Those inclined to dismiss next Tuesday’s primary as a humdrum affair, except for the Democratic contests for Buffalo mayor and Erie County sheriff, might be having second thoughts in recent days as two more candidates for Erie County Legislature charged that they are targets of unfair mailings.
In another sign of heightened tensions that some attribute to a power struggle between rival factions in the Democratic Party, candidates for seats in Districts 7 and 8 said Monday that detractors have sent mailings unfairly depicting them as “puppets” of former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon.
The claims surfaced several days after Legislator Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant and Legislator Tim Hogues criticized two anonymous mass mailings in their districts that challenged Grant’s integrity and Hogue’s voting record.
In the most recent development, Richard A. Zydel, who is embroiled in a three-way fight to win the Democratic nod for the seat of retiring District 7 incumbent Thomas J. Mazur, condemned a recent mailing prepared by the Erie County Democratic Party. It shows photos of him, Pigeon and Frank C. Max Jr., the Cheektowaga Democratic chairman. above a headline that reads: “The Worst Kind of Politics.”
“They’re desperate at this point. That’s why people do negative mailers,” Zydel said Monday night. “I don’t even talk to Steve Pigeon.”
Meanwhile, Wesley S. Moore, a candidate in the District 8 Democratic primary, contacted The Buffalo News to criticize a recent mailer that also links him to Pigeon. Moore insisted that he has met Pigeon only twice and has no allegiance to him.
“I’m not anybody’s puppet,” Moore said. “I didn’t get into this to satisfy Steve Pigeon.”
Moore is challenging Wynnie L. Fisher in the Democratic primary for a seat that is currently held by Democrat Terrence D. McCracken of Lancaster. McCracken is not seeking re-election.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner was not available to comment Monday night. But Jeffrey Sheridan, the organization’s executive director, said it is accurate to link both Moore and Zydel to Pigeon, a political leader who has been a target of controversy over the years.
“We don’t think those (assertions) are negative, we think they’re truthful,” Sheridan said.
He challenged Zydel and Moore to make full disclosures of where all of their campaign contributions are coming from, implying that such disclosures will ultimately verify Pigeon’s involvement.
Sheridan acknowledged the Erie County Democratic Committee was responsible for the mailing that targeted Zydel.
“We don’t hide from that, and we think we have the facts on our side,” Sheridan said.
The Democratic Committee is supporting Lynn Dearmyer in the primary against Zydel. Patrick B. Burke is the third candidate for the Democratic nod in a district that is heavily Democratic.
Sheridan said the Democratic Party did not send the mailer that criticizes Moore, but he said the organization is supporting Fisher’s candidacy.
Both Moore and Zydel acknowledged they are allied with Max, a chief rival of Zellner’s organization. But both candidates insisted that they would be independent voices if elected.
“For them to suggest that Frank Max is going to be controlling me is absurd,” Zydel said.
Late last week, Legislature Chairwoman Grant accused Max’s forces of financing a mailing that warned voters to “keep an eye on your money” with Grant in office. The flier listed allegations about her spending habits as a Common Council and School Board member.
Grant branded them as old allegations that were debunked long ago. The permit holder on the mailings was the Western New York Progressive Caucus, a group that Grant said has ties to Max, adding that Max has been trying to wrest control of the Democratic Party since last November.
The flier mailed in Hogues’ district accused him of having a Republican voting record in the Legislature because he supported projects to repair roads in Amherst and Clarence at the expense of projects that could have benefited the city. Hogues called the claim “preposterous,” noting that every budget includes some funding for county roads, none of which are in the city.
Hogues is being challenged in the Democratic Primary by former Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams, who was defeated by Hogues in 2010. Grant is facing a primary challenge from Joyce Wilson-Nixon.