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A 13-year-old for "A Better Future"

Ballan1CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- The New York contingent to the Republican National Delegation is a little short on the funny hats and crazy costumes that make such events so colorful, but 13-year-old Joey Ballan is doing his part to stand out in the crowd.

Joey arrived at the New York delegation breakfast this morning with his father, John Ballan, a GOP activist from Scarsdale.

And not only did young Joey arrive in a Yankees hat, he came with a sign that said "I'll need a job in 10 years -- vote for Romney and Ryan."

Asked if the sign was his son's idea, the elder Ballan said: "It was a joint production."

-- Jerry Zremski

New Yorkers say Ann Romney stole the show

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ann Romney's Tuesday night speech at the Republican National Convention kept the crowd buzzing today at the New York delegation breakfast.

Women especially seemed thrilled with her speech, although men said she was the star of the show as well, outshining New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the keynoter who still won plenty of praise for making the case for replacing President Barack Obama along with some criticism for talking too much about himself.

"I connected with her," said Jennifer Walter, the wife of New York State Assemblyman Ray Walter of Amherst. "As a wife, as a mother, she really made a connection."

Lisa Grey, who is running for a State Senate seat from Staten Island, said Mrs. Romney's speech stood out for how it could change public perceptions of the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney -- who, polls show, trails Obama by double digits when pollsters ask which candidate is more likable.

"She humanized Mitt Romney," Grey said. "For people who didn't know him, she showed what kind of person he is."

Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards said Mrs. Romney went a long way toward countering the Obama campaign ads that offer a false and damning portrait of the GOP nominee.

"He's not what he's been portrayed to be," and Mrs. Romney showed that, Edwards said, adding: "Hers was the most powerful speech of all."

But Christie's was plenty powerful, too, Assemblyman Walter said.

"I think Chris Christie is a real star," he said.

Others privately grumbled that the bombastic New Jersey governor didn't mention Romney until deep into his speech, instead focusing on his own New Jersey story.

But any criticism of Christie paled in comparison to the praise for Romney.

"How about Ann Romney last night?" House Speaker John Boehner told the New York delegates this morning. "This was the biggest speech of her life, under the most difficult circumstances. And I thought she just did a marvelous job."

As for Christie, Boehner termed his speech "very, very commendable."

In this video, former New York Gov. George Pataki praises Ann Romney's speech and discusses his own plans to possibly campaign for the Romney-Ryan ticket:

— Jerry Zremski

What does the county executive's staff do when a union vote fails? A revision

Back in July, when County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz reached a tentative agreement with county government's largest union, confidence exuded from the 16th floor of the Rath Building.

He wasn't taking interviews on the subject, but a news released issued by his office on July 23 included this quote: “In my first 7 months, I have done what the previous two administrations could not accomplish over the last 5 years--reaching a fair agreement with the County’s largest employee union,” Poloncarz said in a written statement released by his office.

The statement was a leap.

Former County Executive Chris Collins had also reached a tentative contract in 2010 with the union. That proposal was voted down by the CSEA's membership.

The same thing happened last week when CSEA members rejected the latest proposal negotiated by Poloncarz.

Poloncarz did not make himself available to discuss the vote with The News on Thursday, but his office did issue another written statement.


Staff in his office also quietly went back and revised the original statement sent out to news outlets on July 23. The quote claiming Poloncarz had done "what the previous two administrations could not accomplish over the last 5 years" has been deleted.

The sentence now reads: "Today, I believe we have reached a fair agreement with the County’s largest employee union,” said Poloncarz.

Why the change? Peter Anderson, a spokesman for Poloncarz, said the county executive's director of policy and communications "thought that first sentence was presumptive being that it was a tentative agreement."

-- Denise Jewell Gee

No Ron Paul revolution in the WNY delegation

  TAMPA, Fla. -- Western New York’s Republican leaders weren’t exactly impressed with the big show Ron Paul supporters made on the convention floor Tuesday.

   Upset that the convention adopted new presidential nominating rules that will make it more difficult for insurgents like Paul to make serious runs for the nomination, Paul delegates booed and chanted loudly. And Paul himself told Fox News that he might not vote for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

   But Paul, a Texas congressman known for his libertarian views, has no delegates in New York and won little sympathy there.

   “The party needs to come together and focus on the nominee,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. “This convention should be about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Anything else is a distraction.”

   Michael J. Norris, the Niagara County Republican chairman, agreed.

   “We’d ask all Republicans to come together so that we can elect Mitt Romney over the alternative,” he said.

--Jerry Zremski

D'Amato urges GOP to include Hispanics

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Former Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato was clearly enjoying himself Tuesday as he addressed the New York delegation to the Republican National Convention, telling old campaign stories and recalling days when New York Republicans constituted a powerful force.

But the three-term former senator assumed a much more serious tone when he later told reporters the New York GOP must reach out to Hispanics and immigrants in order to once again become viable statewide.

"We need to make a concerted effort to get the biggest growing bloc participating in politics — the Hispanic community," he said. "I look at that community as a very hard working, family oriented community that Republicans should be appealing to."

D'Amato, 75, compared Hispanics to the Italian immigrants of his grandparents' generation who found a home in the GOP, and said today's party leaders should make the same outreach efforts.

Now head of a major lobbying firm called Park Strategies, D'Amato gave credit to President Obama for making it easier for the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country when he was asked about policy friendly to Hispanics.

But he also said the president should be faulted for maintaining troops in places like Afghanistan when they could be guarding U.S. borders against illegal immigrants. D'Amato said the party faces tough times unless it broadens its appeal, acknowledging that statewide victories are not as attainable as in his day, when Democrats enjoyed an enrollment advantage of only about 500,000 compared to 3 million today.

"Unless you have a well funded campaign or a badly flawed Democrat, it's awfully difficult," he said. "Make no mistake about it, it's a very difficult task."

D'Amato talks about the New York Republican party's strengths and weaknesses in this video:

— Robert J. McCarthy

Cardinal Dolan to deliver convention benediction

   CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- Much has been made of New York's practically invisible role at the Republican National Convention this week, including the fact that not one New Yorker will address the gathering.

   Turns out, however, that one New Yorker after all will speak before the convention -- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York -- who was in Buffalo on Aug. 10 to install Bishop Richard J. Malone as new head of the Diocese of Buffalo.

   Dolan will offer the benediction to close out the proceedings on Thursday night, immediately after Mitt Romney delivers his acceptance speech. The cardinal's appearance is sure to spark discussion about his participation in the convention, but it appears he simply accepted an invitation.

   "He was asked; he accepted," is how Anthony J. Casale, chief of staff to New York GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox, explained the situation to New York reporters.

   --Robert J. McCarthy

Video from Tampa: McCarthy interviews state GOP chair

News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy interviews New York Republican chairman Ed Cox in Tampa during the GOP national convention:

No GOP worries about Collins-Hochul

   TAMPA -- With a Buffalo News poll showing Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, within striking distance of Republican Chris Collins in New York's GOP-heavy 27th Congressional District, you might think national Republicans would be worried.

   Think again.

   Guy Harrison, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters Monday that he's confident about the state of the race, even though the widely respected Rothenberg Political Report rates it a toss-up despite a seven percentage point Republican edge in the district.

   "I'll take being tied in August," Harrison said.

    Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Scalise, who was in charge of Republican recruitment for House candidates, offered a succinct explanation why Hochul remains competitive.

    "It's because Hochul is an incumbent," said Scalise, R-La.

    The NRCC officials also expressed confidence that Maggie Brooks, the Republican county executive in Monroe County, might oust Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, in a new Rochester-based district with a Democratic voting edge.

    "It's going to be a close race," Harrison said.

    --Jerry Zremski



Shorter conventions?

TAMPA -- With Republicans trimming their convention back to three days for the second time in a row, and Democrats planning a three-day gathering in Charlotte next week, House Speaker John Boehner Monday mused about the possible end of the four-day political convention.

"I think that given as much news as people get today and the way they get their news, I'm not sure that having a four-day convention, for the future, makes a lot of sense," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at a luncheon sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

"These are very expensive propositions to put on," he added.

While trumpeting Mitt Romney's chancesagainst Barack Obama and stressing that the economy was the top issue for voters, Boehner seemed dismissive not only of the traditional four-day convention, but also the party platforms that conventions adopt every four years.

Party platforms should be trimmed down to one page, he said.

"Anybody read a party platform?" Boehner asked. "I've never met anybody."

--Jerry Zremski

Skelos headlines state delegation meeting

   CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- The main speaker at Monday's New York State delegation breakfast at the Republican National Convention was State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, and for good reason.

   As he was introducing the Long Island legislator, state GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox referred to his own study of the top 10 Democratic states in the nation, with only New York boasting a Republican chamber in its legislature.

   "His dedication to do what is right for New York State and his political skill in getting it done is the reason we have the majority party in the New York State Senate," he said of the veteran lawmaker.

   Skelos then launched into a list of accomplishments in the last two years, which he claimed has ended widespread use of the word "dysfunction" in Albany. And while he was quick to blame Democrats generally for a host of evils, he never mentioned Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo or Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

   The only Democrat Skelos specifically targeted was Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who he acknowledged will give Republican attorney Wendy Long a "tough race" this year.

   "One day she's Annie Oakley and the next day she's Jane Fonda," he said of Gillibrand's shifting stands on gun control.

--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 |