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Council to explore public campaign financing

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council on Tuesday took a step toward exploring the idea that taxpayers would cover at least some of the cost of political campaigns in the city.

The news was met with praise from Common Cause/NY, which has lobbied the state legislature to set up a system of public campaign finance, and has encouraged Buffalo lawmakers to do the same.  

"The Buffalo Common Council has achieved what the New York State Legislature could not: a significant step toward a meaningful system of public financing of elections," Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. "Public financing holds public officials accountable to the people who elect them, not big donors who line their pockets. Common Cause/NY applauds Buffalo lawmakers, Majority Leader Demone Smith and CM Golombek in particular, for prioritizing the public interest, and working to empower voters to participate fully in our democracy."

The resolution that passed sets up a committee to look at creating a system of public campaign financing for contests for mayor, comptroller, Council and Board of Education. 

North Council Member Joseph Golombek reassured his colleagues that might be skeptical of the resolution that instituting a public financing system is still a long ways off.

Continue reading "Council to explore public campaign financing" »

Zellner: Gaughan a 'damn good Democrat'

By Jill Terreri

Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner said he would try to incorporate supporters of Kevin Gaughan, a regionalism advocate who lost his bid to be Erie County's next comptroller, into the party. 

Gaughan cares deeply for taxpayers and reform "and is a damn good Democrat," Zellner said before Gaughan spoke to a small crowd gathered in Erie County Democratic headquarters. "He did everything we asked of him." 

Gaughan's downsizing efforts have not pleased some party leaders in the past, on both sides of the aisle. 

Continue reading "Zellner: Gaughan a 'damn good Democrat'" »

Follow BN social media coverage of Election Night

The Buffalo News’ social media presence for Tuesday’s elections will be bigger than ever. Turn to The News for the most up-to-the-second information about the races you care about most.

The News’ S.J. Velasquez and Colin Dabkowski will handle The Buffalo News’ official Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts, reporting the freshest news from the night in the form of tweets, Facebook updates and Google+ posts. To ask Dabkowski and Velasquez election-related questions, tweet at @TheBuffaloNews using hashtag #BNelection.

If you want to get the latest updates on a particular race, follow these reporters and photographers:

Dan Herbeck (Erie County sheriff's race): @dherbecknews
Harold McNeil (Erie County comptroller race): @HaroldMcNeilBN
Denise Jewell Gee (Erie County legislature races): @DeniseJewellGee
Jay Rey (Amherst): @jreytbn
Joe Popiolkowski (Tonawanda): @JoePops44
Barbara O'Brien (Hamburg and Orchard Park): @bobrienBN
Karen Robinson (Lancaster): @KarenRobinsonBN
Janice Habuda (Cheektowaga and West Seneca): @HabudaJL
Tom Prohaska (Niagara County legislature and Town of Niagara): @ThomasProhaska
Aaron Besecker (Niagara Falls): @AaronBesecker / @The_Brink_Blog
T.J.Pignataro (Republican headquarters): @TJPignataro
Jill Terreri (Democratic headquarters): @jillterreri
Samantha Christmann (Richard Dobson headquarters): @DiscountDivaSam
Deidre Williams (Byron Brown campaign headquarters): @DeidreWilliamsB
Harry Scull (photos from various candidates’ headquarters): @hsjrphoto
Robert Kirkham (photos from various candidates’ headquarters): @RobertKirkhamBN
Mark Mulville (photos from various candidates’ headquarters): @MQMulville

The most newsworthy tweets and updates throughout the night will be included in the election night live blog, hosted by Mary Pasciak, on the home page of Social media updates generated by News staffers will be aggregated on Storify, culminating in a stream of social highlights from the evening that will be published in one handy blog post.

Brown's opponents hear a political tune

By Jill Terreri

The timing of Mayor Byron Brown's announcement that the city will spend $400,000 to fund band and orchestra programs that had been cut in 14 public schools raised a few eyebrows. He explained at his big announcement yesterday, complete with children playing instruments, that he had been at work on a solution for a month and a half. Whatever the reason, the announcement was made one month before the Democratic primary, where he will face former FBI Special Agent in Charge Bernie Tolbert.

Tolbert pointed out that on the subject of the school district, Brown frequently notes that he has no governance over it. 

Continue reading "Brown's opponents hear a political tune" »

Woodstock gets its say in Senate race; GOP need not apply

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – For you aging hippies, here are the ballot count numbers in the Senate race for the town of Woodstock in Ulster County.

Woodstock, a longtime art colony made famous by the 1969 concert that actually took place 70 miles south, is a town where many residents might consider the Democratic Party too right wing for their tastes.

Nonetheless, Democrat Cecilia Tkacyzk captured 249 of the 313 absentee and affidavit paper ballots counted yesterday compared to just 64 for Republican George Amedore for the still-raging election contest for the 46th district that will decide which party is in control of the Senate come January. [Republicans challenged 93 ballots from the town and Democrats objected to eight – meaning those will be included in the pile of more than 500 paper ballots a judge will have to decide whether to count or not.]

NYT: Cuomo support group gets dollars from firm he once investigated

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – They’ve done their best to keep things secret, but little by little more is coming out about who has been donating to a Manhattan-based group that has helped push Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political agenda in Albany.

The latest revelation comes today courtesy of The New York Times about a donation to the Committee to Save New York by a real estate company that had been under investigation by Cuomo when he was the state’s attorney general.

The group has been called by critics a political front organization for the governor by raising millions of dollars in secret and then spending it on major advertising campaigns to boost his policy agenda and poll numbers.

Today’s story in the Times says Fisher Brothers gave the Cuomo support organization $500,000; it noted the firm was among those examined during Cuomo’s time as attorney general during a sweeping probe into allegations of wrongdoing at the state’s pension fund for government workers. The Cuomo administration dismissed the story’s premise, saying Fisher Brothers engaged in no misconduct that warranted any legal action during that pension fund scandal when it was headed by former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

The Committee to Save New York is exempt from having to report millions of dollars it raised during its formative period after Cuomo was elected governor, though it, and other groups like it, will have some limited disclosure requirements in the future.

The Buffalo News earlier this year broke a story that $800,000 in donations by Western New York business interests was funneled through the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to the Committee to Save New York. Officials with the Buffalo commerce group have declined to name the donors of checks that were bundled and given as a group to the Manhattan organization.

Besides various real estate interests, the Times also reported earlier this year that casino interests donated $2 million to the committee at a time when the governor and lawmakers have been considering a dramatic expansion in gambling.

And now, a word from the absentees

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Here is the numerical breakdown of absentee voters in the 46th Senate district who in the coming weeks could help determine which party controls the state Senate.

The still-undetermined results in the race between Republican George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk will be decided by the counting of more than 9,000 absentee ballots. That process can begin Monday, and will be done one county at a time on an alphabetical basis.

After the Tuesday defection of a Brooklyn Democrat to the Republican caucus, the Republicans can win the Senate if Amedore wins. If Tkaczyk wins, the Democrats will ensure they have the numbers, but not necessarily the power if a breakaway group of four Democrats should decide to join with the Republicans in a power-sharing deal.

Here, then, is the handy count sheet, as provided by Senate Republicans, for the 46th Senate district – a new seat the Republicans added during this year’s redistricting in hopes of improving their odds of retaining the Senate.

Party breakdown of outstanding absentee ballots: 3,062 Republicans, 3,318 Democrats, 182 Conservatives, 416 Independence Party, 2,003 “blank” or non-enrolled and 11 Working Family Party members, and a few dozen other minor parties.

By county: 1,938 are from Albany, 1,806 from Greene, 1,117 from Montgomery, 947 from Schenectady and 3,223 from Ulster. Democrats say their candidate, a farmer who lives in the Hilltowns outside Albany, will do especially well in Ulster County, while Republicans say Amedore, a local Albany-area homebuilder, will do well in Albany and Schenectady County. Still, 773 Democratic ballots from Albany are in the mix compared to 530 Republicans.

Before machine recounts, which are underway this week, Tkaczyk was ahead by 139 votes after last Tuesday's elections.

Video: Voters size up the election

Bring your comments and questions to our Election Day chat

The Buffalo News and will have all the issues and races covered on Election Day from the minute you wake up until the results unfold.

Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, we'll have a live chat with guests to talk about the important issues, key races and the latest updates from across Western New York. Reporters Mary Pasciak and Patrick Lakamp will be your hosts. We'll also bring you insight from Political Reporter Bob McCarthy and Columnist Donn Esmonde. Here's what we have so far in terms of guests:

*10 a.m.: Reporter Gene Warner on what early-morning voters were saying at the polls

*10:30 a.m.: Deputy Managing Editor Stan Evans on what to watch for throughout the day

*11 a.m.: Washington Columnist Doug Turner on the national scene

*12 p.m.: Turner and Managing Editor Brian Connolly open it up for a discussion with readers

*1:10 p.m.: Health Reporter Henry Davis on health care issues

*1:40 p.m.: Business Editor Grove Potter on economic issues

*2:10 p.m.: Siena Research Institute pollster Steven A. Greenberg

*2:40 p.m.: Editorial Page Editor John Neville on The Buffalo News' endorsement process

*3:10 p.m.: Reporter Dan Herbeck on the Seneca Nation elections

*3:40 p.m.: Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reports from Chicago

*4:10 p.m.: Buffalo News Editor Mike Connelly gives a Florida perspective

*4:40 p.m.: Reporter Jay Rey from the swing state of Ohio

*4:55 p.m.: Reporter Matt Glynn on local town board upsizing votes

*5:10 p.m.: Reporter Barbara O'Brien on area State Assembly races

*5:40 p.m.: Reporter Sandra Tan on the Erie County comptroller's race

*6:10 p.m.: Rochester D&C Reporter Jessica Alaimo on the Slaughter-Brooks race

*6:25 p.m.: Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska on the Witryol-Maziarz State Senate race

*6:40 p.m.: Reporter Denise Jewell Gee on the Collins-Hochul race

*7:10 p.m.: Reporter Charity Vogel on the Grisanti-Amodeo-Swanick race

*7:40 p.m.: Reporter Tom Precious reports from Boston

*8 p.m.: Metro Columnist Donn Esmonde chimes in

*8:30 p.m.: Political Reporter Bob McCarthy

We've also got a live video broadcast starting at noon. Check out that schedule.

Video: Week in Washington - preview of election coverage

Well, it's finally here. Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski previews election coverage for The Buffalo News and
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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 |