Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Panepinto Drops Out of Race for Democratic County Chairman

Filed under: Erie County, Local Politics

And then there were two. This morning Buffalo attorney Marc Panepinto withdrew from the race to be the next chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee, which holds its reorganization meeting tomorrow morning at Hearthstone Manor in Cheektowaga.

That leaves two candidates to succeed Len Lenihan, the outgoing chairman: Frank Max, the chairman of the Cheektowaga Democrats, and Jeremy Zellner, former executive director of the county committee and currently chief of staff at the Erie County Legislature.

Here’s the statement Panepinto released this morning:

Dear Democratic Committee member,
Throughout the past few months I have had the privilege of sharing my vision for the Erie County Democratic Committee with you and with Democrats across the region. My vision of our party’s future includes a long-term, strategic plan which would allow for organizing around issues that matter to working people as well as a commitment to better engaging our allies in organized labor, local arts and culturals, and trial lawyers.
However, it is now time that I withdraw from the race for Erie County Democratic Chairperson.
It is apparent to me and my team that we will not have the votes to reach the required majority of the Committee at tomorrow’s reorganization meeting. Since entering this race, my only goal has been to improve our Party.  I will not play the spoiler or encourage chaos at the meeting as it will only undo the positive energy this Chair race has created. The candidates have all been professional and the discussion has been genuine.  I will not jeopardize that positivity by staying in a race I know I cannot win.
After Saturday’s vote we will have a new Chair.  As a committee member, Zone Chair, donor, and activist, I promise to continue the unending fight to improve our Party and our community.  I will keep that promise no matter who we elect tomorrow as the next Democratic Chair.
Thank you all for taking time to read my letters, attend forums, and most of all for being counted at tomorrow’s vote.
Until tomorrow,
Marc C. Panepinto

Panepinto told us that he couldn’t rally more than 20 percent of the committee’s weighted vote behind his candidacy and so decided to withdraw — “for the sake of party unity,” he said. He also said he’s not endorsing either Max or Zellner.

Also on that slate will be attorney John Flynn for Democratic commissioner for the Erie County Board of Elections, challenging Dennis Ward of Amherst. Flynn is an associate of John Crangle, the Town of Tonawanda party chairman who was supposed to succeed Lenihan last summer as part of a star-crossed peace accord brokered by emissaries of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Zellner has the support of Ward’s Amherst Democrats. He also has been publicly endorsed by the Unity Coalition, an East Side alliance headed by Champ Eve, whose day job is deputy commissioner at the Board of Elections. Max will have the Mayor Byron Brown’s political team; he will likely have the support of much of what used to be the Sam Hoyt organization, too. (What do we call that now? The Sean Ryan organization?) I’ve heard that the Delaware Club will back Max. I haven’t heard where South Buffalo stands, or even if they can be counted as a cohesive bloc on this matter, but that would seem to swing the majority of city Democrats to Max. Fran Warthling of Lackawanna and Gayle Syposs of the City of Tonawanda stand with Zellner. Both Max and Zellner claim substantial support from the county’s town and village committees. But it’s a secret ballot, so the party leaders making these deals with one another can’t absolutely guarantee how the committee people they claim to control will vote.

Max has Cuomo’s support, which may be a double-edged sword: You’d rather have it than not, but there’s lingering bitterness over the governor’s interference last summer.