A few things swirling around the world of politics in Erie County and New York State:
• Have you heard the one about State Sen. Tim Kennedy running for county comptroller this year?
“Not true,” says the senator's staff.
But a tad of logic made this rumor almost logical. Kennedy barely survived a primary challenge from County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant last fall, spending about $400,000 to win by a handful of votes. Grant almost knocked him off with $20,000.
After reapportionment significantly changed the demographics of his Senate district, Kennedy knows that re-election from now on will always prove a struggle. Countywide office just might prove attractive.
But the senator emphasizes in recent days that he remains focused on Albany's upper house. He avoided the new group of five independent Democrats who helped the Republicans retain their majority there. Now Kennedy will color himself a “true Democrat” the next time a primary rolls around, and not some hybrid cooperating with the GOP.
To that end, Kennedy jumped on the new Democratic leadership bandwagon early on. He is now cozy with new Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, further bolstering his Democratic credentials.
Expect the new minority leader (an African-American from Yonkers) to appear frequently with Kennedy in coming months around Buffalo's East Side – the home turf of Grant and other potential Senate challengers.
• Last week's Politics Column discussed the potential mayoral candidacy of Republican Sergio Rodriguez, a Marine Corps veteran and Medaille College administrator who said he is “100 percent committed” to representing the GOP in the November election.
Since then, Rodriguez has done nothing to tamp down the speculation. In fact, signs are sprouting up throughout the city asking “Who is Sergio” and directing the curious to a website. And if you looked up that website today (whoissergio.com), it says you will learn all about him in 16 days.
Another website, this one posted by the state Board of Elections, shows Rodriguez is also raising money. It's not a lot – $1,213 at this point. But all these signs point to the first Republican candidacy for mayor since Kevin Helfer in 2005.
• If you stay on that Board of Elections website, you'll notice no sign of Bernie Tolbert, the former head of the Buffalo FBI who says he is still contemplating a Democratic mayoral primary against incumbent Democrat Byron Brown. But he has not yet raised a cent.
• Brown, on the other hand, reported more than $1.1 million last week, officially qualifying for the “boatload of money” category.
• Meanwhile, out in Amherst, a familiar name in Western New York politics is weighing a comeback bid. Bob Whelan, the former Buffalo comptroller and State Supreme Court justice, is being urged to run for town judge – according to several sources. Other names mentioned for the seat of retiring Judge Mark Farrell include Republican Council Member Barbara Nuchereno and Democrat Kara Buscaglia, a former assistant district attorney.
• Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo is among the many fuming over the new and tough gun controls signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.
But Lorigo is positively beaming over the “nay” votes cast by all Western New York state legislators endorsed by his party.
The chairman also noted that while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has led the gun control chorus in recent weeks, Buffalo's Brown has not joined in. Lorigo realizes that's a tough position for a big city mayor, but still blasts Cuomo's fast-track “methodology” to pass the law.
“It was clearly a political agenda, it was clearly the governor's political agenda and he clearly wanted to scoop the president,” Lorigo said.
Brown, by the way, is expected to once again gain the Conservative nod for mayor this year.