could be a substantial impact on property taxes.  Governor Kathy Hochul has indicated that because state aid to schools is increasing the school districts can reduce taxes, theoretically balancing out potential county property tax increases.  But of course it doesn’t work that way, since school districts and county governments have different elected officials and agendas.  Even with school aid going up, it is highly unlikely that school districts will be cutting taxes.
  • Public funding for state legislature elections is scheduled to go into effect next year, with a system that will provide state matching funds for campaign contributions of up to $250 dollars.  Assembly districts, however, need to be redrawn for the 2024 election per a court order.  That process is just in the early stages, with the Independent Redistricting Commission once again involved.  The reapportionment issue may be used as an excuse for delaying public campaign financing in 2024.
  • New York Focus has published information about the outside income of state legislators.  The current salary of legislators is $142,000.  Starting in 2024 their outside income will be limited to $35,000.  Here are the 2021 numbers for WNY legislators who reported outside income, with ranges set by state disclosure requirements:
    • Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R, 139th) $430,000 – $690,000
    • Assemblyman Michael Norris (R, 144th) $176,000 – $300,000
    • Assemblyman Andrew Goodell (R, 150th) $53,000 – $195,000
    • Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D, 141st) $10,000 – $40,000
    • Senator George Borrello (R, 57th) $10,000 – $40,000
    • Senator Patrick Gallivan (R, 60th) $6,000 – $25,000
    • Assemblywoman Karen McMahon (D, 146th) $5,000 – $20,000
    • Assemblyman Bill Conrad (D, 140th) $1,002 – $7,000
    • Assemblywoman Monica Wallace (D, 143rd) $1,000 – $5,000
  • News about the Buffalo News continues to be bad.  The closure of the paper’s printing plant later this year will result in the loss of 160 jobs; that follows the recently announced terminations of nine reporting and editing staff members.  As Jim Heaney noted in a recent Investigative Post story the owner of the News, Lee Enterprises, managed to pull together several hundred thousands of dollars last year to provide very large raises for the company’s top level executives.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his super legislative majorities have in recent years worked aggressively to install woke-right anti-freedom policies in areas such as banning books, limiting what can be taught in elementary and high schools about certain subjects, and limiting freedom of speech in colleges.  Sounds like something right out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook.  They have now set their sights on restricting First Amendment free press rights.  What they are attempting to do is to pass legislation allowing for lawsuits against news organizations that publish information that offends state elected officials.  Their goal is to tee up a lawsuit that might get to the Supreme Court to overturn the New York Times v. Sullivan, a landmark 1964 decision that protects freedom of the press.
  • Included in the Florida proposals are policies concerning compensated bloggers who write about DeSantis and other state elected officials, requiring bloggers to register with the state.
  • I was in Florida recently and got to see a couple exhibition baseball games, both featuring the Houston Astros.  The newly installed time clock that is designed to reduce the length of time an average game runs seems to be functioning well for both pitchers and batters.  Games have been running 20 to 30 minutes shorter than in past seasons. The slightly larger bases seem to be much ado about nothing.  Some commentators think that the larger bases will result in more base-stealing, but it doesn’t make sense that reducing the path between first and second base by four-and-a-half inches will really make any difference.

Twitter @kenkruly