In yet another signal sent by Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan to his intra-party foes in Albany, more than 500 people gathered at the Creekside Banquet Center in Cheektowaga Thursday night to raise funds for his party organization.
Lenihan pronounced the event a huge success, raking in about $45,000 for the Erie County Democratic Committee.
"In my nine years [as chairman], it was the biggest event I have attended," he said. "It was a great night."
The event honored County Executive-elect Mark C. Poloncarz on his election, and party faithful presented him with a new pen set for his desk in the Rath County Office Building. Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul of Amherst also attended the event, as did Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo.
Higgins' attendance is viewed as especially significant, since his South Buffalo-based political organization has on occasion found itself butting heads with Democratic Headquarters.
Lenihan has defied state party leaders who earlier this year sought his exit from the chairmanship in an effort to bring unity to the party's often warring factions. But on the day after several hundred people feted Lenihan at a going-away party in August, Lenihan changed his mind about retiring.
Since then, he has remained at the party helm and notched a significant victory with Poloncarz's win over Republican Chris Collins. He has also assumed a key role in the events surrounding Poloncarz's upcoming inauguration, the leadership of the County Legislature, and the search for a candidate to replace Poloncarz as county comptroller.
He says he has made no decision about how long he will remain as chairman, but it appears he remains very much in charge of the Erie County Democratic Party.
--Robert J. McCarthy