Chairmen Reflect On Historic Election In Erie County
Every election night has its winners and losers. Hang around politics long enough and you’ll be on the losing side at some point.
“If you don’t get knocked down, you don’t appreciate how it feels to get back up,” said Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Langworthy knows what it’s like to get “knocked down.” Just hours after his candidate, Jane Corwin, was bitterly defeated by Kathy Hochul in a Special Congressional Election in 2011, many within his own party were calling for Langworthy’s head.
“Someone who hasn’t experienced failure hasn’t had much experience,” Langworthy said.
That loss made Tuesday night a little more special for Langworthy. His party won two countywide races and took control of the Erie County Legislature for the first time since 1977.
“The victories are much sweeter if you’ve experienced failure,” Langworthy said.
Langworthy’s counterpart, Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner, was on the other side of Tuesday night’s historic result. It’s a defeat that infuriated one fellow Democrat.
“In a county that has, what, 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans, for us to lose the two countywide races, I think is an embarrassment,” said Buffalo Common Council Member Joe Golombek.
It’s an “embarrassment” that Golombek believes Zellner should answer for.
“I think that the honorable thing for Mr. Zellner to do would be to reassess the party and for the good of the party to step aside,” Golombek said.
This isn’t the first challenge from within that Zellner has been faced with. Former Party Chair Steve Pigeon formed a political action committee that funded candidates who mounted marginally successful Democratic Primary challenges.
Zellner has dismissed these challenges. He’s called Pigeon and those who associate with him “fringe” members of the party.
“Taking lessons on how to be a chairman from Steve Pigeon would be like taking boating lessons from the captain of the Titanic. Steve drove this party into the ground when he was involved here and he has no say in the leadership of this organization,” Zellner said.
Facing renewed speculation over his future, and a new challenge to his authority, Zellner was once again defiant.
“Joe Golombek has never been an organizational person. He’s barely a Democrat. He supports Republicans all the time and so taking criticism from someone who supports Republicans quite often about the Democratic Party is just not kosher with me. I’ll take my criticism like anyone else but we think we had a decent night last night,” said Zellner.
Zellner spent Wednesday pointing to the positives that he believes many are overlooking. Democrats did win the Mayor’s race in Tonawanda, gained control of the Hamburg Town Board, and held onto Town Boards in Tonawanda and Cheektowaga.
“I’ve been speaking to town leaders, elected officials throughout the county who are extremely supportive of our organization and appreciate all the hard work and effort that our group put into the election this year. I feel very comfortable in my re-election next year,” he added.
Zellner’s mentor, and predecessor, Len Lenihan says the attacks on the party chair the day after what’s perceived as a tough election are not unusual.
“Every time we lost a race in my ten years, somebody would say he should resign and the next year we would win everything there was to win,” Lenihan said.
The former head of the Erie County Democratic Party says there is an element, small or not, who’d like to replace Zellner. It’s an element Lenihan says contributed to Tuesday’s results.
“Last night was tough, brought on by a lot of the people who wanted to see the Democrats lose. I think when all is said and done, there’s always going to be competition in the Democratic Party. That’s what it’s like,” Lenihan added.
Golombek has never been much of a Zellner fan. He supported Frank Max for Chairman last year.
Zellner narrowly defeated Max and some believe Max is already preparing another run at the party’s top job. Golombek doesn’t necessarily think Max is the right man for the job but says something has to change.
“I think that the Democratic establishment should take a very close look at themselves and they should realize that they’re not an inclusive party. They’re not a big tent party. They’ve turned into a party of cronyism,” Golombek said.
Despite critiques from inside and outside the party Zellner has remained consistently confident. He believes the party’s wins outside of the countywide races won’t go unnoticed.
“The people who are committee members who actually vote on the chairmanship, they respect that. They appreciate that. So like I said, I feel very confident in my re-election next year,” Zellner said.
Zellner doesn’t seem to need any reassurance. If he did, it’s unlikely he’d take it from his Republican Counterpart.
But there does seem to be one thing Zellner, and those who’d like to replace him, can learn from Langworthy’s historic victory Tuesday Night.
“This is a difficult business. The pendulum can swing wildly, especially in the rough and tumble world of Erie County politics. There’s going to be ebbs and flows,” Langworthy added.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Casey Bortnick on November 7, 2013 at 1:48 am, and is filed under 2013, Democrats, Erie County, Republicans. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|