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

Baseball season has begun. The state budget is approved. Marijuana is legal in New York State. Some other things are occurring.

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

  • Sheriff Tim Howard informed me by email on April 11th that comments in my April 7th post suggesting that he was no longer supporting John Garcia for sheriff, along with my report that a change in support was due Republican Party pressure, were incorrect. I based my comments on my political sources. Howard continued that regardless of the Republican Party endorsement of Karen Healey-Case he will support Garcia throughout the campaign, including efforts to qualify Garcia on an independent ballot line.
  • Having spent a few days in Florida recently I missed out on a favorite pastime there – baseball. Arrived too late for spring training and too early for minor league games.
  • Having the Blue Jays once again this year playing their home games in downtown Buffalo is going to be quite a treat, made even nicer by the plans to have some limited fan attendance, unlike last year. Any guess how much Jays-Yankees tickets will go for?
  • With the Jays in town the Buffalo Bisons are being shuffled off to Trenton, New Jersey and will play there under the team name the Trenton Thunder – ouch! This is an unfortunate side effect of Major League Baseball’s now total control of the minor leagues.
  • The state’s new $212 billion budget is massive with an extra layer of federal Rescue Plan funding to top things off. Rich people get to pay more in taxes. As per usual, education is drawing an even bigger pot of money although it is somewhat deferred over three years. So what happens when the federal cash is gone but the spending has been becomes a habit?
  • The accolades for Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes for enacting the marijuana legislation might bring to mind for some older folks the major legislative accomplishment of the late Assemblyman from West Seneca, Vince Graber. Vince labored long and hard in the seventies to get the state to mandate the use of seatbelts in vehicles. We take it for granted now, but at the time New York was among the first states to impose that requirement. Thousands of lives have been saved due to Vince’s efforts.
  • Sensing an opportunity, Trumplicans are surfacing to run for governor next year. We won’t know for a while whether Governor Andrew Cuomo will run for re-election, but Congressman Lee Zeldin of Long Island and Rudy’s golf-playing son Andrew Guiliani are in or exploring the race. To which many Democrats will say, yes, bring it. Zeldin’s claim to fame is that he has none. Guiliani has played many rounds of golf with Donald Trump.
  • Cuomo’s problems keep mounting and his defenders are few. The class act would be to resign or to at least say he won’t run for re-election.
  • Congressman Chris Jacobs’ and Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy’s quick responses to the Tom Reed and Matt Gaetz scandals, calling for resignations, were stunning. Just kidding. They only say such things about Democrats.
  • Republicans are not rising to defend Gaetz but they are also not calling for him to resign or to be stripped of his committee assignments. I guess if you’ve spent more than four years accepting and defending the actions of Donald Trump you’ve probably already had your moral genes surgically removed.
  • There is lots of talk about the Senate’s obstructive supermajority filibuster. Here is some wisdom about congressional action by majority rule: Requiring supermajority votes in Congress means that “its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 22.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote: “it is my principle that the majority should always prevail.”
  • On the other hand there is this from Mitch McConnell: “Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can ever begin – can ever begin to imagine – what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like” if the 60 vote filibuster supermajority is eliminated.
  • Actually many observers already know what McConnell’s “scorched earth Senate” looks like. We’ve seen it for years. My vote is with the founders, Jefferson and Hamilton.
  • The race for Erie County sheriff will not only will test the candidates. The Democratic and Republican Parties’ skills in winning major primaries will also be on display.
  • Good for the Buffalo News’ Matt Spina and Channel 7’s Charlie Specht for their reporting on some of the candidates for sheriff as they dig deep into newly available personnel records of the sheriff candidates who are or have been members of a police force. Better that voters know about these issues prior to voting.
  • Thus far there has been limited discussion about what the candidates’ specific plans are for new management of the Sheriff’s Office. We need to hear details on jail management, operating plans for the road patrol, and a variety of other things.

Handicapping the June primaries

Round One of WNY politics 2021 is scheduled for Primary Day, June 22, less than 80 days from now.  In some cases the primary will effectively end the election season, while for others its then off to November.

Once again this year requirements of the Election Law have derailed some campaign efforts. The Working Families Party takes the prize for most significant screw-ups. The party will have no candidate for Erie County sheriff because they didn’t come up with enough signatures to qualify their “placeholder” candidate, an attorney who wasn’t even from Erie County. Then they topped things off by failing to counsel their candidate for mayor of Buffalo, India Walton, that she needed to file an acceptance of the party nomination form with the Board of Elections on a timely basis, which resulted in her disqualification from the November ballot on the Working Families line.

Mayor of Buffalo

Regardless of the baggage that anyone in office 15+ years accumulates, and regardless of some very serious issues with the city’s financing, police department operations, education system and community relations, Mayor Byron Brown remains in the driver’s seat for re-election.  With no opposition from the Republican, Conservative and Working Families Parties in November, he is set to be for all intents and purposes re-elected on June 22.

That is not to say that community activist India Walton is not running an aggressive and spirited race.  It appears that she has attracted a considerable number of supporters.  How much she is raising to pay for brochures, mailers, electronic ads, etc. will not be known until she files a report with the state Board of Elections on May 21.  (For Walton and all other candidates, financial reports to the state might as well be going to Timbuktu since the state Board has essentially closed off reliable public access to such data.)

Even if Walton is successful in raising money, Brown started the year in January with about $100,000 more in the bank that Walton and he has the ability to collect substantial donations without much effort.  He also has a built-in campaign team that knows the drill concerning running a campaign.

Erie County Sheriff

For pure political entertainment value nothing will beat the race for sheriff in 2021.  As this is written in the first full week of April, there are still at least seven contenders for the office.  Things will clarify after the primary.

The Republicans have a three-way primary coming up.  Retired Buffalo police officers John Garcia and Karen Healey-Case plus gun rights person Steve Felano have filed petitions.

Garcia’s campaign financial report in January showed him far ahead in dollars in the bank.  Can the Erie County Republican Committee find a way to match that money?

Garcia also began the year with some heavy hitter politicos support which included retiring Sheriff Tim Howard along with the Buffalo PBA and a major gun organization. Party leadership leaned in and Garcia has lost some of the heavy hitters, including Howard. Publisher note: after publication of this post Sheriff Howard advised that he remains a Garcia supporter. More in the April 13, 2021 post.

Healey-Case has the Conservative Party endorsement which it would seem is mostly for bragging rights until after the primary.  If Healey-Case loses the Republican nomination to Garcia she will remain on the ballot in November.  This race is a toss-up with Garcia holding an edge because of the money he has in his campaign account.  Also the Republican Party in Erie County doesn’t have much experience with primaries.

The Democrats also have a three-way primary for the office.  The endorsed candidate is Cheektowaga Deputy Police Chief Brian Gould.  Challengers, assuming petitions are cleared, include Canisius College Public Safety Director Kim Beaty and community activist Myles Carter.  Will Gould and Beaty need to resign or take leaves of absence from their current jobs in order to run in the primary?  Gould will have the edge in the primary because of his party endorsement but don’t underestimate Betty Jean Grant’s skills with the Beaty team.

Adding to the strange dynamics of the sheriff’s race are the reports filtering out about the professional history of the candidates.  Garcia as a Buffalo officer once led a raid on the wrong apartment.  Gould has a couple disciplinary reports in his file (along with various accommodations.)  Healey’s greasy shoe, she said, caused a police vehicle accident which cost Buffalo $825,000.  There is a second story making the rounds about Healey-Case; who knows if there are additional stories about the other candidates, given that police department records are more easily available.  Do any of these things make a difference in a 2021 campaign?  We’ll see.

Erie County Comptroller

With Stefan Mychajliw off to Hamburg to run for supervisor, which he is doing in his spare time when not Twitter trolling, Democrats will have a primary for the right to challenge Republican Lynn Dixon in November.

Endorsed candidate Kevin Hardwick will face businessman Hormoz Mansouri.  Hardwick has run multiple times for county legislator and has served in that body for twelve years.  This is Mansouri’s first run for office.

Hardwick’s party support will be very helpful.  Mansouri’s personal bankroll will provide advantages.  Both men are knowledgeable about public issues.  Mansouri will have a lot of explaining to do about his long-time association with convicted ex-party Chairman Steve Pigeon, who has not been very visible in recent years as he awaits sentencing, but his highly negative reputation could prove toxic to Mansouri.  Look for Hardwick’s party assistance to trump Mansouri’s money in this campaign.

A couple other primaries

Hamburg Democratic voters will have a choice to make about a candidate for town supervisor.  Randall Hoak is the endorsed candidate and the Hamburg Democratic Party is primed and ready to assist. 

Hoak’s opponent is Bob Reynolds, who served briefly in the County Legislature a couple decades ago.  This race may have more to do with personal issues of some people involved in the campaigns than it does about how to manage the Town of Hamburg.  Hoak will have the edge.

In Amherst there will be Republican, Conservative and Working Families primaries for town justice.  Incumbent Kara Buscaglia has the Democratic nomination locked up and has been endorsed by the Conservatives but has also entered in the primaries of the Republican and Working Families parties against former radio personality Kathy Weppner. There is also a Conservative primary.

It is interesting to see that the Republicans passed on endorsing a well-qualified incumbent judge.  It is also interesting to see that the Republicans could not come up with a candidate for town justice who has a law degree in a town with hundreds of attorneys.  Buscaglia should do well in the primaries and in November.

State law does not require town justices to be lawyers.  Perhaps in towns with just a few thousand residents that does not matter much, but in larger towns like Amherst judicial matters are often much more complex.  The law should be changed to require a law degree.