Democrats

Women’s Equality Agenda, Now With Pledge

A new effort to boost the 10-point women’s agenda in Albany was announced on Thursday with the release of a “pledge” for candidates to sign and support the legislation.

The package of measures, known as the Women’s Equality Agenda, was put to the forefront this election season when state Democrats formed the Women’s Equality Party, a new ballot line meant to promote the omnibus legislation.

Now the party has its own pledge, with the first signers being Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

“The Women’s Equality Party isn’t just a political party; it is a powerful movement, and today, with the announcement of the Women’s Equality Pledge, we are putting that movement to action. This pledge isn’t just words on a page. These words represent the heart of equality to women, and what we hope will be the law of the land in New York next year,” said former Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn, who is coordinating efforts for the ballot line.

The push for the agenda comes after the package as a whole has stalled in Albany.

Broadly, Senate Republicans are opposed to the provision that would codify the Roe v. Wade decision in state law.

However, the conference has approved various pieces of the agenda as separate items, including pay equity requirements, anti-housing discrimination and a law meant to crack down on human trafficking.

The Democratic leadership in the Legislature and supporters of abortion rights believe the legislation should be approved as a single package.

Cuomo said at a rally for the agenda today he was “surprised” the package has been bottled up in Albany.

The women’s agenda was first introduced by the governor at his 2013 State of the State address.

Cuomo pushed hard for the entirety of the package, but in June of that year broke the measures up into 10 separate pieces of legislation, with Republicans in the Senate approving nine of them, save for the abortion plank.

The battle over the agenda isn’t just a statewide election issue, either.

Senate candidates have been circling around the issue as well, with Republicans accusing Democrats of blocking the passage of bills that have a chance to become law. Democrats, in turn, have used the issue to highlight their support for abortion rights.

Womens Equality Party Palm by Nick Reisman

Erie County Democratic Chairman Battle Heats Up (Updated)

The election for the Erie County Democratic Party chairmanship is just three days away, but a new candidate has entered the fray to challenge incumbent Jeremy Zellner: Town of Amherst Councilman Mark Manna.

Manna, who is also a contract negotiator for the UFCW in Western New York, threw his hat into the ring last night. He is being supported by Sen. Tim Kennedy, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and NYSUT regional staff director Mike Deely.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Manna called the party under Zellner a “laughingstock” that can’t raise money, win elections or broker a peace deal between the constantly warring factions.

“In my job as a labor negotiator, I have to bring all sides to the table,” Manna said. “I’m the candidate to bring peace and progress and start with a clean slate. (Zellner) is more interested in controlling failure than managing success.”

Kennedy has made no secret of his desire to see Zellner go – particularly after the chairman backed his primary opponent, Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, in her second failed attempt at ousting the senator. Kennedy’s name was floated as a potential challenger to Zellner, but during a CapTon interview earlier this week, he said he wasn’t interested in pursuing the post himself. He did, however, express interest in seeing a change in leadership.

I spoke with Kennedy this afternoon, and he was effusive in his praise for Manna, calling him a “working class labor organizer who has literally pulled himself up by the bootstraps.”

“Mark Manna is a coalition and consensus builder who can actually bring peace and unity to the Democratic Party that the current leadership cannot,” Kennedy said. “He has strong relationships with each and every faction of the party…It’s time for Democrats to unite and put our resources behind beating Republicans rather than beating on each other.”

Kennedy insisted that Cheektowaga Democratic Chair Frank Max, who had been challenging Zellner, has removed his name from consideration and is backing Manna. That has also been reported on a WNY blog, but I so far have not been able to independently confirm it.

UPDATE: Max has confirmed to our TWC News team in Buffalo that he is indeed backing Manna, and that he along with five elected officials in the town of Cheektowaga are meeting tonight to discuss the issue. According to Max, who unsuccessfully challenged Zellner for the chairmanship in 2012, the party has been in “freefall for the past two years,” plagued by a lack of communication.

I also asked Kennedy about where Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz would end up in this intra-party battle. Poloncarz, as you’ll recall, joined Zellner in backing Grant against Kennedy in the primary, along with Rep. Brian Higgins. Kennedy said the county executive “has the opportunity to unify this party by working with the consensus, labor-backed candidate; he has a decision to make.” Manna said he spoke with Poloncarz earlier today, but did not manage to secure his endorsement.

The chairmanship vote will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in Lackawanna. It will be a weighted vote based on the number of enrolled Democrats in each committee member’s district.

Kennedy predicted Manna would have sufficient votes to defeat Zellner, but Zellner scoffed at that suggestion, noting that he has the support of Manna’s own town party leader.

“This guy has no political base, and the numbers aren’t there,” Zellner told me. “This is Steve Pigeon grabbing someone at the last minute and putting them up like he always does.”

“We’ve worked really hard since I’ve become chair to bring people together. We’ve done that, and we’ve won some important races…My relationship with the governor is flowering right now, and that has to do with the huge win he had in Western New York on primary day. This is not the way to keep the momentum going here. We need to not be fighting.”

Pigeon, a Kennedy ally, is himself a former Erie County Democratic chairman. He’s a controversial figure in WNY politics, but also is an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo was involved (behind the scenes) during the Erie County Democratic Party’s last chairmanship fight in 2012. The governor and his people worked hard to oust Zellner’s predecessor, Len Lenihan, but Zellner wasn’t the replacement they wanted. They preferred Max, the Cheektowaga chair.

In recent weeks, there has been a thaw between Zellner and the governor, with the chairman making an appearance at the post-primary victory rally held for Cuomo and his running mate, former WNY Rep. Kathy Hochul, in Orchard Park.

Zellner also said he collaborated closely with Team Cuomo on the TV commercial that dinged the governor’s GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, for being a fan of the Miami Dolphins, who were soundly beaten by the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday in the team’s home opener at the Ralph.

The ad has generated a lot of attention and controversy, thanks to the photoshopping of Astorino’s 11-year-old son, Sean, out of an image of him and his Dad at the Dolphins’ stadium. Democrats said they erred on the side of caution by removing Sean from the photo, suggesting it might have been illegal for them to include it without first getting permission from his parents.

Rice’s 1st NY-4 TV Ad – a ‘Promise’ On Texting & Driving (Updated)

Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, the Democratic candidate for the seat of retiring Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, is on the air with the first TV ad of her campaign, which focuses on her record of combatting drunk driving, and her proposal to crack down on drivers who text behind the wheel.

Just last week, Rice unveiled a five-point plan to address the texting-while-driving problem – an issue on which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also focused, but not one that’s generally high on the “to-do” list for a member of Congress. Taxes, terror, jobs, healthcare? Yes. Texting-while-driving? Not really.

The ad is airing on a wide variety of targeted cable channels across Cablevision and FiOS networks, according to Rice’s campaign. The DA is facing Republican former Nassau County Legislator Bruce Blakeman in November, after both candidates won June primaries for their respective major party lines.

Blakeman has far less campaign cash on hand than Rice ($609,249 with $700,000 worth of debt, to her $1.4 million, as of the last fundraising quarter, which ended at the end of June). He has been hammering her on her silence regarding the corruption-busting Moreland Commission, which she co-chaired until January, when she quit the post to run for Congress.

UPDATE: Blakeman’s spokesman Matt Coleman sent this response:

“Bruce Blakeman will be better in Washington to fight for more jobs, lower taxes and to keep New York safe from terror. Bruce Blakeman in Congress and Kathleen Rice as District Attorney taking-on texting while driving is a win-win for Nassau voters.”

Here’s the text (ahem) of Rice’s ad:

Clip from 2005 Nassau DA’s race Rice ad: I’m Kathleen Rice. Nassau County can do a much better job of drunk driving enforcement.

Rice today: When you elected me DA, I promised you that I would take on DWI. I did. And we’ve made progress where nobody said we could. Now we have a new challenge – we’ve all seen it. Drivers young and old, texting behind the wheel. I’ll make you another promise: Send me to Congress, and I’ll go after texting – just like DWI – and we’ll save lives.

I’m Kathleen Rice, and I approve this message.

DCCC: Katko a ‘Rubber Stamp’ for Boehner

The DCCC is up on the air with its first ad of the NY-24 race, which casts GOP candidate John Katko as little more than a “rubber stamp” for House Speaker John Boehner.

The ad starts running on cable and broadcast stations in Central New York today.

The focus is women’s issues – specifically abortion rights and contraception – which has been a very hot topic in both congressional and state Senate races.

NY-24 is a pretty evenly divided district, with 141,823 active registered Democrats, 140,099 Republicans and 100,647 so-called “blanks” as of April, according to the state Board of Elections.

The district has changed hands between the GOP and the Democrats over the last several election cycles, and its current representative, Democrat Dan Maffei, lost his seat once before to a conservative Republican who accused him to being too liberal for this centrist region.

Since his return to Congress, Maffei has been a lot more careful about his voting record, occasionally breaking ranks with his fellow Democrats and moving to the center in an effort to brand himself a “pragmatic progressive.”

By last August, Maffei had voted with his Democratic leaders 75 percent of the time since beginning his second term in January, according to a vote-tracking database maintained by the Washington Post. Now, he’s up to 79 percent of the time.

Here’s the script for the DCCC’s ad:

“Narrator: Lately, John Katko’s been a busy guy.

Busy being a rubber stamp for John Boehner and Republican leaders in Congress.

On abortion, Katko sides with them, opposing a woman’s right to choose.

And Katko would even allow employers to deny coverage for common forms of birth control.

He said denying women access to contraception is the “right decision.”

John Katko. A rubber stamp who doesn’t share our values.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

Tim Wu, the Rocky Balboa of Primary Day

Democratic LG candidate Tim Wu this morning compared himself to the iconic boxer Rocky Balboa, saying he and his running mate, gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, have fought the good fight and left it all out on the mat in their long-shot primary challenges to former Rep. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I woke up this morning and I just felt this incredible energy and calmness,” Wu said after casting his vote. “And I’m just really excited to see what happens. Nobody knows what’s happening in my race. There has been no polling whatsoever; it all depends on turnout.”

“You know, for me, I love the movie “Rocky,” it’s all about going the distance. And I felt we have fought this campaign strong. We have exploited everything. We’ve been outspent one hundred-to-one. But we have run this campaign with integrity, and I’m proud of it. I’m expecting in my race a big upset, and I’m very excited to see what happens.”

Watch Here >>

Primary Day Primer

What was supposed to be a rather sleepy election year, with the exception of a few contested legislative races here and there, has turned into something worth watching, thanks to Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.

When the duo of liberal law school professors launched their long shot challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul, they breathed some life into an otherwise ho-hum primary season, and also exposed the weakness on Cuomo’s left flank.

Just how significant that weakness is will be determined in part by the percentage of the vote Teachout manages to garner today.

The benchmark for a protest candidate that most people have been using is the 17 percent labor activist Jonathan Tasini received in his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2006. I’ve heard predictions that Teachout receives as much as 40 percent of the vote today – though that seems incredibly high.

Much depends on the turnout – specifically where the bulk of voters show up at the polls. Generally speaking, anything under 20 percent of the vote will be considered under performing for Teachout, while closer to 30 – or higher – will be a significant blow to the governor.

But the mere fact that Cuomo is facing a challenge at all has been interpreted as a weakness by the national media, especially when it comes to 1) his usefulness to potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton in the brave new world of progressive-dominated Democratic politics, (NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is poised to rise even higher there), and 2) his own White House aspirations.

Tasini’s 17 percent was largely an anti-war vote. What’s going on with Cuomo is more complicated.

There are numerous groups upset with Cuomo and his fiscally conservative/socially liberal approach to governing the state: Public school teachers, unionized state workers, anti-fracking activists, good government advocates.

And then there are the self-described “progressives” who say Cuomo is to blame for the IDC-GOP power-sharing deal that kept the Democrats from assuming their rightful place in the Senate majority and prevented the passage of all manner of legislation – from the Women’s Equality Act to the DREAM Act to a public campaign finance system.

Teachout, who has received a handful of endorsements – including from PEF and NOW-NYS – is banking on these the upset of these disaffected Democrats and the power of the grassroots/social media to turn people out today.

Cuomo is going the more traditional route, relying on the well-oiled GOTV machines of unions like SEIU 1199 and HTC and the traditional Democratic Party apparatus to push him and Hochul over the finish line to victory.

The Hochul-Wu battle is a wild card, since both candidates are relative unknowns, though Hochul has a leg up on her opponent in WNY after serving as Erie County clerk and (albeit briefly) a congresswoman.

Hochul’s conservative views and votes – necessary for someone representing a GOP-dominated district – have become fodder for Wu, who has accused her of being too far to the right to lead a blue state like New York.

Wu has been endorsed by the New York Times, but, as CapTon Insider and election-data-crunching-guru Bruce Gyory notes, former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn got the Gray Lady’s nod in the 2013 mayor’s race (along with endorsements from the NY Daily News AND the Post), and she finished a weak third in the Democratic primary.

A win by Wu would stick Cuomo with a running mate he doesn’t want or like – a conundrum that occurred to his father and Al Del Bello back in 1982 – and also leave him unable to combine votes in the general election from the WFP and Independence Party lines (unless he can get Hochul off them and Wu on).

Unwilling to follow in his father’s footsteps on this one, Cuomo has been pulling out all the stops on Hochul’s behalf, urging voters to pick her based on her “experience” as an elected official, which he insists is necessary to serve as LG.

Other races we’re watching today:

- The IDCers. Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein vs. former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell. This primary was supposed to melt away after Klein, as head of the IDC, agreed to a deal to make a deal to abandon his GOP allies and instead share power with his Democratic colleagues next year.

That agreement grew out of the WFP endorsement deal for Cuomo that was brokered by de Blasio – a point the Senate GOP is now using as a campaign platform.

Koppell refused to drop his challenge to Klein, however. He’s no longer supported by the WFP or any major labor unions and has trailed Klein in fundraising, but he has the backing of DailyKos and other liberal netroots types, along with the NYT endorsement.

Queens Sen. Tony Avella vs. former NYC Comptroller John Liu. This fight also survived the IDC deal, even though Avella is a member (the newest member) of the breakaway Democratic conference. Liu is trying to make a comeback after losing the NYC mayor’s race last year. He’s a prodigious fundraiser, which got people affiliated with him into some hot water with the feds.

This race has split labor and Democratic leaders, with some remaining loyal to Liu – including the Queens party organization. But the district is only 25 percent Asian, and Avella has a strong base of support, which means Liu has his work cut out for him. This could be a very tight contest that goes into overtime and comes down to paper ballots.

More >

Dem Meddles In GOP SD-60 Primary (Updated)

Also from today’s Morning Memo:

Democratic state Senate candidate Marc Panepinto apparently has a strong preference as to which Republican he’ll face in the November general election should he triumph in his own primary battle tomorrow.

Panepinto feels so strongly, in fact, that he’s willing to spend some of his own campaign cash – not to boost his candidacy – but in an attempt to influence the outcome of the GOP Senate primary in which Sen. Mark Grisanti faces a second challenge from Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker.

(Grisanti defeated Stocker, 60-40, in the 2012 primary after his controversial “yes” vote on same-sex marriage. He is now the only one of four GOP senators who voted “yes” still in the chamber).

A TV ad that recently started running on WNY airways (including TWC Cable News) casts Grisanti as a party-flipping moderate who can’t be trusted.

Here’s the script:

“Mark Grisanti was a Democrat, until he wasn’t. Grisanti opposed restrictions on the Second Amendment, until he didn’t. Grisanti supported restricting special interest money, until he took it. Grisanti claims he stood with the community, until he chose to defend a West Side drug kingpin against the community. Mark Grisanti, you just can’t trust him.”

A tiny disclaimer that appears at the bottom of the screen just as the ad is ending reveals it was paid for by Panepinto’s campaign.

Attempts to reach a Panepinto spokesperson by phone and email last night were unsuccessful. UPDATE: Panepinto’s campaign today sent me a statement that insisted the ad(s?) have “nothing to do with the Republican primary, adding:

“Looking ahead to the general election, the fact is Mark Grisanti can’t be trusted and puts his needs ahead of those of the constituents of the 60th Senate District. On the other hand, Marc Panepinto has stood with the same party and consistently fought for working and middle class families for his entire life. Voters in the 60th Senate District are fed up with elected officials whose values, platform and party affiliation change each election cycle and that is why Mark Grisanti is wrong for this district and Western New York.”

This highly unusual approach by Panepinto is part of what appears to be an organized campaign by key Democrats and their allies to meddle in the GOP primary.

The Buffalo News recently reported that the political arm of NYSUT, which has endorsed Panepinto in his primary battle with former Buffalo Councilman and state Senator Al Coppola, has been running attack ads and sending out mailers that depict Grisanti as not sufficiently conservative to represent the 60th Senate District.

The left-leaning statewide teachers union is not generally viewed as a protector of conservative values.

Insiders believe the union is hoping to soften up Grisanti to enable a victory by Stocker, whom NYSUT apparently assumes would be easier for its candidate, Panepinto, to beat in November.

Stocker told the Buffalo News he has nothing to do with NYSUT’s anti-Grisanti campaign, and believes he’ll defeat both the senator (in tomorrow’s primary) and Panepinto (in November, assuming he wins tomorrow’s primary) on his own steam.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Stocker has irked local GOP leaders with his write-in campaign for the ultra-liberal Working Families Party line. The WFP has endorsed Panepinto.

The local party officials and the Senate GOP are supporting Grisanti’s re-election – a key win if the Republicans want to take back the majority.

A Buffalo Democratic insider suggested the nexus between the Panepinto and Stocker campaigns could be former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon. In 2010, Pigeon assisted Stocker with his failed campaign against Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, according to this source. And this year, Pigeon is an unpaid and unofficial advisor to Panepinto.

Pigeon did not return an email seeking comment.

Panepinto also briefly considered challenging Grisanti back in 2012. His candidacy has been married by his guilty plea to a misdemeanor violation of state election law for gathering phony petition signatures.

Panepinto called that incident a “lapse in judgment…that did not impede by legal career in any way.” Panepinto was also a candidate for Erie County Democratic chairman in 2012 before bowing out. That post is now held by Jeremy Zellner.

To call Zellner and Pigeon political enemies would be something of an understatement.

Zellner is running for re-election for the chairmanship this year. Insiders suspect all the subterfuge surrounding the campaigns of Panepinto and Stocker – not to mention the Democratic primary battle between Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant and Sen. Tim Kennedy – might actually have something to do with that race.

Given the notoriously tangled web of WNY politics, I’m sure there’s much more to this story that remains under the radar. Feel free to drop a line if you’ve got any additional information and/or insight.

Addendum: Zellner will get a boost this afternoon from a GOTV really being held in Orchard Park for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate (and WNY native), former Rep. Kathy Hochul. Kellner’s expected attendance may signal a thaw between himself and the governor, according to Bob McCarthy, or, at the very least, a temporary detente.

Rep. Maloney’s 1st Ad Hits Airwaves in NY-18

From today’s Morning Memo:

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is poised to release his first TV ad of this 2014 campaign – a re-match with the Republican he defeated two years ago, former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

The ad, which will air on Hudson Valley cable stations for at least a week, highlights Maloney’s days as an attorney in the Clinton administration, when he was the highest-ranked openly gay official at the White House.

Here’s the script:

“My dad is a disabled veteran. I think the proudest day of my life was when I walked him into the Oval Office to meet my boss, President Clinton.”

“These men taught me what it means to serve your country.”

“Later when I built my business I was proud to create good jobs so folks like my mom and dad could work hard and make it in the middle class.”

“Families here in the Hudson Valley deserve a government on their side that rewards hard work so their kids can have a better future. That’s what I fight for every day.”

“I’m Sean Patrick Maloney, and I approve this message.”

No mention of the congressman’s political affiliation, but is one really needed, given the Clinton name-dropping?

The goal here is clearly to cast Maloney as a pragmatic centrist in a district that has changed hands between the Democrats and the Republicans several times in recent years. A source close to Maloney says the ad buy is in the five-figure range.

The congressman reported having close to $1.8 million on hand at the end of the last FEC quarter, so he has more than enough cash to extend the airtime for the ad if he’s so inclined.

Two years ago, Hayworth was already on the air in July, and the NRCC went up with a spot on her behalf during the first week of September. So far, there has been no outside infusion of cash on Hayworth’s behalf, but the race is young yet.

This time around, Hayworth has been trailing Maloney in the fundraising race, but in July she infused her campaign with a $500,000 loan, and narrowed the cash gap. She had just over $1 million on hand at the end of the last reporting quarter.

Based on Hayworth’s cash infusion and several other factors, the Rothenberg Report changed the NY-18 race rating from “Safe Democratic” to “Democrat Favored.”

Miner & Cuomo Bury the Hatchet

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who warred very publicly with Gov. Andrew Cuomo until stepping down in April from the post of state Democratic Party co-chair to which he appointed her, says she and the governor have settled their differences in advance of next week’s primary.

I asked Miner during a CapTon interview last night whether she is supporting Cuomo’s re-election campaign in the face of a spirited challenge from his fellow Democrat, Zephyr Teachout, and she replied simply: “I am.”

“The governor called me today and we had a good discussion,” Miner revealed. “We have not always agreed, and my disagreements with him are a matter of public record.”

“We’ve talked about that and we also talked about our areas of agreement as well. When I resigned as chair of the party in April, I said then that I would support his campaign for re-election, and that I would work hard for him.”

I told Miner that Cuomo’s decision to reach out to her to smooth over any lingering tension between the two of them indicated to me that he truly is pulling out all the stops to create a united front heading into the election next Tuesday.

The governor clearly wants every last Democrat who isn’t supporting Teachout to publicly declare their fealty to him – especially the few who have been brave enough to question his policies over the past four years.

“No surprise,” Miner replied. “That’s what every successful politician does, and in fact, he is the one who told me that politics is about addition not subtraction.”

“So you want to go into Election Day having as many friends and allies and people supporting you as possible. That’s how you win.”

Miner said she doesn’t believe Cuomo will have any trouble defeating Teachout next week, and she believes his hand-picked running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, will also emerge successful from her primary battle with Teachout’s LG pick, Columbia Law Prof. Tim Wu.

Miner won’t be around for the primary. She has been invited by the British government to accompany four other US mayors on a trip across the pond to discuss municipal finances, infrastructure and other urban issues.

Miner said she’s not quite sure why she was tapped to receive this all-expenses paid trip, but she’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

She has already cast her vote in the Sept. 9 primary via absentee ballot, and though I didn’t ask her to reveal who she voted for (that would be violating the sanctity of the secret ballot), it seems a safe bet, given her endorsement, who she choose in the governor’s race.

Watch Here >>

Brown, Higgins Back Kennedy In Primary

Deepening the split in the Erie County Democratic Party, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Rep. Brian Higgins today announced their support of Sen. Tim Kennedy as he tries to fend off a second primary challenge from Betty Jean Grant, minority leader of the Erie County Legislature.

In a joint statement released shortly after noon, the mayor (a former state senator himself) and the veteran congressman (a former state assemblyman) cited Kennedy’s “hard work” and “relentless fight” on behalf of working families inthe 63rd Senate District, noting his push for the UB 2020 plan and success in strengthening penalties for child abuse through the passage of Jay-J’s Law.

“I often speak of collaboration when it comes to the new Buffalo, the record economic development and the real progress we are seeing each and every day,” Brown said. “Collaboration like this takes strong partners at all levels and State Senator Tim Kennedy has played a key role in delivering important resources to our area to help ensure that the development, the job creation and the progress continue.”

Higgins praised Kennedy’s “strong voice” for Western New York in Albany, and said his “enthusiasm” will help keep momentum of the region’s economic revival going.

“Representation at its best comes when heart meets work ethic and Tim Kennedy is representation at its best,” Higgins continued. “From protecting Western New York children to delivering for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Tim’s passion and compassion are creating real results for local families on issues that matter most.”

“Tim’s tireless approach to service has contributed to the reawakening of the local economy and resurgence of local jobs. Senator Kennedy is a strong voice for our region in Albany and his enthusiasm is what we need to continue to build momentum in Western New York.”

This move by Higgins and Brown sets them apart from the Erie County Democratic Party, which is supporting Grant. She also has the backing of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who said during a recent CapTon interview (while we were at the Erie County Fair) that he partially blamed Kennedy and his alliance with former Erie County Democratic Chairman Steve Pigeon for the party’s loss of control of the county Legislature, which relegated Grant to the minority leader post.

Poloncarz also denied that his endorsement of Grant was done with an eye toward political payback, and said he’ll be supporting whoever wins the primary next Tuesday.

There is a long history of division within the Erie County Democratic Party. Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefly tried to get involved – he’s particularly interested in the area, thanks to the fact that he lost it to Carl Paladino in 2010 – and his displeasure contributed to the retirement of the party’s former chairman Len Lenihan.

But Cuomo’s preferred replacement for Lenihan, Frank C. Max Jr., Cheektowaga town Democratic chairman, lost in 2012 to the current chair, Jeremy Zellner, and the party remains as divided as ever.