Every few years, when political reporters are good boys and girls, Santa brings them a special present – the coveted Magic 8 Ball.
Today’s techno-nerds more aptly turn to iPhones or other newfangled devices for New Year’s prophesies, but grizzled scribes and baby boomers in general still put their faith in the Ebony Orb as an infallible source of truth.
So with Santa’s shiny new gift fired up for 2013, the Politics Column once again consults the 8 Ball as to what lies ahead on the political calendar.
• Will Byron Brown run for a third term as mayor of Buffalo?
It is decidedly so.
The mayor will most likely declare his candidacy at an official function in February after the State of the City address. Sources close to him point to healthy poll numbers and a campaign treasury brimming with more than $1 million as potent weapons.
• Will anyone challenge Brown in 2013?
Reply hazy, try again.
Bernie Tolbert, the retired special-agent-in-charge of the Buffalo FBI, who was also head of security for the National Basketball Association, has been making the rounds and is expected to soon decide about taking on Brown.
Tolbert is a Buffalo native with strong ties to various neighborhoods and an attractive resume. And he boasts powerful financial backers who are no fans of the current occupant of the big office on City Hall’s second floor. They, according to several sources, would be willing to help bankroll a Tolbert campaign.
But it all remains a heavy lift in view of the mayor’s wildly successful fundraising efforts and the other advantages of incumbency.
• Will the Erie County Democratic Party remain in disarray even with the election of new Chairman Jeremy Zellner?
Signs point to yes.
Already, forces loyal to Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max are coalescing around him. After unsuccessfully challenging Zellner for the party’s top job in September, Max is pressing a court case that claims voting was improperly conducted at the reorganization meeting. The case before State Supreme Court Justice Deborah Chimes – a Republican – will be decided sometime in the new year.
In the meantime, the Max crew may just run its own show. It continues to enjoy the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political operatives, and remains solid in some of the big suburbs.
If Chimes rules in favor of Max’s petition for a new election, watch for full-scale war to break out. If she rules against, guerrilla tactics will rule an uneasy peace.
• What if Zellner endorses Brown for mayor? Wouldn’t that earn points with the Cuomo forces and help heal the rift?
Outlook not so good.
City Hall seems ambivalent about the official endorsement of the Erie County Democratic Committee. Like Jim Griffin before him, Brown has quietly and efficiently built his own organization over the years. So it will run a third mayoral campaign with confidence and experience, with or without the party nod.
Still, the Brown team realizes Zellner’s endorsement can’t hurt. Zellner, meanwhile, wants to impress Albany. But Brown will charge forward no matter what happens.
• Will the County Legislature prove a focal point of political action in 2013?
Without a doubt.
Democratic primaries are already forming, with Legislators Terry McCracken of Lancaster and Tom Loughran of Williamsville as likely targets. Legislator Tim Hogues of Buffalo could also face a primary this year.
All of this reflects the internal rifts plaguing local Democrats that will preserve their decades-long tradition of internal strife in 2013.
• Will peace and harmony guide Western New York politics in 2013 to improve the region?
Concentrate and ask again.