A few things to know about politics in Erie County and New York State:
• Late last week, new Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner was slated to sit down with Mayor Byron Brown to discuss 2013 – election year for Hizzoner.
Zellner is widely viewed as a close ally of former Chairman Len Lenihan, and no such confab would ever occur between Lenihan and Brown – both registered on the Official List of Archenemies.
Zellner, however, said throughout his campaign that he wanted a new relationship with the mayor. They spoke during the campaign, and appear ready to talk again. Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, the mayor’s political point man, has always said Brown can do nicely without help from Headquarters. But he is nevertheless encouraged by Zellner’s move.
“We’re more than willing to work with the party if they’re willing to work with us,” Casey said. “Jeremy called this week, and we’ll sit down.”
Like Jim Griffin before him, Brown has – in recent years especially – never depended on the party or its endorsement. But party backing would only help his cause next year by making him that much more formidable.
And, oh yes – his $1 million campaign treasury doesn’t hurt, either.
• By all accounts, Zellner’s victory still fails to impress anyone in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle. That crew initially supported former Mayor Tony Masiello for the chairmanship, turning to Cheektowaga Chairman Frank Max when that idea failed.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz, meanwhile, emerged as a Zellner supporter – even if quietly and behind the scenes. The county executive assumed the unique position of taking on the Great and Powerful Oz – er, Cuomo – and it will be interesting to follow the developing relationship between Floor 2 of the Capitol and Floor 16 of the Rath County Office Building.
• After Max a few days ago filed suit in State Supreme Court seeking a mulligan on the Democratic chairmanship vote, it’s obvious that rifts within the party have not healed. If those rifts do not heal, watch for a rash of County Legislature primaries to break out in 2013, with races against Legislators Tim Hougues, Betty Jean Grant, Tom Loughran and Terry McCracken most often mentioned.
• Taking that thought further, Poloncarz’s support of Zellner now pits him against the chairman in Cheektowaga, which all students of Erie County know often proves the bellwether of its politics. The county executive now also lives in the City of Buffalo, which those same history students realize offers a dangerous address for Democrats seeking countywide office.
• Cuomo recently elevated State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Whalen to the Appellate Division in a major judicial development. Sources close to the move say it ranked as a top priority for Rep. Brian Higgins, who went to bat for Whalen with Cuomo.
• Interesting factoid dug deep from the bowels of the latest Siena College poll gauging the big congressional race between Republican Chris Collins and Democrat Kathy Hochul: In Erie County, where Collins is best known, Hochul leads 51 to 45 percent. In Niagara and all other counties, Collins leads 48 to 44 percent.
Collins re-entered politics after losing his county executive post less than a year ago on the premise that the City of Buffalo and big towns like Cheektowaga and Tonawanda that voted against him were not included in the new 27th District.
• Another factoid has Collins with 48 percent and Hochul with 47 percent among Catholics, while Collins leads big time – 56 to 37 percent – among Protestants.
It’s Sunday, and we thought you’d like to know.
• Big debates loom this week between Collins and Hochul as the two meet on Channel 17 at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It will also be aired on Channel 2, WNED AM 970 and WBFO FM 88.7 (along with all their websites), Rochester radio and television and
Channel 23 follows at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday when Hochul and Collins meet in a faceoff sponsored by Channel 4. And YNN rounds out the debate schedule at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24.
Anyone who thinks debates don’t matter should just ask President Obama.