A Buffalo attorney with strong ties to the Democratic organization established by former
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is polling voters in the 60th Senate District as he explores a candidacy
against Republican incumbent Mark J. Grisanti.
Mark P. Panepinto, 47, said he hopes polling results available next week will expedite a
process that could lead to his entrance into next November's contest. Grisanti, who upset
former Democratic Sen. Antoine M. Thompson in the overwhelmingly Democratic district in 2010,
is expected to face a tough re-election challenge after committing to remain a Republican earlier this
"Before I decide to turn my life upside down next year," Panepinto said, "I owe it to my
family and friends, whom I will be asking for help, to see if I can be competitive."
The Grisanti seat ranks as one of the top objectives of Senate Democrats for 2012,
according to Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign
Committee. He has visited Buffalo several times this year to lay the groundwork for the 2012
campaign, and has flatly predicted that Democrats will retake the seat.
Panepinto said he has met with Gianaris, Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan
and officials of the Working Families Party in Brooklyn to lay groundwork for his candidacy.
He said he can already rely on a Democratic organization based on the West Side that includes
Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan and outgoing County Legislature Majority Leader Maria R. Whyte for
He acknowledged nothing is yet certain about the district because its boundaries are almost
certain to change following the upcoming reapportionment process. But he said he feels good
about a district he believes will include the West Side and North Buffalo, and believes his
Italian heritage will help him challenge Grisanti.
"I never would be doing this poll if I weren't approached by enough people," Panepinto said
His wife, Catherine Nugent Panepinto, was elected to State Supreme Court in 2010.
The only other Democrat to express interest in the seat is Hamburg attorney Michael
L. Amodeo, who is exploring a candidacy in the event the new district extends along the lake
shore into the Southtowns, as envisioned by some observers.
--Robert J. McCarthy