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Poloncarz to announce on May 7

   While most of Western New York focuses on the May 24 special election for the 26th Congressional District, Democrat Mark C. Poloncarz is close to reminding Erie County voters that there will also be a contest for county executive this year.

   The county comptroller said this week he will announce his intentions on May 7, and nobody in the local political world is doubting he will officially declare his candidacy against incumbent Republican Chris Collins that day.

   "I feel very confident I will make the right decision," Poloncarz said.

   The Democrat faces an uphill battle. Collins has been raking in campaign money over his rookie term and has a vast personal fortune at his disposal should he need it. And most political observers say he remains popular in many areas of the county.

   But Erie County still counts 133,000 more Democrats than Republicans, and Poloncarz appears ready to take the shot.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Video: Update on race in 26th congressional district

In Sunday's print editions of The Buffalo News, Phil Fairbanks and Jerry Zremski profile the three main contenders in the race for the 26th congressional district: Jane Corwin, Kathy Hochul and Jack Davis. In this video report, Fairbanks and Zremski are joined by News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy to discuss the candidates and the latest developments in the race.

EMILY's List backs Hochul

Though two high-profile women are competing in the special election for the the 26th Congressional District, there is now no question about support from one of the nation's premier female-oriented poltical organizations -- EMILY"s list.

The Washington-based organization that supports women candidates is backing Democrat Kathy Hochul over Republican Jane Corwin and Tea candidate Jack Davis.

“Kathy Hochul is an uncompromising leader and a fiscal watchdog who’s spent her career fighting for the families of Erie County –- putting aside politics as usual to fight for the jobs that families need,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “Kathy’s brand of smart innovation has repeatedly cut costs, eliminated red tape, and streamlined services for taxpayers and small businesses.

"In a special election where millionaire opponents could split the vote, Kathy’s strong candidacy gives Democrats an excellent opportunity to take back a GOP-held seat, " she added. "A tireless public servant, Kathy always stands up for what she believes in and we are proud to put the support of the EMILY’s List community behind her.”

Backing from EMILY's List could mean substantial financial and organizational support for Hochul's campaign.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Maloney to host Hochul fund raiser in NYC

Democrat Kathy Hochul, the only candidate in the 26th Congressional District not largely self-financing the campaign, is taking her fundraising effort to Manhattan's Upper East Side on Tuesday.

According to the New York Observer's PolitickerNY Web site, the event has a decidedly pro-choice flavor with hosts like NARAL pro-choice New York board member Sarah Kovner, and Jill Lafer, the chairwoman of the group.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-Manhattan, is hosting the affair at her home with ticket prices ranging from $250 to $2,500.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Live chat with Doug Turner at 1 p.m. before Obama's speech

Join The News' Washington columnist, Doug Turner, in a discussion leading up to President Obama's speech this afternoon on debt reduction. Turner will continue with analysis during the speech and more discussion afterward.

Top Silver adviser leaving

ALBANY –- In a town well known for its history of all-powerful legislative staffers, the Assembly finds itself losing one of its most influential staff members.

Dean Fuleihan, who has worked his way up to the top Assembly staff post after 33 years on the job, announced today he is leaving at the end of the month. Besides being Speaker Sheldon Silver’s most trusted adviser and an expert on fiscal and economic matters with a keen insight into Albany’s institutional history, Fuleihan is the Democrats’ chief negotiator on fiscal matters and a whole range of policy issues the houses take up each year.

“It’s really like I am losing my right arm at this point,’’ Sheldon Silver said after telling lawmakers of Fuleihan’s departure during a closed-door meeting this afternoon. Fuleihan said he has been looking to leave for several years, but stayed on to negotiate on behalf of Assembly Democrats during several years in a row of tough state budgets.

The departure of Silver’s top adviser –- the front person in talks for Silver with several gubernatorial administrations –- set off a mad dash of speculation in the Assembly. Chief among the questions: Is this some sign of Silver, who has been the Assembly leader since 1994, leaving the 150-member chamber as well?

Silver quickly sought to halt the talk. “I have no place to go, nobody to see, so I intend to be here awhile,’’ he said, adding, “I’m not going anyplace.’’ 

Splitting Fuleihan's job will be two people: Lou Ann Ciccone, as the new secretary for program and counsel, and Matt Howard, as secretary to the Ways and Means Committee.

-- Tom Precious

Hochul, Corwin duel over equal pay

   Congressional hopefuls Kathleen C. Hochul and Jane L. Corwin marked Tuesday with their sharpest exchanges to date in a pair of dueling press releases centered around -- of all things -- equal pay for women.

   It began early Tuesday when Hochul (joined in a separate release by Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand), noted  the 15th anniversay of "Equal Pay Day," which began in 1996 as a way to illustrate the wage gap between men and women.

   Hochul, the Democratic candidate for New York’s 26th Congressional District, said she will make equal pay a top priority.

   “When I first began my career as the only new female associate at a law firm, I was very much aware of the challenges women face in the workplace,” she said. “And as the mother of a young woman soon heading out into the workforce, I, like many fathers and mothers, hope their daughters' gender will not deny them equal pay for equal work.”

   She said Corwin, her Republican opponent, voted against equal pay for women in New York State as a member of the Assembly.
“My Republican opponent thinks she, myself, and all other women deserve to take a back seat to men when it comes to salary. I do not,” Hochul added.  “Once in Congress, I will fight to ensure women are paid equal wages for the same work they do as men.”

   It didn't take long for Corwin spokesman Matthew Harakal to fire off a reply.

    "It's not surprising that career politician Kathy Hochul thinks bureaucrats are in a better position than small businesses to decide how much their workers should get paid," he said. "Jane Corwin believes that small businesses know best how to run their companies, not government bureaucrats."
   --Robert J. McCarthy


Senate Democratic leader not opposed to tax cap changes

ALBANY –- The State Senate’s top Democrat suggested today there may be some wiggle room in efforts to cap the annual growth of local property taxes.

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said there needs to be “a conversation’’ with stakeholders to determine if there is “a middle ground’’ on efforts to cap the taxes and start to control some state-imposed mandates that are driving up the costs for local governments, including school districts.

There has been talk, pushed by local governments, that any tax cap deal enacted this session needs to expand the number of “exemptions’’ –- possibly including the costs of some employee benefits –- to the cap on the annual property tax levy increase. Also, a plan to cap the annual growth at 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower, also could increase to a higher level if some groups have their way. The 2 percent ceiling has been backed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate, though lawmakers last week said Cuomo indicated in private talks he could be open to changes in his tax cap plan. The tax cap has not been approved by the Assembly, where Democrats are linking the issue to extension of a New York City rent control law.

A Siena College poll out this morning found 75 percent of registered voters want a 2 percent tax cap measure approved this year.

Sampson, meanwhile, believes going to an independent panel system to redraw legislative lines following the 2010 U.S. census –- instead of the longstanding redistricting process controlled by the Legislature -– will result in the Senate flipping control back from the Republicans to the Democrats in the 2012 elections.

“Will there be more seats in play? Yes. Will we pick up seats? Yes. And that is the fear that our colleagues across the aisle have because if the playing field is balanced, they believe that their majority will be in jeopardy,’’ Sampson said in a session with reporters today. The GOP controls the Senate by a 32-30 margin.

-- Tom Precious

Skelos combines business with politicking here

   State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos was in Buffalo Thursday, tending to some Western New York affairs and a little politics too.

   The Long Island Republican was slated to hold an afternoon press conference on budget items, along with meeting with officials on the UB 2020 plan, and conducting a business roundtable. Later he was scheduled to preside over a fundraiser for Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Williamsville.

   The majority leader's appearance allows him to claim the title of "semi-frequent" visitor to Buffalo -- considered pretty good by Senate leadership standards -- after a stint of Democratic rule in which leaders rarely ventured west of the Albany city limits. And it could be surmised that former Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno's infrequent pilgrimages here never allowed him to master pronunciation of "Scajaquada."

--Robert J. McCarthy

Two candidates' views on ending the threat of government shutdown

   In the midst of the major budget battle in Washington that threatens to shut down the federal government, Democratic congressional candidate Kathleen C. Hochul has offered her own plan while challenging her competitors to do the same.

   "I support a compromise that reduces spending by $30 billion to $40 billion," Hochul said.  "The House and Senate are in the middle of a dangerous standoff, and the only way to avoid a massive government shutdown that could disrupt essential services, like veterans’ benefits, new Social Security claims, student loans, and critical job training services, is by coming to a compromise on the budget.”

   For the past several days, she has called on Republican Jane L. Corwin and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis to follow her lead and declare their own positions -- to no avail.

   Until today.

   That's when Davis chimed in with his views -- sort of. Here is his statement:

    "Washington politicians are bickering like children. It’s another example of how both parties have failed us. They are doing nothing to put Americans back to work, which is essential to balancing the budget and securing Social Security for seniors.

   "Right now, about 56 percent of Americans over the age of 16 are gainfully employed. If that percentage rises to 64 percent, then the budget deficit disappears entirely. If the Washington politicians took the budget deficit seriously, they’d be focusing on increasing the number of jobs for Americans instead of shipping our jobs overseas.

   "Both parties continue to push trade deals like NAFTA that have destroyed our economy and our children's future.  Both parties continue to spend valuable tax dollars around the globe instead of putting Americans first. 

   "We need to bring our troops home from places like Germany and Italy that have not seen hostilities in more than a half a century. We need to end our endless wars in the Middle East. We need to stop giving money to every country on earth. We need to create American jobs and put tariffs on China’s unfair imports. 

   "The money saved from doing these things would solve the problems that Washington politicians use to threaten a shut down."

--Robert J. McCarthy




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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |