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Panepinto eyes Grisanti challenge

    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

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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 |