Primary Challenges Reveal Split Among Erie County Democrats
In May, the Erie County Democratic Party endorsed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in his bid for a third term. Brown breezed to victory in Tuesday Night’s Democratic Primary, but a few other party backed democrats found themselves in a dogfight.
“We had the better candidates. We had more bodies in the street. We had more organization,” said former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon.
Pigeon and several other disgruntled democrats recently formed a Political Action Committee to support several candidates mounting primary challenges against a number of party endorsed democrats.
“We had more ability to raise money. They had patronage money coming in from people that have jobs and have to donate money,” Pigeon said.
The WNY Progressive Caucus reportedly dumped more than $100,000 into a handful of primaries for Erie County Legislature and Sheriff. Two of the PAC supported candidates, including Sheriff Candidate Dick Dobson, appeared to pull off big upsets.
“We, being the people who are ostracized by Democratic headquarters, continue to run candidates who are strong, centrist, strong, general election, November candidates,” said Pigeon.
Pigeon’s PAC also squeezed out a narrow win in the Erie County Legislature’s first district. Barbara Miller Williams holds a twenty-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Tim Hogues. Four hundred absentee ballots will be counted next week.
“I want to wait and see and count the ballots,” said current Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner.
Last week Zellner held a press conference to accuse Pigeon and his PAC of making “illegal campaign contributions.” Wednesday he downplayed the PAC’s influence.
“If I were them, I wouldn’t feel very good because they spent about $150,000 on two weeks’ worth of races and they lost three seats in the legislature and could lose a fourth with Tim Hogues,” Zellner said.
Zellner has made party unification a top priority since becoming chairman. It’s an issue several of Zellner’s predecessors have struggled with.
“There really is not a split. There are a handful of people that continue to want to work to support Republicans and not support our Democratic candidates and it’s a small group,” Zellner added.
Instead of dismissing Pigeon’s PAC, Democratic Strategist Jack O’Donnell, who worked for the Erie County Democratic Commitee when Pigeon was chair, says Zellner should reach out to them.
“As chairman, he’s the one who’s got to get folks together and clearly he’s been unable to do that,” O’Donnell said.
Even if Zellner were to have a change of heart, Pigeon doesn’t appear ready to set aside his differences with the chairman.
“We need a change of leadership and we need leadership that is going to be willing to bring in all the diverse groups, all the diverse factions in the Democratic Party,” Pigeon added.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Casey Bortnick on September 12, 2013 at 1:16 am, and is filed under 2013, Erie County. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|