Opinion Editorial on Redistricting
Notes from the new political worldBob McCarthy
Lines for New York’s congressional and legislative districts for the next decade are semi-finalized. Life in politics around here can now proceed.
Here are a few notes and observations that result:
• Just when you thought Christopher Carl Collins would retire to his new vacation home in Florida, he’s baaaaaack. There is no doubt in Western New York political circles that the former county executive is poised to challenge Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul for Congress.
He sees a new district colored even more Republican by reapportionment. He maintains his own political organization. And he has the money to scratch a chronic political itch.
It is ironic that Collins now prepares for Hochul, who represented his worst nightmare in the 2011 reelection campaign for county executive. It turns out Mark Poloncarz was his real worst nightmare, but back then Hochul loomed as the Democrats’ dream candidate before she scored her upset congressional victory. Now, however, Collins is eager for a match against Hochul in turf minus the heavily Democratic City of Buffalo.
• As Republican congressional horses were entering the starting gate last week, Collins was not the only potential candidate with money in hand — a huge advantage in this year’s shortened primary season. County Legislature Minority Leader Jack Mills, according to one politico who has discussed the race with him, is ready to commit $500,000 of his own money.
Other hopefuls, like Sen. Pat Gallivan, former Attorney General Dennis Vacco and Iraq War veteran David Bellavia, don’t carry such sums. The question is whether they can raise it — and quickly.
• Hochul, meanwhile, was spied lunching with Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo last
week at Chef’s Restaurant. Hochul’s positions would seem to disqualify her for the minor party’s nod, but Conservatives have helped Democrats they like in other ways. Recall 2008, when Conservatives ran gun-rights advocate Budd Schroeder against Democrat Rep. Brian Higgins, splitting the anti-Higgins vote and effectively neutralizing Republican Dan Humiston. A similar move in 2012 would prove a tall order for Conservatives, who like potential Republican congressional candidates such as Collins, Gallivan, Vacco, Bellavia and Mills.
• Speaking of Higgins, he is breathing easier this week after congressional map makers drew him an even safer Democratic district anchored in Buffalo. So far, nobody has stepped up to take him on—not even self-proclaimed archenemy Carl Paladino, the Buffalo developer and 2010 Republican candidate for governor. Still, Higgins remains in his sights.
“I will work very hard to defeat Brian Higgins no matter what,” Paladino said a few days ago. “And I will work very hard to find a candidate against him.”
• It does not appear as if Democratic headquarters has yet settled on a candidate to oppose Republican State Sen. Mark Grisanti, who must still struggle to survive in a district with a 2z-to-1 Democratic advantage rather than the Dems’ current 5-to-1 edge.
Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Chuck Swanick is already in the race. But the onetime ally of former Republican County Executive Joel Giambra isn’t causing cartwheels in headquarters or on the Rath Building’s 16th floor.
• Here are two recent and interesting hires in the office of Republican County Clerk Chris Jacobs: former cable TV host Tom Christy is the new deputy clerk for finance at about $46,000; longtime Democratic activist Clarence Lott is a part-time motor vehicle representative at about $13,000 plus health insurance.
Just in case you were wondering.