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And now for something completely different

ALBANY –- If it’s time for another major sports championship, it must be time for governors to make fun food wagers -– with the usual careful geo-political considerations.

This week, it’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo betting Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

Cuomo’s doing one upstate shout-out and two New York City bows with his wager if the Giants are defeated: he will give Patrick 46 dozen bagels from Ess-a-Bagel in Manhattan, 46 cheesecakes from Junior’s in Brooklyn and 46 cases of Greek yogurt, a booming upstate agriculture mini-sector.

Patrick’s payoffs ignore the western part of his state: if the Patriots lose, he will turn over pies from a popular shop in Centerville on Cape Cod, chips from a suburban-Boston company and clam chowder from the Boston-based Legal Sea Foods chain.

The food would be donated to food banks.

Not allowed in on the betting hijinks: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has claimed the Giants as his state’s football team, given the location of the Giants stadium.

-- Tom Precious

SanFilippo recovering from heart surgery

Former Buffalo Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo is recovering from open heart surgery performed last week at Buffalo General Hospital.

Tony Farina, his former City Hall spokesman, said SanFilippo is expected to leave the hospital today.

"He's facing a long convalescent and rehabilitation period, but everything seems to be going his way," Farina said.

SanFilippo, who resigned his city post last year, is now a deputy state comptroller.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Gioia to attend Romney event in Florida

Anthony H. Gioia, the Buffalo businessman and former ambassador to Malta, was en route to Tampa this  afternoon to attend a "victory party" for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, competing in the Florida primary.

Gioia, who attended a similar event on Jan. 10 in Manchester to celebrate Romney's win in the New Hampshire primary, was slated to attend a VIP reception and then be on hand for Romney's late remarks. The former Massachusetts governor is leading all polls against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Florida.

Gioia is expected to serve in a key fundraising role for Romney, including a yet-to-be-scheduled Buffalo event he is arranging with businessman Mark Hamister.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

Last week in Congress: How our representatives voted with analysis from News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski


WASHINGTON — Congress is starting 2012 with a yawn.

For proof, check out the following votes that took place in the House and Senate last week, which cover such riveting issues as electronic duck stamps and the possible establishment of a national park in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The votes are notable, from a local standpoint, for two reasons.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Skelos worries about democracy with June primaries

ALBANY -- The Legislature’s top Republican said a June primary for state lawmakers would be "very disruptive" to the annual end-of-session frenzy in Albany –- and suggested it could heighten the problem of money in politics.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Senate Republicans continue to insist that primaries -– at least involving state Senate seats –- be held in August, and not in June as Assembly Democrats are seeking. A federal judge last week ruled that congressional primaries be conducted at the end of June; the ruling left open the possibility that state legislative primaries could still be held as late as August.

Skelos said most primaries for legislative seats are held in New York City between Democrats. "You would have a member of the Legislature busy circulating petitions [in March] and making sure that their done properly when we’re negotiating a budget. Then, as we’re concluding our legislative year, the primary would be held ... and they would be looking for endorsements from unions and others, they would be looking during the process for contributions to get them through the primary process," he said.

"I think this would be very disruptive to the orderly functioning Legislature that we’ve seen since Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo has come into office," Skelos added.

The Republican leader defended the plan released last week to add a 63rd Senate seat -– seen by critics as a way for the GOP to help hold onto the chamber; Sen. Mark Grisanti last week said the 63rd seat kept Western New York from losing a Senate seat due to population losses.

"We wouldn’t be promoting a 63rd seat if we felt it was unconstitutional. That wouldn’t be very bright to have it thrown out," Skelos said.

Senate Democrats are suing over the additional seat and other federal and state lawsuits are likely.

"I believe if they do sue, as they’ve wasted so much Senate money in the past, they will be wasting taxpayer dollars once again," Skelos said of the Senate Democrats.

Asked, twice, if the new lines enhance the GOP’s ability to retain the Senate, Skelos said his own Long Island seat would have a slightly more Democratic-leaning enrollment advantage and that most Senate seats have fewer Republican voters than Democrats.

"I don’t believe this has been a partisan redistricting process," he told reporters today.

--Tom Precious

If the Rangers are in town, so is Shelly Silver

If the New York Rangers are in town, it usually means Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is too.

The Manhattan Democrat, an ardent Rangers fan, for years has scheduled a winter fundraiser for his Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee when his favorite team visits for a game against the Buffalo Sabres. It's no different this year, with an event slated for a private box at First Niagara Center during Thursday's contest pitting the Sabres against the visiting Rangers.

And with tickets set at $500 and $1,000, it's a sure bet the speaker won't be totally disappointed if the Sabres pull off a victory.

--Robert J. McCarthy


And now, from the loyal opposition

ALBANY -- We'll let the state GOP press release do all the talking.

On Pension Reform: Job Well Done, Governor

"In an op-ed last month, we suggested that Governor Cuomo utilize his State of the State address and strong budgetary powers to fight for public pension reform, specifically by reintroducing his Tier VI pension proposal in his Executive Budget.

"We thank the Governor for doing just that, for adding an attractive defined contribution plan, and standing firm despite special interest opposition.

"The Governor's plan will save $120 billion over 30 years, substantially easing the burden on New York's cash-strapped counties. This is the kind of meaningful reform that can be achieved when Democrats and Republicans work together to better New York."

--Tom Precious

Thompson denies interest in returning to politics

Former State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson said today he has not looked at new boundaries of Senate districts released last week by a legislative reapportionment commission.

"I haven't given any thought to it," he said when asked if he is contemplating another shot at Albany.

Thompson said he is concentrating on his real estate and publishing businesses and dismissed any thought that he may be contemplating a return to politics. But several sources say the former senator has been busy in recent days discussing a candidacy in the district now represented by Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

He would not comment on the reports of those sources, who say Thompson has made no commitments. All those involved in the process point out the newest legislative lines may undergo many changes in the face of an expected gubernatorial veto and possible court scrutiny.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington: Jan. 30

Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski discusses the Peace Bridge, the STOCK Act, the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and other important Buffalo-oriented issues in Washington this week.


Five Questions with Joe Golombek

We've got a new weekly feature on the Politics Now blog -- every Sunday, we're publishing a small question-and-answer with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email. The interviewee supplied both biographical information and answered a series of questions.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., during a Jan. 24 Common Council meeting. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Joseph Golombek Jr.

The basics

Job title: Buffalo Common Council member, North district
46 (47 on Groundhog Day)
Education: St. Joseph's Collegiate (freshman year); Riverside High School; Buffalo State College, (B.A. in History, minor in Polish, Russian and East European History); New York State Teaching Certificate for Social Studies, grades 7-12; M.S. Social Studies Education at Buffalo State; M.A. History, Renaissance through Napoleon at Marquette University.
Other employment: Lecturer at Buffalo State College
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience:
Secondary Social Studies Teacher at Riverside High School. It was cool to give back to my alma mater, Welcome Back Golombek.
City Salary: $52,000 + $1,000 for chairing Community Development

The questions
What's your favorite restaurant? 
As can be seen from my girth there are many, but I like Faso's, the Viking Inn, Gramma Mora's, Emily's and Lone Star Fajita Grill.

What music have you been listening to lately?
Gordon Lightfoot, Sting, Four Seasons (as in Frankie Valli, I love NYC doowop), Tchaikovsky, Steely Dan, BNL, bluegrass and Simon and Garfunkel. I spend a lot of time in the car and have been listening to lectures from the Great Courses.

Who's your political hero?
I don't have one. Hero is something that should be reserved to real people who faced adversity. My father is a hero to me. He was born in Poland, lived through the Nazis and Communists, came to this country at 16 years of age and worked very hard at Ford Motor Company to give me opportunities that he never had. Frank World, who was killed for his country in Afghanistan, was my next door neighbor. He was a great kid.

I am interested in French Canadian history. One of their premieres, Maurice Duplessis, is one of my favorite figures. He was a five-time premiere and history has been harsh to him. When I first read about him I did not like him, but kept noticing that many good things happened while he was premiere. I started to study him more and realized that the historians who wrote about him were judging him by their biases. He was a conservative and they could not say anything nice about him. The more I read, the more I realized it was like I was reading a political pamphlet. That aggravated me.

Historians need to put their personal prejudices aside and treat history fairly. I decided that I liked Duplessis, warts and all. Buffalo and New York state could learn a lot by studying his time in office. Quebec had some of the same problems then that we have now.

What's one thing people don't know about you?
I collect military miniatures (little army men to the unenlightened) and have over 100,000.

Family Guy character Stewie Griffin is your Facebook profile photo. What do you like about Stewie and what's your favorite Family Guy episode?
I love Family Guy because they are irreverent towards everyone and everything. Sometimes I cringe at what they make fun of but they do it fairly, to everyone. Stewie is sort of a joke among my friends. Paul Wolf [former Common Council chief of staff] once said that Stewie has my sense of humor and personality. It has stuck.

He is my profile because in one episode he went to the future and asked if he had at least become a city councilmember. The guys at the bar I frequent thought that sealed the comparison. My favorite episode is probably ["Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington" because it includes the clip] "That Guy," because I love "That Girl," [the sitcom that starred Marlo Thomas].

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

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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 |