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A few items picked up along the campaign trail:

* Developer Howard Zemsky continues to rank as a "go-to guy" for New York's Democratic governors. Eliot Spitzer eyed Zemsky to be chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority back in 2008, and David Paterson was thought to be a fan, too.

Now Andrew Cuomo has tapped Zemsky as one of his top economic development advisers for Western New York.

When the new governor eventually addresses vacancies at the NFTA, it will be interesting to see if Zemsky will again be considered for chairman. He would then command two of the most influential positions in Western New York, underscoring his status as Cuomo's go-to guy.

* Sources close to Tonawanda Democratic Chairman John Crangle say he has the votes to succeed Len Lenihan at the helm of the Erie County Democratic Committee. Others say only that he holds a "strong position" in the race against Cheektowaga Chairman Frank Max, with no third candidate yet seen on the horizon.

* State Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens is crowing over the latest campaign finance reports showing more than $1 million for his Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, making it "very well positioned to take back the majority." But Republicans take issue, claiming the Dems have only $36,000 on hand, while they boast $2 million.

* This is for sure -- Democrats and Republicans alike are focused on Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti. He was lambasted by Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo for his crucial vote on legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, and afterward did not dismiss the idea of running as a Democrat in 2012.

"One thing I can say with extreme confidence," Gianaris says, "a Democrat will hold that seat come Jan. 1, 2013."

* Retaining Sen. Tim Kennedy's Buffalo seat also remains a top priority for Senate Dems. And Kennedy is doing his part by raising about $180,000 over the first six months of 2011, more than any Democrat other than Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx.

That kind of money serves its intended purpose -- scaring off potential challengers.

* Republican county clerk candidate Chris Jacobs filed no campaign finance report on July 15, claiming he had conducted no financial transactions for the campaign at this early date. But backers of Democratic candidate Maria Whyte wonder who paid for the palm cards Jacobs has been distributing along the campaign trail.

Jacobs' ability to self-finance is expected to give him a big advantage in the upcoming election, especially since Whyte weighed in July 15 with only $18,295 on hand.

* Cuomo's appointment of gazillionaire developer Howard Millstein as chairman of the Thruway Authority landed with a thud in some upstate quarters, prompting many observers to closely watch the upcoming replacement of Executive Director Michael Fleischer, a Pataki administration holdover who resigned last week. One name with local backing, say insiders, is Maria Lehman -- the former Erie County public works commissioner in the Giambra administration who was also a candidate for state transportation commissioner.

* Much has been made in recent days of the mere $104,000 in the campaign coffers of Democratic county executive candidate Mark Poloncarz -- especially in relation to incumbent Republican Chris Collins' whopping $1.6 million. But the Democrat is expected to gain a major boost on Aug. 18, when the area's three Democratic members of Congress -- Louise Slaughter, Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul -- join forces to host a major fundraising event at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com