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Five Questions with David Shenk

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A 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.


David Shenk

The Basics:
Age: 42
Party: Democratic
Job Title: Erie County Comptroller; Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army Reserves
Family: Married to Polly Shenk (formerly France); Charlie and Caesar (our dogs)
Town: Boston
Education: Bachelor’s degree in management from Houghton College, National Emergency Medical Technician Certification and numerous leadership schools in the Army
Salary: $80,615 as Erie County Comptroller; $7,500 as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves 
(Contributed photograph)

The Questions: 

What's one thing people don't know about you?
I have been a fan of professional wrestling since I was a kid. It looks spontaneous but everyone knows there is a script. In a way, it was great preparation for politics.

I also love to help my wife around “The Shenk 1/3 Acre Farm” (when I have time).

Continue reading "Five Questions with David Shenk" »

No Democratic primary for county comptroller

There will be no Democratic primary in the race for Erie County Comptroller.

State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker upheld a decision by the Erie County Board of Elections to invalidate petitions submitted by Democrat George Hasiotis to run for comptroller in the September primary because the petitions did not include enough valid signatures.

Hasiotis had sued the Board of Elections, which had ruled that more than 700 of the signatures were invalid. A majority of those were witnessed by a commissioner of deeds who did not have authorization to gather signatures outside of the City of Tonawanda, according to the Board of Elections.

David Shenk, appointed earlier this year to replace former Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz, will appear on the Democratic line in the November election. Stefan Mychajliw is slated to appear on the Republican line.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Witryol takes aim at Maziarz mailings

Lewiston resident Amy Hope Witryol has taken aim at mailings sent throughout State Sen. George D. Maziarz's district. 

As she did last week, the environmental advocate questioned the use of public funds for the mailings, which tout Maziarz initiatives like the Public Assistance Integrity Act, which would limit the ways welfare recipients can spend their benefits.

Witryol has requested an investigation by the Joint Committee on Public Ethics in Albany and also asked for a disclosure of costs and recipients of the mailers.

That request was denied by the State Senate on Tuesday, with this explanation:

“Please be advised that the records you request, if the records even exist, are not subject to disclosure pursuant to the provisions of the Rules of the Temporary President.”

Today, Democrat Witryol questioned another mailing sent by the Newfane Republican to Orleans County voters. The mailing states that Maziarz advocates for less spending, lower taxes and more jobs.

“During his 18 years in office, Sen. Maziarz voted for more spending that increased taxes while his district lost thousands of jobs," Witryol said in a statement. "To spend taxpayer money on a blatantly political mailer like this is what Maziarz, himself, called ‘outrageous’ two years ago.”

Maziarz, who has defended the mailings as a way to inform his constituents about key issues, said that Witryol "has a record of making wild, vastly untrue charges."

"In a very difficult economy, I worked very hard to provide economic opportunities and jobs to Orleans County," Mariarz said. "The only operating ethanol plant in New York State is located in Orleans County as a direct result of my efforts."

A phone message left for Maziarz requesting details on the costs of the mailings was not immediately returned.

Maziarz will face Republican Johnny G. Destino -- who has support from the Tea Party and developer Carl P. Paladino -- in a Republican primary before taking on Witryol in the general election. 

--Charlie Specht

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, Aug. 13, 2012


Live chat with Washington Columnist Doug Turner at 2 p.m.

Five Questions with Crystal Peoples-Stokes

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A 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.


Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes


The basics
Age: 60
Job title: New York State Assemblymember
Residence: Buffalo
Education: M.S. Student Personnel Administration
Party affiliation: Democrat
Salary: $79,500

Continue reading "Five Questions with Crystal Peoples-Stokes" »

Audio: Doug Turner's analysis of Romney's VP pick

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney earlier today named Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, turning to a conservative intellectual leader in a move that's likely to energize Republicans and Democrats alike.

News Washington Columnist Doug Turner provides his analysis of the selection:


Join Doug Turner for a live chat at 2 p.m. Monday to discuss the Ryan pick and more about the presidential campaign.

Video: Debate over gun buyback

The city's gun buyback program and debate over whether Toronto could team up with Buffalo to launch a credible bid to host the Olympics have been hot topics in City Hall. News staff reporter Jill Terreri talks with Brian Meyer about the issues.

Timing of toll hikes: a matter of perspective

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that a toll hike may be needed for the state Thruway because tolls "haven’t gone up in a long time."

But tolls were raised as recently as 2010 — and have gone up in four of the past seven years. The Thruway Authority has proposed a 45 percent toll hike on large trucks as a way to raise $90 million a year — a move business groups say will raise consumer prices on the huge array of goods shipped to stores and marketplaces in New York.

The agency, when it in June borrowed $1.1 billion, told investors it saw "no reason" that its toll rate hike proposal will be substantially changed.

In a public radio interview today on The Capital Pressroom, Cuomo said he understands people are opposed to the toll hike, but said an increase may be needed to keep the Thuway "solvent."

"The Thruway has to be financially capable," Cuomo said.

He said he has asked Thruway officials to come up with ways to "minimize any toll increases that we’re going to have to make," but did not, again, give his position on the specific 45 percent toll hike plan.

Thruway tolls in 2005 were raised 25 percent on passenger vehicles and 35 percent for commercial users. Cash tolls went up 10 percent in 2008. In 2008, two annual 5 percent hikes were imposed — taking effect in 2009 and 2010.

The governor, meanwhile, today called for the convening of a commission to study ways to reduce expected toll hikes that officials say is needed to help finance a new Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson River in downstate.

Administration officials recently said the new span, expected to cost at least $5 billion, would require a $14 toll.

— Tom Precious

Buffalo's Bill Burton in campaign crossfire

Two Buffalo-area natives -- Bill Burton, the head of President Obama's "Super PAC," and CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- went toe-to-toe Wednesday over the latest controversial ad in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Here's the ad, which features Joe Soptic, a steelworker who lost his job after Romney's company, Bain Capital, took over the plant where Soptic worked.

In the ad, Soptic appears to blame Romney for the loss of his job and the loss of his health insurance. Soptic says his wife put off medical treatment as a result and ended up dying of cancer.

Soptic says his wife became ill "a short time" after the factory closed in 2001, but CNN fact-checkers found that she died five years later,  in June 2006.

"You make a serious allegation, in effect suggesting that the Republican presidential nominee, in effect, is responsible for the death of this woman," Blitzer said. "But we've gone through the timeline and he's clearly not responsible for her death."

"Your absolutely right," Burton replied. "He's not. And that's not what the ad suggests," Burton replied.

But that doesn't mean Romney is blameless for Soptic's troubles, Burton added.

"The point of this ad is to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic, and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of decisions that Mitt Romney made," Burton said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

Priorities USA Action, the Super PAC co-founded by Burton, paid for the ad, which has not yet run on television.

Here's the exchange between Burton and Blitzer:

The ad was a hot topic on the campaign trail Thursday. Here's the AP's report.

For more on Burton -- and Carl Forti, a Republican "SuperPAC" leader who is also from Buffalo -- read Sunday's Buffalo News.

-- Jerry Zremski

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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 |