Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy seemed especially pleased with himself a few days ago when he called with the latest political news.
Amherst Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson, he announced, will run on the GOP line against incumbent County Legislator Tom Loughran – the Democrat from Amherst.
As a rule, county chairmen are always fired up about their candidates. It's part of their job description.
But Langworthy knows he is fielding a worthy candidate in a competitive race. And that's one step closer to his goal of challenging the Democrats' 6-5 majority in County Hall.
Indeed, that slim Democratic edge may prove the focal point of local politics in 2013. Langworthy and his Republicans will mount a strong challenge, while Chairman Jeremy Zellner and his Democrats plan an equally intense counter-effort. That's because the stakes are high for control of the Legislature and all that means for Democratic County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Anderson, for example, is well known after winning twice in Amherst – the heart of District 5. He improved his victory margin in his last election, presents an instant challenge, and will probably pick up on Langworthy's emerging theme.
“The Republicans prevented a property tax increase and prevented [Poloncarz] from doing more borrowing,” Langworthy said. “The contrast to the two conferences is pretty clear.”
Zellner and his wife, meanwhile, are celebrating the birth of 10 pound, 8 ounce Rory Joseph a few days ago. When Zellner comes back down to earth, he'll be looking at his own tough fight to maintain his party's edge.
For Zellner, success on the legislative front is crucial. He faces tough challenges in winning back the countywide offices of sheriff and comptroller, and must register success in the Legislature, too, to stave off all the intra-party critics nipping at his heels. But he remains confident.
“In the last decade, 85 percent of our endorsed candidates have won primaries,” he said.
But this is New York, where minor parties have a say in things, too. And this is also Erie County, where the Conservative Party wields considerable influence. None of this is lost on Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo.
“Our endorsements are going to be very, very, very valuable,” he said a few days ago.
One interesting pol to watch in all this is veteran Democrat Tom Mazur of Cheektowaga. Former Cheektowaga Councilman Rick Zydel is challenging him in the Democratic primary.
But Mazur scored few points with Conservatives after voting against a resolution calling for repeal of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new gun control legislation. Mazur, along with fellow Democrat Lynn Marinelli (who also voted against the resolution), will have some explaining to do when – or if – they reapply for the Conservative nod.
And why is the backing of a minor party so important? Because it can often mean the difference in a close race.
Zellner, meanwhile, faces a unique and tricky situation himself. Incumbents like Mazur will seek his endorsement this year in Zellner's capacity as chairman. But Zellner is also the Legislature's chief of staff, a post he owes to the body's Democratic majority.
Zellner must now weigh factors such as Mazur's ability to snare the Conservative nod as he makes his own decisions – with his dual roles as chairman and chief of staff very much in mind.
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Interesting Scene of the Week: Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder showing up at Daisies in Lackawanna on March 23 – just as Mayor Byron Brown was announcing his bid for a third term. The weekly gathering of local pols is convened by Lorigo and his Conservatives, and Schroeder could be considered a Brown rival for the Conservative nod should the mayoral stars, moons and planets properly align.