Not a lot happened in Divided Democratland last week, and that’s the best news possible for Erie County Chairman Jeremy Zellner.
Despite the official whacking he absorbed on Election Day by losing two countywide offices and the County Legislature, and despite his irrelevant status with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s political operation, Zellner survives after two developments posed significant challenges to his chairmanship.
First, an effort he blamed on former Chairman Steve Pigeon to promote former County Executive Dennis Gorski as a possible successor went nowhere. The Buffalo News reported that Gorski considered the idea for several days until finally and forcefully declaring, “it’s not going to happen.”
The idea had some merit. While last year’s plan to promote former Mayor Tony Masiello as a countywide peacemaker failed for lack of suburban support, this one stemmed from the suburbs.
And not any suburb either. Gorski’s roots in Cheektowaga – possibly the state’s most reliable political bellwether – were not lost on anyone, including statewide Democrats.
But sources close to Gorski say he would never relish the minutiae of the chairmanship. And Zellner had no plans to leave anyway.
Second, a plan for a vote of no confidence at Tuesday’s meeting of the Democratic Town Chairs Association in Lackawanna went nowhere. Aurora Chairwoman Mary Alice Grant had planned to sponsor the move, but said that night’s inclement weather would make it difficult to use the wheelchair upon which she relies, and skipped the meeting.
Instead, Zellner ended up gaining a unanimous vote of support out of the deal, with only archenemy Frank Max, the Cheektowaga chairman, abstaining.
More rough times lie ahead for Zellner. He stands to be ignored in the upcoming election for governor as Cuomo relies on his own team, and Zellner’s status as chief of staff in the Legislature looms as doubtful following the Republican takeover.
But County Executive Mark Poloncarz remains in his corner, according to all indications. So do most of the chairmen whose committee members cast the deciding votes for the county leader.
Some Yankee managers under George Steinbrenner enjoyed more job security than Zellner faces long term. But the chairman has lots of reasons to be thankful on this holiday weekend.
Buffalo’s Carl Paladino has insisted for weeks that he will step aside as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate if New York Republicans nominate someone with the right name recognition and fund-raising ability to challenge a powerful Democratic incumbent like Andrew Cuomo.
Last week, Paladino got specific. And it did not involve Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino or Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin of suburban Troy.
Paladino likes the idea of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro.
“She’s perfect on all issues,” Paladino said. “She’s fiscally responsible, good on economic development, and I know she’s anti-SAFE Act.”
Paladino has more than hinted he will run again against Cuomo next year if the GOP fails to find a top-notch candidate who is also true to Republican principles. To him, RINO (Republican In Name Only) is a dirty word. So it is interesting that he is promoting Pirro, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general against Cuomo in 2006 and is since best known as one of those TV judges.
But Paladino said she was a featured speaker at his last Albany rally against Cuomo’s new strict gun control law known as the SAFE Act, and that she would fare well against the incumbent (though he did not mention some of Pirro’s past failures as a candidate).
“As a woman, she could be formidable on the Conservative or Republican line, but she must unite the party behind real Republican values,” he said. “I’m not sure any of the others can be very acceptable.”