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Democrat Dings Grisanti in Pre-Primary Ad

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.

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.  

Rep. Maloney Hits the Airwaves

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."

Happening Today

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Erie County today.

Casino applicant presentations before the Gaming Facility Location Board will be held today and tomorrow. Click here for details.

The SUNY Board of Trustees will meet today and tomorrow at 353 Broadway, Albany. Click here for details.

At 7:30 a.m., Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout appears on “Good Day NY,” Fox 5.

At 8:15 a.m., Teachout gives a live interview on Radio Woodstock with Jimmy Buff. listen at 100.1 FM or

At 8:45 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli delivers welcome remarks at City & State and AARP “Boom State” forum, Taste, 45 Beaver St., Albany.

At 10 a.m., Teachout appears on “Live from the State Capitol” with Fred Dicker, listen at 1300 AM or

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a Taxi and Limousine Commission Ceremony, Borough of Manhattan Community College – Auditorium 1, 199 Chambers St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Democrats hold a news conference just across the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, NJ to remind the world of Tuesday’s first anniversary of the so-called Bridgegate traffic jams.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council’s Public Safety Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the NYPD’s plan to enhance police officer training in the aftermath of the Eric Garner case, Council chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., GOP AG candidate John Cahill discusses AG Eric Schneiderman’s “latest scandal,” Justice Building entrance, Empire State Plaza, State Street, Albany.

At 11:15 a.m., de Blasio, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, and Pete King, labor leaders, advocates, and 9/11 first responders and survivors will urge Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation programs, Silverstein Family Park, 7 World Trade Center, near the PATH Train, Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, roll out their tech policy with “star digital entrepreneurs, 632 Broadway, 9th Floor, Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., Cuomo and his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, attend a GOTV rally, New York Hotel Trades Council, 305 West 44th St. on 8th Avenue, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Teachout appears live on Radio Soleil D’Haiti, listen at

Also at 2 p.m., Cahill holds a press conference, 207 Genesee St., Room 508, Utica.

At 4 p.m., Cahill holds a press conference, 615 Erie Blvd. West, Suite 102, Syracuse.

At 5:15 p.m., Chemung County Sheriff and GOP LG candidate Chris Moss attends the post-golf dinner, Dutchess County Sheriff Butch Anderson’s Golf Tournament, Trump National Golf Club, 178 Stormville Rd., Hopewell Junction.

At 5:30 p.m., Cuomo and Hochul appear at a GOTV rally, IBEW, Local 41, 3546 California Rd., Orchard Park.

At 7 p.m., Moss attends and delivers keynote remarks at Dutchess County Fraternal Order of Police Dinner, Knights of Columbus Hall, 2660 E. Main St., Wappingers Falls.

At 7:30 p.m., Teachout and Wu attend a rally and phone banking in Union Square, 14th Street, Manhattan.

On CapTon Last Friday:

- SEIU 1199 political director Kevin Finnegan joined Nick Reisman from our sister station, NY1, to talk about the growth of his union - thanks to an increased need for home health care providers. 

Growth in 1199's ranks means the union gains yet more political clout. Finnegan also discussed this year's endorsements, which includes a strong nod in favor of Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul. 

- There are a lot of things New York doesn’t have. But with big money-makers like New York City, Niagara Falls and other attractions, you wouldn’t expect a shortage in millionaires to be one of them.

A new report from the Empire Center shows New York is adding new millionaires at a much slower rate compared to almost every other state in the country.

Empire Center President E.J. MacMahon joined us to explain. 

- Members of our Reporter Roundtable joined Nick in the studio to review the headlines in this busy pre-primary week. 

- Statewide teacher and principal evaluations were released last week. Despite student proficiency rates hovering around 30 percent on the latest round of Common Core tests, a huge majority of teachers were rated either effective or highly effective.

Jenny Sedlis, the executive director of Students First NY, came in to try to explain this discrepancy.

Coming Up On CapTon: 

- A report on today's casino developer presentations in Albany, plus all you need to know before the polls open tomorrow for Primary Day. 


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