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Candidates in 60th Senate race spar on issues, personalities

Charles M. Swanick, the Conservative Party candidate for the 60th Senate district seat, speaks during this morning's debate at St. Joe's as Democrat Michael Amodeo, left, and Republican incumbent Mark J. Grisanti listen. (John Hickey / Buffalo News)

By Charity Vogel

The three chief candidates in the race for the 60th Senate district seat this fall criticized each other – in matters personal and political – and offered arguments for their own agendas in a debate before a packed auditorium at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Wednesday morning.

The discussion was heated and humorous by turns, before an audience of several hundred students, faculty members, and members of the press.

The debate, an autumn tradition at the Catholic high school on Kenmore Avenue, was the first – and could be the only – time that the three main candidates in the contentious race have engaged in a debate on the issues.

Incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti spoke about his record over the past two years since his election to the office in 2010, and referenced several times his close working relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.

Grisanti, a Buffalo resident, called his record a testimony to his “fantastic rapport” with Cuomo. Michael Amodeo, an attorney from Hamburg who is challenging Grisanti on the Democratic line, called Grisanti’s record of voting with the Republicans in Albany “95 percent of the time” a sign that Grisanti is not as independent as he claims to be. “People want change,” said Amodeo. “They want people who fully represent their community.”

Charles M. Swanick, the challenger running on the Conservative Party line, said that he has knocked on 7,200 doors in the district so far, and is hearing from constituents that they want to see change in Albany.

“We need to change the mindset of the people in Albany, to get things moving for once and for all,” said Swanick, a Town of Tonawanda resident and former Erie County Legislature chairman.

A live video debate among the candidates in the 60th Senate district will be hosted by The Buffalo News on Oct. 31, but so far only Swanick and Amodeo have agreed to participate in that discussion.

Grisanti has declined the invitation of The Buffalo News to take part.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Next week: 60th Senate district debate

Send in your questions for a live video debate among candidates for the 60th District seat in the New York State Senate.

The debate, hosted by The Buffalo News, will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, and be shown on

Democrat Michael Amodeo and Conservative Party candidate Charles Swanick have agreed to participate in the half-hour debate, which will be moderated by the News’ Bob McCarthy and Brian Meyer. Readers will have the chance to have their questions answered.

Simply email your questions to Assistant Online Editor Aaron Besecker at by noon Tuesday, Oct. 30.

(Republican incumbent Mark Grisanti has not accepted The News’ invitation to participate in the debate. Grisanti's campaign rejected three proposed dates and was given a chance to suggest a time that worked for them, but they did not offer any alternative.)

Anti-frackers to Cuomo: This Bud's for you

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Some participants in tomorrow’s Booze Summit in Albany are vowing to do more than complain about state alcohol distribution rules and fees and taxes.

At least three firms – a couple brewers and a winery – are hoping to use the occasion at which Gov. Andrew Cuomo will promote the state’s beer, wine and liquor industry to, instead, rail against the Cuomo’s administration speculated march to natural gas hydrofracking.

Opponents of the controversial drilling method have been one of the steadiest and best organized critics of the governor for at least the past year, and three firms say they are pledging to raise hydrofracking as an issue during Cuomo’s summit at a state theater near the Capitol.

The critics, according to a release this afternoon announcing a press conference for tomorrow morning, will include Eminence Road Farm Winery in Sullivan County, Brewery Ommegang, located outside Cooperstown, and Keegan Ales in Ulster County.

AFL-CIO poll claims Shinagawa gaining on Reed

By Robert J. McCarthy

Could Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, be facing a competitive race?

A new poll commissioned by the New York AFL-CIO shows Democrat Nate Shinagawa trailing incumbent Reed by just five points. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, has Reed at 49.7 percent and Shinagawa at 44.7 percent with 5.6 percent of voters undecided.

Shinagawa, an Ithaca hospital administrator and Tompkins County legislator, has conducted a relatively low-key campaign that some observers say is now picking up steam. Though it should be noted the new poll is backed by a group supporting the Democrat, AFL-CIO President Mario Celento said Shinagawa's "commitment to middle-class values" is the impetus behind his showing in the poll.

"We will build on this momentum and work as hard as ever in the final two weeks to help elect Nate Shinagawa to Congress," he said.

The poll had a sample size of 959 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent.

Court dismissed gay marriage legal challenge

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – The state’s highest court, in a ruling that surprised few legal watchers, declined to hear a case today challenging the procedure by which the state Senate approved gay marriage rights last year.

The now-dismissed lawsuit, brought by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, whose leadership is composed mostly of evangelical ministers, featured a number of claims, including that the state’s open meetings law was violated at least twice prior to the vote that okayed the measure.

The court was not asked to look at the broader constitutional issue of same-sex marital rights, a course some critics of the law could still try to launch. "What is most troubling is that the court has surrendered its rightful role as a check and balance on an out-of-control Legislature," said Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of group that brought the suit.

Critics noted one Senate Republican who voted for the bill – Roy McDonald of Saratoga County – has already seen his political career end with a September primary defeat and another, James Alesi of Rochester, decided against facing voters this fall by retiring. Buffalo Senate Republican Mark Grisanti lost the Conservative Party line because of his support for the bill, though he is leading in general election polls. The fourth Senate GOP backer, Steve Saland of Dutchess County, is facing a tough re-election fight this fall, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to his defense last week by crossing party lines to endorse the veteran lawmaker.

Cuomo, who made the gay marriage bill his signature policy piece of 2011, praised the Court of Appeals decision not to hear the legal challenge. "The freedom to marry in this state is secure for generations to come," Cuomo said in a statement this afternoon.

Cuomo: My bags are packed

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – The clock is ticking, but President Obama has still not given a road map to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for where the New York Democrat can serve as a surrogate in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

Cuomo, who had a low-key role at the party’s convention this summer in North Carolina, last week began talking up his plans to go to swing states on the president’s behalf to woo Democratic voters in the all-important get-out-the-vote effort. 

Asked again if he had gotten word from the White House about when he will hit the trail, Cuomo, in a brief session with reporters today, said, “I don’t think so.’’ His spokesman, Joshua Vlasto, quickly added, that there has been no official notification yet, but, “We’ll go where they need us to.

Dems claim 10-point lead for Slaughter

By Robert J. McCarthy

   Political menus often feature internal polls of congressional campaigns with only two weeks before Election Day -- and should be digested with a large dose of salt.

   But the latest from those assisting the re-election efforts of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, say the veteran congresswoman has opened a 10-point lead in her see-saw contest against Maggie Brooks, the Republican Monroe County executive.

   "Slaughter now holds a 10-point lead, 53–43 percent, up from a six-point lead in August when she led 52–46 percent," said a news release from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Furthermore, 39 percent say they are very certain to vote for Slaughter, compared to 27 percent for Brooks."

   The  survey of NY 25 was conducted by GBA Strategies from Oct. 17–18. It interviewed 400 likely voters on both landlines and cell phones. Results are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.

   The internal results also show President Obama maintaining a 14-point lead over Mitt Romney, 54–40 percent, in the district.

   Slaughter is returning to her Monroe County roots as a result of reapportionment after a decade of representing parts of Buffalo, northern Erie County and Niagara County.

Live chat: Presidential debate analysis with Doug Turner at noon Tuesday

Discuss Monday night’s third and final presidential debate with The News’ Washington columnist Doug Turner.

Live stream: Presidential debate

Mitt Romney and President Obama face off for the final of three debates before Election Day.

Video: Week in Washington - Buffalo edition

Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reports from Buffalo as he looks forward to reporting on the Collins-Hochul race and looks back at his reporting from several swing states.


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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 |