Legislative Elections to Watch

by / Jul. 14, 2016 6am EST

Senate District 60

Is there something in the water in the 60th? After jettisoning smart, brave, and competent Republican Mark Grisanti, the predominately Democratic district elected Marc Panepinto, who will only serve one term. So, it’s an open seat and it’s been a typically turbulent primary race throughout the spring and summer, as the Democrats couldn’t decide what to do after Panepinto quit the race. Although Parkside activist Amber Small has been running for months, Democratic HQ flirted with running someone like Assemblyman Sean Ryan, and others. In the end, Small was the only person left running, mostly because the Republicans are running millionaire developer and county clerk Chris Jacobs as their endorsed candidate. In a normal place, that would be the race: Small vs. Jacobs and let them have at it.

But the 60th Senate District isn’t a normal place. 

Democrat Al Coppola is running for perhaps the millionth time, and careful observers will recall that the turnout two years ago was so anemic that Coppola actually gave Panepinto a run for his money. Coppola reportedly submitted his nominating petitions on Wednesday, and was assisted in that effort by people who have ties to Steve Pigeon and Panepinto. Rumor has it that Panepinto is livid at Small for announcing a primary race against him well before he got caught up in a scandal and decided not to run, and this may be evidence of that. 

The Republicans have their own perennial candidate running a primary, Kevin Stocker, who lost to Panepinto two Novembers ago. Stocker will likely self-fund, and he’ll force Jacobs to spend some money before September. How he does in the primary should, in a normal place, inform Stocker’s decision to carry on in September. But, see above — this isn’t a normal place, and Stocker has already said he’ll run on a minor party line — whether it’s one he wins a slot on, or one he creates as a vanity party. If true, Stocker and Jacobs can split the conservative vote, and Small can benefit from the Democratic enrollment advantage. 

Assembly 144

My Assemblywoman, Jane Corwin, isn’t going back to Albany next year. She’s quitting, and it didn’t come to light until two days before petitions are due. This means that party bosses get to essentially hand-pick (technically, it’s done by a committee). This is all convenient because the Democrats didn’t bother to run anyone against the incumbent in a district with a 60/40 Republican enrollment advantage, but vacant seats are a different animal.

With public integrity and reform so high on people’s minds, the time is ripe for a genuine race in the 144th, but it’s too late for the Democrats to circulate petitions for anyone now. So, while Corwin seeks to score points for “term limiting” herself, she did so in a way that ensures that the democratic process is completely thwarted and the constituency is force-fed a candidate whom one party’s bosses select.  The only option now is a write-in campaign, which is tricky but not impossible. 

Assembly 143

Law Professor and former law clerk to a federal judge, Monica Wallace, is campaigning hard, and she’s had some very successful fundraisers. When mid-July campaign disclosures come out next week, look for her status as front-runner to be further cemented. Given her opponent’s 2013 “experience” as treasurer for the scandalous WNY Progressive Caucus, everyone will be examining the accuracy and timing of those reports.