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Lorigo, Erie County Conservatives Begin Endorsement Process

By Tony Farina

Tony Farina

Ralph Lorigo, one of most powerful political leaders in WNY is known for putting conservative principles ahead of political expediency

What the Conservative Party seeks are men of principle. Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard said he cannot enforce any federal gun law he finds unconstitutional. "You can't do that. It's like saying if you have moral character, and you believe this is wrong, you can't do it," Sheriff Howard said. "The question is what do you do? Do you resign or do you wait until you're terminated? That's an individual's choice."

The annual Spring Get-Together hosted by Chairman Ralph Lorigo and the Erie County Conservative Party attracted close to 300 people last Thursday (May 2) at DiPaolo’s Restaurant in West Seneca, many of them current and would-be mayors, comptrollers, sheriffs, and judges hoping for that all important “Line C” in the November elections.

It was a who’s who of Erie County politics, a testament to the clout of the party that Lorigo has led since 1994, making him the longest-sitting chairman in the county.  The party kicked off what will be a busy month as the party’s executive committee and advisory board will conduct a series of interviews with candidates, culminating with endorsements on May 28, or possibly sooner in some cases.

Among those in attendance seeking the Conservative Party nod this year were Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and two men who would like his job, former Buffalo FBI agent-in-charge Bernie Tolbert who will likely take on Brown in a Democratic primary, and Republican Sergio Rodriguez, a Marine veteran but a relative political unknown.

The party endorsed Brown in his two previous mayoral election victories and he’s probably the strong favorite to win the endorsement again this year as he bids for a third term.

Lorigo said that Brown was supported by the party for his strong fiscal responsibility as a chief executive and administrator, not for a role as a legislator.

“Buffalo had a control board before him, not now,” said Lorigo.  “When it comes to the state’s SAFE act (gun control), he [Brown] has not joined with six other mayors in touting the law that was rushed through with not enough debate.”

Lorigo also spoke positively about Tolbert’s strong background in law enforcement as being popular with conservatives, and said while Rodriguez “has all the ideological positions [we support], he has no record to look at.  It’s about the entire package, mostly what you’ve done.  It helps us judge better.”

The chairman said the 29 members of the executive board will eventually vote on the endorsements after the interview process which will be assisted by a 20-member advisory board.  The chairman would only vote in the event of a tie, and that has never happened.

Lorigo says the committee has received many letters concerning the candidates who will be seeking the party’s endorsement, noting that it is extremely important for candidates who want the party’s backing to support the Conservative Party agenda which includes reducing taxes, holding the line on spending, less government, and the defense of traditional family values.

There are several high-profile campaigns this year in which the Conservative Party’s support will be critical, including the race for sheriff and county comptroller.

Incumbent Sheriff Timothy Howard, a Republican, was working the crowd at Thursday’s get-together, as was endorsed Democratic candidate Bert Dunn.  A third candidate for sheriff, Dick Dawson, a Democrat, is also considering a run. Also on hand were Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, like Howard a Republican, who will be challenged in November by endorsed Democratic candidate Lynn Szalkowski, a CPA and a member of the Frontier District School Board.

All 11 seats in the Erie County Legislature, where Democrats held a 6 to 5 edge, are up this year and the GOP will be pushing hard to take control and ramp up the pressure on Democratic County Executive Mark Poloncarz.  Many contests are already in focus, and legislators from both parties will be pitching hard for “Line C” in the November elections.

The Conservative Party’s endorsement process will begin tonight (May 7) at the party’s headquarters on South Park Ave. in Lackawanna.  On tap for the opening session are candidates for sheriff, comptroller, Family Court, and Lackawanna city offices.

On May 14, the Buffalo mayoral contest and the legislative races will be the focus.  Lorigo said the final session, on May 28, will deal with the City of Tonawanda and any other races that need to be done to complete the process and clear the way for the party to make its all-important endorsements, expected to be made following that last meeting.




Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 07, 2013