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Five Questions with Ronald Pilozzi

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.


Tonawanda City Mayor Ron Pilozzi speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Gregory Hayes Holler Memorial Skate Park in the City of Tonawanda, Sunday, October 10, 2010. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News File Photo)


Ronald Pilozzi

The basics
Age: 65
Party: Republican
Job Title: Mayor, City of Tonawanda
Family: Married, 42 1/2 years, four children, four grandchildren.  
Education: B.S., Canisius College 1969; A.A.S., ECC, 1976; B.S., Buffalo State College, 1987; M.S., Buffalo State, 1997. 

Previous work experience: 30+ years in management at General Motors Powertrain Tonawanda Engine. 

City Salary: $32,000

The questions: 

What’s your favorite restaurant?
Too many.

What is the best part of fall in Tonawanda?

The fall foliage in our parks, especially in Niawanda Park along the river.

What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
I spent the first two years of high school in the Diocesean Preparatory Seminary.

Who’s your political hero?
Jimmy Griffin, former mayor of Buffalo.

What's the worst part of your job?
Trying to make things happen in a political/governmental environment. There are too many layers to deal with. Issues I dealt with in the private sector immediately, take months - if not longer - in the public sector. In addition, we live in a state where unfunded mandates continue to fall like rain, but the ability to fund them is not addressed. It is difficult being at the bottom of the political heap.

-- Jill Terreri


Video: Zellner elected Erie County Democratic chairman

Jeremy J. Zellner was elected Saturday to lead Erie County Democrats for the next two years.

The 34-year-old City of Tonawanda resident defeated Frank C. Max Jr., Cheektowaga town Democratic chairman, after more than 1,000 committee members voted by secret ballot inside the Hearthstone Manor in Depew. He replaces 63-year-old Leonard R. Lenihan, who served as county chairman for the past 10 years.

Zellner spoke with The News shortly after his election.

Video: The governor & Grisanti

An interesting commercial has hit the airwaves. Political Reporter Bob McCarthy talks with The News' Brian Meyer about developments in Mark Grisanti's bid to retain his seat in the State Senate.


Siena: Slaughter leads Brooks 52-42 percent

   Democratic incumbent Louise Slaughter has opened a wide lead over Republican challenger Maggie Brooks in the contest for the Monroe County-based 25th Congressional District, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll.

   The poll, released Thursday, shows Slaughter leading Brooks 52 to 42 percent.

   “In this fascinating race between two popular, well known women –- both known to voters by their first
names -– Louise has a 10-point lead over Maggie in this newly drawn district, all within Monroe County, that has a nine-point enrollment edge for the Democrats,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

“Brooks has the support of three-quarters of Republicans and an 11-point lead with independents, while
Slaughter is supported by 86 percent of Democrats and has a commanding 69-26 percent lead among voters she currently represents. Women give Louise a 17-point advantage and she has a slim four-point edge with men.

   “Slaughter is viewed favorably by 59 percent of voters and unfavorably by 36 percent,” Greenberg added. “Brooks’ favorability rating is not as strong but is still positive at 51-42 percent. Brooks has a stronger favorability rating among independents than does Slaughter, while Slaughter does better with voters of her own party than does Brooks.

   “On health care, education and Afghanistan, voters give Slaughter a substantial edge. They favor her slightly on jobs and ever so slightly on taxes. Voters are divided on who is better on the federal budget deficit. When it comes to better representing the community’s interests in Washington, voters give Slaughter a nearly identical edge as they do in the horserace,” Greenberg said.

   Slaughter, a veteran of 13 terms in Congress, currently represents Buffalo. Her new 25th District takes in most of Monroe County as a result of reapportionment. Brooks is the Monroe County executive.

 --Robert J. McCarthy

Grisanti in TV ads, Amodeo looking for contributions

Republican Mark J. Grisanti’s campaign to retain the 60th Senate district seat includes a new TV ad that draws heavily on the working relationship between Grisanti and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.

The ad, called “Independent,” first aired last night, during 5 p.m. news broadcasts on local network affiliates.

It begins with a clip of Cuomo standing at a podium during a 2011 event, praising Grisanti for his support. The ad goes on to tout UB 2020 as “one example of what good things can happen” with Grisanti in office.

After a few shots of Grisanti talking to constituents, the ad ends with Cuomo’s voice saying, “Mark Grisanti, thank you for your leadership.”

The not-spelled-out-overtly subtext of the ad? Grisanti’s key role in supporting the same-sex marriage legislation that Cuomo advanced – legislation that was controversial with many voters.

It was produced by Cookfair Media at David Collins Productions in Williamsville, campaign sources said.


In the campaign of Mike Amodeo, the Democratic challenger for Grisanti’s seat, there are no TV ads currently in the works.

That will come soon, campaign sources said, but right now Amodeo is working on raising money to pay for the TV spots and mailers he hopes to start putting out in the near future.

“Right now, we’re just in the collecting money stage,” said Amodeo, an attorney who lives in Lake View and who has never held political office, but who defeated Charles M. Swanick and Alfred Coppola for the Democratic line in November. “We’re trying to raise as much money as we can.”

--Charity Vogel

Dem chairman hopefuls to debate

   Erie County Democrats have one more chance to view their candidates for party chairman before Saturday's reorganization meeting in a Thursday debate.

   Slated for 7 p.m. at the Polish Cadets Hall at Grant and Amherst streets, the event was initiated by attorney Marc C. Panepinto, one of the candidates.

   "I am calling for a debate because I think Democratic committee members deserve the opportunity to make an informed chice," he said.

   Jeremy J. Zellner, chief of staff to the County Legislature and another candidate, said he will attend. Cheektowaga Chairman Frank C. Max Jr., also vying for the post, did not return a call seeking comment.

--Robert J. McCarthy

No new Kennedy-Grant totals coming soon

   No new updates are expected immediately in the tight Democratic primary race between incumbent Timothy M. Kennedy and challenger Betty Jean Grant, according to sources at the Erie County Board of Elections.

   The sources said elections officials were concentrating on tabulating Democratic committee races in time for the Saturday reorganization meeting of the Erie County Democratic Party, in which three men are vying to succeed Leonard R. Lenihan as chairman.

   The board said Tuesday that its latest count has Kennedy leading by 282 votes, which is seen as an insurmountable lead at this point.

--Robert J. McCarthy

60th Senate race developments

A few campaign moments from around the 60th Senate district race:

Incumbent Republican Senator Mark J. Grisanti will attend a kickoff celebration this evening for the new season of Buffalo Niagara Partnership 360, the young professionals arm of the group. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Hotel Lafayette.

Also, on Saturday, Grisanti will serve as the honorary race starter for a race that will be a major fundraiser for area snowmobiling enthusiasts. The race will be held at the Shawnee Volunteer Fire Company on Lockport Road in Sanborn. Snowmobilers locally and around the state say they are suffering for trail-upkeep funds in the wake of last year’s tough snow-less winter. They are hoping to raise sizable funds with Saturday’s event.

Mike Amodeo, the Hamburg attorney who is challenging Grisanti in November’s election on the Democratic line, released a statement on Wednesday critical of spending by Albany politicians on mailings from their elective offices. Amodeo, in the statement, said he would use social media and email to reach constituents, if elected. “Frankly, this is a slap in the face to the taxpayers of his district,” Amodeo stated in the released statement. “That money could have been spent on historic rehabilitation projects, waterfront development or supporting cancer research.”

-- Charity Vogel


Video: Week in Washington - Vegas edition

Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reports from Las Vegas, as he begins working on stories about swing states in the upcoming election.


The Read: Political chatter from elsewhere

Each Saturday on the Politics Now blog, you'll find a list of stories that caught the eyes of The News' political reporters. Here's a sampling of what they were reading the last couple weeks:

New York Times columnist David Brooks said during an appearance at UB on Thursday that he found Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comments "offensive," and he wrote about it in a much buzzed-about piece headlined "Thurston Howell Romney."

Further commentary on how Republican policies have allowed many to avoid paying income taxes comes from Will Wilkinson at the Economist, who writes, "It's cheeky indeed to have supported, and to continue to support, policies intended to reduce the tax burden of the middle class, and then to pretend alarm at the rise of a vast 'taker' class which consumes but does not finance federal benefits." 

The Romney campaign is keeping its chin up, reports National Journal's Beth Reinhard: “'We’re working harder and smarter,' said Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson. 'We’re not trying to personally lower the unemployment rate with campaign staffers.'” 

Why are Romney's unfavorable ratings so high? John Avlon of the Daily Beast: "At times, he seems like a Monty Python caricature of a self-consciously noble knight with a killer instinct for self-sabotage and alienating allies, all adding up to the title, Sir Not Very Well-Liked."

President Barack Obama was asked tough questions during a Spanish-language forum in Florida this week, and blamed problems he encountered trying to pass immigration reform on Congress, reports Politico's Reid Epstein

The Times' Peter Baker and Eric Lipton look at that age-old practice by incumbents of using the office to further their political careers: "Locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama and his team have been pulling every lever of the federal government within reach, announcing initiatives aimed at critical constituencies, dispatching cabinet secretaries to competitive areas, coordinating campaign events to match popular government actions and forestalling or even reversing other government decisions that could hurt the president’s chances of a second term."
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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 |