ADVERTISEMENT

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said Friday he will leave his post as the County Legislature’s chief of staff to become full-time chairman of the party.

Zellner, who was expected to lose his $79,000 position anyway following the Republican takeover of the Legislature in the November election, said he never planned on the chief of staff post as a longtime job. He acknowledged he may have been able to remain in County Hall in a minority staff position at a reduced salary but said he believes it is now time to focus full time on the party post.

“It was always tough to get in 40 hours and then get the party stuff done,” he said. “The party deserves a full-time chairman.”

Other chairmen such as Leonard R. Lenihan, Zellner’s predecessor, have collected salaries to run the party, as does Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. Zellner said it has not yet been determined how much he will earn.

Zellner has also been the target of some Democrats who blame him for the party’s loss of the Legislature majority as well as county comptroller and sheriff, and promise a challenge to his chairmanship in September. Cheektowaga Chairman Frank C. Max Jr., whom Zellner defeated for the party helm in 2012, has all but announced he will run against him in 2014.

But the chairman said he is not leaving his party post and stands ready to devote his full energy to it. “In case anybody is wondering, I’m running for re-election,” he said.

Zellner said he expects to continue working in his County Hall position until sometime in January.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com