Jeremy J. Zellner should resign as Erie County Democratic chairman because he is putting his own employment interests ahead of electing a Democrat as the next sheriff, the head of Democratic candidate Richard E. Dobson’s campaign said Thursday.
James J. Eagan, chairman of the campaign for Dobson, who defeated endorsed candidate Bert D. Dunn in the Sept. 10 primary, is accusing Zellner of abandoning Dobson to concentrate on electing Democrats to the County Legislature.
Zellner serves as the $79,577-a-year chief of staff in the Legislature, where the makeup of the 2014 roster may determine his future employment.
Eagan said Zellner informed them that the sheriff’s race would occupy a lower priority than electing Democratic candidates to the Legislature.
“Obviously, this is because of his patronage job,” Eagan said. “He’s putting his personal interests ahead of the party. He should resign.”
Eagan, who is secretary of the State Democratic Committee controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said Zellner’s refusal to financially help the Dobson campaign against the Republican incumbent, Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, indicates a failure to grasp the “olive branch” extended by the Dobson campaign.
He said he and Dobson supporters Jack O’Donnell and Rich Horner met Wednesday with Zellner to seek help in the general election campaign. But Eagan said the meeting proved unproductive.
And if the Legislature ranks as Zellner’s highest priority, Eagan said, then the chairman is advancing his own interests in preserving his job over his responsibilities to the party.
“This is not a way to unite a party,” he said.
Zellner, meanwhile, said he is helping Dobson in various ways, especially in setting up a Monday meeting before Democratic town chairmen. He also is helping with printing arrangements and is setting up a meeting with zone chairmen in Buffalo.
But he said he has made no financial commitments because he must pay attention to several campaigns. “He said he’d raise $275,000 for Dick Dobson,” Zellner said of Eagan. “What’s he worried about me for?”
Zellner said Eagan’s comments are not helping to unite a divided Democratic Party.
“That’s what Jim Eagan and others need to do,” he said. “I’m asking them to quit their bickering and get back to the business of supporting Democrats.”
The sheriff’s race proved especially divisive this year after Zellner called for an investigation of an independent committee that paid for Dobson’s television advertising. It has ties to former Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon, a foe of the current chairman.
Dunn has chosen to remain in the race on a minor party line and is seen as possibly helping Howard by splitting the Democratic vote.