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Audio from Albany: Michael Gianaris, head of Senate Democratic campaign committee

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.


ALBANY -– State Sen. Mark Grisanti’s 2010 campaign victory was a "fluke" that will not be repeated if local Democratic Party officials can get together behind a single candidate to take on the Republican lawmaker from Buffalo, the head of the Senate Democratic campaign committee said this morning.

Senate Democrats are increasing their focus on Grisanti in their attempts to retake control of the 62-seat chamber -– which Republicans hope withstands court challenges in their quest to increase the membership to 63 senators as a way of protecting Grisanti. For Democrats, Grisanti has been identified as the GOP's most vulnerable member.

"We're trying to make sure we don't end up dividing our efforts as Democrats and making sure what is our best opportunity for a [Senate Democratic] pickup is not squandered by divisions within the Democratic Party," said State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a politically savvy Democrat from Queens who has set Grisanti in the center of the Democrats' cross hairs for the fall elections.

Gianaris said much effort is being made to "get all the Democratic forces in Erie County on the same page" to defeat Grisanti, who, he said, is in "a world of political trouble."

Gianaris was in the Buffalo area over the weekend meeting with various Democrats, including Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan. He also talked with Charles Swanick, who has already beaten Grisanti for the backing of the county’s Conservative Party for the general election this November.

"He's certainly a credible candidate," Gianaris said of Swanick; he noted he is meeting with a
number of Democrats interested in taking on Grisanti.

In his interview this morning, Gianaris also talked of relations between Senate Democrats and Gov. Andrew Cuomo –- Gianaris didn't say it, but they are frayed relations at best. He also discussed last week's veto by Cuomo of legislative pork barrel spending -– which Republicans say targeted mostly Senate Democratic initiatives -– and the prospects that Cuomo and his state Democratic Party will -– or will not -– actively help Senate Democrats this fall in trying to take over the Senate.

And the Queens Democrat talked of a possible mystery candidate emerging in another Senate district in Western New York; he would not elaborate.

UPDATE: Grisanti this afternoon declined to take the Gianaris bait. “My focus always has been and continues to be job creation for Western New York and for New York state as a whole, cutting taxes, cutting government and moving forward in a positive direction … And I think what has been shown the past 16 months is that that is coming to fruition,’’ said Grisanti, who cited his successful push for a large University at Buffalo expansion plan as evidence of his achievements in Albany.

-- Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Gianaris here:

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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 |