The Erie County delegation of the State Legislature underwent big changes after the 2010 election, but "extreme makeover" may best describe changes in store for 2011.
Back on Jan. 1, two major names on the Senate roster -- Republican Dale Volker of Depew and Democrat Bill Stachowski of Buffalo -- were absent for the first time in decades. Volker retired; Stachowski was defeated. Add Republican Assemblyman Jack Quinn III after he lost his bid to succeed Stachowski in the Senate, and the changeover was significant.
But now Assemblyman Mark Schroeder may become the next Albany expatriate if he is elected Buffalo comptroller. He must first get by Aaron Siegel, a hard-charging Buffalo businessman, in the September primary. If he does, South Council Member Mickey Kearns has his eye on Albany.
In addition, a 19-year veteran of the Assembly -- Democrat Sam Hoyt of Buffalo -- a few days ago resigned from the Legislature to take a top post with Empire State Development Corp. Now Erie County Democrats are paving the way for Sean Ryan -- not exactly a household name in Buffalo or Albany -- to assume the seat held by a Hoyt for the last 36 years.
Ryan very much stems from the Hoyt camp, as does his wife -- labor lawyer Catherine Creighton. She brings union connections deemed vital to the Democratic Party, and once served as treasurer of the County Legislature campaign of Maria Whyte -- another member of the Hoyt camp now running for county clerk.
Even more changes could take place. Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes has acknowledged tiring of the weekly 560-mile round trip to the Capitol after nine years in Albany. She insisted last week she has no plans to leave the Assembly, but said she is "open to offers" should the Cuomo administration seek recruits in Buffalo.
That move could open yet another seat. And depending on the timing of such a hypothetical, it would allow Democratic leaders -- rather than primary voters -- to pick a Peoples-Stokes successor.
All of this occurs, coincidentally, just after Charlie King -- executive director of the state Democratic Committee -- has labored behind the scenes to calm the local party waters. Results so far include: Len Lenihan leaving the chairmanship; an effort for Tonawanda Democratic Chairman John Crangle to succeed him; Whyte's exit from the comptroller race and endorsement for county clerk; Hoyt's resignation and subsequent appointment; and Ryan's apparent nomination for the Assembly.
Mayor Byron Brown, meanwhile, sees two arch-enemies -- Lenihan and Hoyt -- depart the local political scene. And if the pieces continue dropping into a puzzle more and more nearing completion, the departure of Kearns -- a longtime mayoral nemesis -- would also bring smiles to City Hall's second floor.
The legislative metamorphosis, meanwhile, leaves Assemblyman Robin Schimminger -- elected in 1976 -- to provide adult supervision. The Kenmore Democrat will have more years under his Albany belt than the rest of the new delegation combined.
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Point to ponder: With designating petitions due Thursday, it is possible -- though not certain -- that party committees could end up naming County Legislature candidates if the reapportionment issue becomes the subject of protracted proceedings in federal court. If that scenario develops, party renegades such as Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams could be approaching Democratic Headquarters to ask for the nomination from long-estranged party regulars.
It will all produce interesting politics-watching over the next few weeks. Who says summer spawns the doldrums of politics?