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Tensions appear to be rising in two Erie County Legislature district races as the countdown to the Sept. 10 Democratic primary looms closer.

At issue are two anonymous, mass mailings that were recently sent to voters of the Legislative districts currently represented by Legislator Timothy Hogues and Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant. The Democratic incumbents, both of whom represent districts in Buffalo, are each politically attacked in the two mailers.

Grant on Friday charged that a rival wing of the local Democratic party is behind the anonymous ads. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act to the Postal Service has identified the permit holder on the mailings as the Western New York Progressive Caucus, headquartered on Doris Avenue in Lancaster.

According to Grant, this organization is run by Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank C. Max Jr.

“I am not surprised, because this is the same group that has been trying to take control of the Erie County Democratic Party since the election last November,” Grant said Friday.

Max on Friday disavowed any knowledge of the mailings and denied any connection to a group called WNY Progressive Caucus.

“My group is called Progressive Democrats and we are not at all involved in city politics,” Max said.

Earlier Friday, both Grant and Hogues raised concerns not only about the timing of the glossy, color, 8½-by-11-inch cards that were mailed to voters in their district, but also the specific allegations contained in the mailings.

“I’m disappointed, because all of these allegations in there are stuff that has been brought up and disproven years ago,” Grant said.

The literature mailed to voters in Grant’s district warned them to “...keep an eye on your money” with Grant in office. The flip side listed allegations that she spent more than $2,000 on her auto allowance while serving as a Buffalo Common Council member; that she frequently abused her Buffalo School District-issued cellphone as a member of the School Board; and that she spent thousands of dollars on new office furniture while the city was under the authority of a control board.

Grant said they are all old allegations that have been thoroughly debunked.

The literature mailed to voters in Hogues’ district show an unidentified man – implied to be Hogues – with both hands shielding his face. On one side it reads: “What’s Tim Hogues hiding?” On the other, it accuses Hogues of having a “Republican” voting record in the Legislature because he supported projects to repair roads in Clarence and Amherst, which the mailer suggests was at the expense of county-funded projects that could have been pursued in the city. Hogues on Friday called the allegation preposterous.

“In every budget there’s funding for county roads. It just so happens to be that there are no county roads in the City of Buffalo,” Hogues said.

Supporting infrastructure projects wherever they are needed in the county is “the right thing to do,” he added.

Both Grant – who is seeking a fourth term in the Legislature – and Hogues – who is seeking re-election to a second term – face challengers in the Democratic primary.

Jeff Nixon, whose wife, Joyce Wilson-Nixon is opposing Grant, said they were not aware of who was behind the mailings.

“That’s not anything from her campaign,” Nixon said.

Former Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams – who was unseated by Hogues in the 2010 race and is heading for a rematch in the upcoming primary – said she, too, had no idea who sponsored the mailings.

“I haven’t done a mailing,” said Miller-Williams. “That’s an expense my campaign can’t bear right now.”

Grant, however, insisted that the WNY Progressive Caucus group that is behind the mailings is also behind the campaigns of both Wilson-Nixon and Miller-Williams. Grant supplied The Buffalo News with another mass mailing in support of Miller-Williams’ campaign that bears the same Postal permit number as the ones attacking both her and Hogues.

“What bothers me the most is that in the effort to discredit me and Legislator Hogues, they hid under the cover of darkness and didn’t have the courage to put their name to it,” Grant said.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com