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Differing views on the race in NY27

   WASHINGTON -- The man in charge of the Republican effort to win House seats this week gave, temporarily at least, a less-than-ringing endorsement of Chris Collins and David Bellavia, the GOP candidates who hope to face off against Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul in the fall.

   At a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was asked if he was concerned that the GOP might now be putting forward the best possible candidate to face Hochul, given that both Collins and Bellavia have waged losing campaigns in recent years.

   "I am not concerned about that yet," Sessions replied.

Continue reading "Differing views on the race in NY27" »

Obama and gay marriage -- a marriage of convenience?

   WASHINGTON -- There's no doubt that President Obama made history Wednesday with his declaration of support for gay marriage, but there's reason to doubt the contention that he stumbled into his new position on the issue.

   In fact, the unveiling of his support for same-sex marriage actually seems rather carefully planned.

Continue reading "Obama and gay marriage -- a marriage of convenience?" »

Second set of interviews scheduled for South seat candidates

The Buffalo Common Council is inviting five new candidates for public interviews for the South District seat Tuesday morning.

The candidates submitted resumes as part of the second round of the search to fill the vacant South seat, which followed a first round where none of the candidates emerged with the support of enough lawmakers.

The interviews will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall.

Earlier today, Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said he was not sure whether there would be public interviews or if the new set of candidates would interview one-on-one with lawmakers.

The five candidates to be interviewed are Frank Badaszewski, James J. Creahan, Kevin M. Lafferty, Christopher P. Scanlon and Thomas J. Sullivan. (Click their last names to read their resumes.)

The South seat has been open since Michael P. Kearns won a March 20 special election for State Assembly. After none in the first round of candidates could garner the five votes necessary for the appointment, the Council reopened the search April 30.

Former Kearns aide Matthew Fisher received the endorsement of the Democratic Party committeemen in the South District, and has had the support of four lawmakers.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Looks like Shenk vs. Mychajliw for county comptroller

  Erie County Republicans appear to be settling on former Channel 2 reporter Stefan Mychajliw as their candidate for county comptroller.

   Party sources say Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy favors Mychajliw, who runs his own public relations agency after serving as campaign spokesman for former County Executive Chris Collins last year. Langworthy also had been discussing the race with former congressional candidate Dan Humiston, but sources said the Tanning Bed chain owner turned down the offer.

   The field for the comptroller's race, which will fill the vacancy left by the election of Mark C. Poloncarz as county executive, took more shape Wednesday when interim Comptroller David J. Shenk officially announced his candidacy. He was appointed by the County Legislature earlier this year, and is thought to enjoy a strategic advantage because of the large number of Democrats in heavily Democratic Erie County expected to turn out for the November presidential election.

   The winner of this year's election will fill out the remaining year in Poloncarz's term, and must run for a full term in 2013.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Erie County Hall Politics Now chat with Denise Jewell Gee

The News features a live chat on Politics Now weekly at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Today's is hosted by Denise Jewell Gee, with the focus being on Erie County politics and the happenings at County Hall.

The schedule for other Politics Now chats is: First Thursday of month: Aaron Besecker on Buffalo City Hall; third: Tom Precious on Albany; fourth: Jerry Zremski on Washington. The News' Bob McCarthy also joins the chats when available.


Congressional veteran joins Bellavia campaign staff

   For weeks, Republicans advising congressional hopeful David Bellavia have urged him to start assembling a staff of professionals.

   On Wednesday he did did just that, bringing on Paul Cole as campaign manager.

   Cole has extensive experience in managing congressional campaigns and is no stranger to the new 27th District now represented by Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul. He was district director for former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds; director of economic development for former Rep. Christopher J. Lee, and assistant finance director for former Rep. Bill Paxon.

   Bellavia has also been receiving advice on a volunteer basis from Michael R. Caputo, chief spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino in 2010. Kathryn DeLong has also joined the campaign as spokeswoman.

   Speaking of Cole, Bellavia said, “Paul’s record of success in Western New York campaigns, federal government, policy, and management make him a great addition to our team. I am honored to have him as our campaign manager."

   Bellavia will face former County Executive Chris Collins on June 26 for the right to challenge Hochul in November.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Obama supports gay marriage rights; didn't discuss matter Tuesday with Cuomo

ALBANY – With President Obama saying this afternoon he supports gay marriage rights, one of the Democratic Party’s chief advocates for legalizing same-sex marriages said the topic was not discussed a day earlier during Obama’s trip to Albany.

Obama sat down with Good Morning America this afternoon at the White House and ABC News is reporting that Obama said his position has evolved to the point where he now supports gay marriage rights.

“We had a few conversations … The issue did not come up,’’ Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today when asked about private time he shared with Obama Monday during a stop by the president at the University at Albany.

The president’s comments this afternoon came after Vice President Biden on Sunday said he would now be “absolutely’’ comfortable with the legalization of same-sex marriages. A day ago, North Carolina voters approved a measure to ban same-sex marriage rights.

Asked earlier Wednesday if he was disappointed Obama had not spoken out in support of gay marriage rights, Cuomo said, “I wouldn’t presume to tell the president of the United States what his opinion should be or his politics or strategy.’’

Despite the vote in North Carolina, Cuomo said he believes more and more states will be adopting, like New York did last year, laws okaying marriage between gay couples. He stopped short of federal action on the matter. “I believe in states’ rights … I don’t know if the solution should be the federal government telling the states what to do,’’ Cuomo said.

In his interview this afternoon, ABC News reported the president said: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.’’

UPDATE: Cuomo late this afternoon called the president's new public position "a major advancement for equal rights in this country.''

"I applaud the president's courage. I believe it will be respected by the people of this country. I think it's going to be a great boost for marriage equality,'' Cuomo told reporters in the Capitol's Red Room.

The governor noted that the gay marriage issue is one being played out in the states, not directly in Washington. "But I think the fact that the president of the United States takes this position will cause people around the country to say, 'Let me think about this again,''' Cuomo said.

With GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney this morning again saying he opposes same-sex marriage rights, Cuomo said he did not know if the president's position will make the gay marriage issue more partisan. "I think people respect officials who are willing to stand up and give their position on a controversial position, whether or not they disagree with it,'' the governor said.

-- Tom Precious

U.S. Chamber of Commerce targets Hochul in new ad

   Republican congressional hopefuls Chris Collins and David Bellavia are getting some free help already from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the GOP-friendly lobby group is targeting Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul with a new round of ads.

   The Associated Press reported that the ads hit Democratic incumbents over votes for President Obama's health care overhaul and backing his energy policies. They are slated to begin airing Wednesday and Thursday and run for 10 days to two weeks, part of a multimillion-dollar ad buy six months before the election.

   In New York, the Chamber is also running ads criticizing Democratic Reps. Tim Bishop, Bill Owens, and Louise Slaughter. It's running spots praising Republican Reps. Nan Hayworth, Ann Marie Buerkle and Chris Gibson, who face tough contests this November.

   "We're going to be going on offense, as well as protecting our friends in this round," Rob Engstrom, the national political director for the chamber, told AP.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Mills, Ross to lead Collins campaign

   Republican congressional hopeful Chris Collins has rolled out two top legislators to lead his effort to challenge Democratic incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul for the new 27th Congressional District seat this fall.

   Erie County Legislature Minority Leader John J. Mills and Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross will serve as his campaign chairmen, Collins said, calling them "respected, trusted leaders in their respective counties."

   "I worked closely with Jack to bring common sense, financial reform to Erie County and I got to know Bill well as Erie and Niagara counties partnered on many key economic initiatives, said Collins, the former Erie County executive.

   Collins continues to garner support from the western portion of the district, announcing on a regular basis a string of town organizations from Erie and Niagara counties that have joined his campaign in a GOP primary against Iraq War veteran David Bellavia. Many of the town and county organizations from smaller counties to the east, however, continue to support Bellavia.

--Robert J. McCarthy 

Audio from Albany: Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan

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 — If the fight in Buffalo schools has proven one thing, it is that the teacher evaluation issue — which state officials announced this spring with great fanfare — is far from a done product across the state's 700 districts.

The influential chairman of the Senate Education Committee, John Flanagan, said there are still a number of important issues to be flushed out. Not the least among them is whether to make future evaluations of individuals available to the public, or at the least, to parents.

"It's a very delicate balancing act," said Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican.

The lawmaker, in an interview this morning, raised concerns about the extremely high margin of error rates already seen in teacher evaluations in New York City — and the ramifications that hold for trying to improve performance of teachers.

"I believe we have a lot of members who have concerns about putting a ton of information out there," Flanagan said of making teacher evaluations public. He raised concerns that some teachers might not go into certain challenging classroom situations, such as special education, in a system he said already sees an attrition rate of 50 percent after five years on the job.

Flanagan said the issue of what information, if any, about teacher evaluations will be made public is a matter likely to be resolved in the coming weeks before the 2012 legislative session ends in June.

But the respected lawmaker said there are still many issues to be resolved as districts across the state get down to work in the coming months to craft their own evaluation systems — which will need everything from the backing of teacher unions to the state education department."

"If it's done quickly and ineffectively then we haven't done our jobs. I would rather see everyone take the proverbial deep breath and have it done in a fashion that everyone can say, "All right, we had a few bumps in the road. We recognize those. We addressed them, and now we have a much better working system," said Flanagan, who first joined the Legislature in 1987.

--Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Flanagan here:

Download audio

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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 |