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State Republican Chairman Ed Cox was wrapping up one of his first forums for potential statewide candidates in Canandaigua last weekend when he decided to continue down the Thruway a little farther.

His objective was a meeting with Buffalo’s Carl Paladino, a statewide Republican voice in his own right who has been irritating Cox since jumping in the 2010 race for governor. Paladino is not running for governor again in 2014, but he’s still irritating Cox.

The Politics Column hones in on Paladino again this week because even as a non-candidate, the Buffalo developer is not going away. Cox knows that, and hoped to lure Paladino aboard the Rob Astorino for governor bandwagon.

Cox understands that a noisy Paladino, with no intention of sitting on the party sidelines, can prove a problem. He knows that Paladino will continue to preach against RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), accuse GOP legislative leaders of selling out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his SAFE Act, and convey the image of a divided party just as it needs every particle of help it can get.

Paladino said he and Cox agreed to keep the substance of their Buffalo conversation between them. But he also said he expects the chairman to continue touting Astorino – the Westchester County executive – for governor. And Paladino said he will continue railing against RINOs and their ilk.

“When you talk to Cox and Astorino, they just don’t get it,” he said. “They’re not prepared to take on the RINOs before they take on the Democrats.”

So while nary a Republican honcho anywhere has even hinted at supporting Paladino’s campaign to draft Donald Trump as the Republican candidate against Cuomo this year, he continues to stoke the fire.

So, Carl? Why are you the only guy out there holding out hope that Trump will simply show up for a coronation at the Republican State Convention in Rye Brook in May?

“I have reason to believe it,” he said. “I talk to the guy three or four times a week. He recognizes he may have jumped the gun on that tweet announcing he would not run.”

Others close to the situation confirm a new and close relationship between Paladino and The Donald. They say Paladino persuaded Trump to attend a big gun rights rally at the Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, even after the Manhattan billionaire had originally begged off.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s executive vice president, did not return a request for comment.

But while Cox always likes to visit Buffalo, and while he continues to work overtime for the party unity he desperately needs, he may have wasted his time on last week’s western swing. Paladino – with or without Trump – will continue to irritate him.

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• Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner has slated an April 5 meeting to finally settle the nagging Legislature vacancy created by the January resignation of Democrat Lynn Marinelli.

Nobody in the nine-person race yet claims enough votes to succeed, but as votes continue past the first round and the weaker candidates drop out, it’s possible District 3 could emerge with an appointed legislator on Saturday. A Democratic primary is then sure to follow.

• Quotes of the Week come from two well-known New Yorkers reacting in conversations with The Buffalo News to the death of Buffalo Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson:

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who often reminded Jets and Giants fans that only the Bills played in New York: “I was pleased to tell the Giants and everybody else in the state that when it comes to New York football there’s only one choice, and that’s Buffalo.

“He did it for Buffalo,” he said of Wilson, “and he did it as his expression of devotion.”

Former County Executive Dennis Gorski: “He was misunderstood at times, but he was one of the most significant people in the history of Buffalo, even though he wasn’t from Buffalo.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com