by Larry Austin
State Sen. Mark Grisanti received good news and bad news as he seeks political endorsements in the race for the seat to represent Grand Island in the New York State Senate.
The freshman state senator, who represents Grand Island in the 60th District, received the endorsement of the Independence Party this week in his bid for re-election, but saw support from the state Conservative Party go to Charles Swanick.
New York State Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay arrived in Western New York Tuesday afternoon to announce his party's support for Grisanti, a Republican who represents Grand Island in the New York State Senate.
In his remarks, MacKay stated, "In Mark Grisanti, we have found an individual that not only possesses the characteristics we look for in a candidate, he epitomizes them."
MacKay said that in just over 13 months in office, Grisanti has distinguished himself as one of the most independent lawmakers in the legislature.
"Mark has shown time and time again that he is not afraid to cross the aisle to do what is right for Western New York, and for the people of New York state. He is not beholden to political insiders and special interest groups; he has been a self made, independent lawmaker dating back to his campaign in 2010, and has always stuck to his pledge of putting people before politics."
MacKay was joined by State Sen. George D. Maziarz (R, I-Newfane) and Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon (I-Hamburg) on the grounds of the historic Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park for the announcement.
Grisanti expressed his gratitude for the endorsement.
"I thank Chairman MacKay for being here today and for his faith in me to properly represent Western New York," said Grisanti. "I will continue to work hard and do what is in the best interest of my district without bowing to political pressures and outside influences while striving to preserve the rights of every constituent."
MacKay cited Grisanti's first term accomplishments in office, including the passage of UB2020, which he labeled "a job generating machine for Buffalo and Western New York."
The Conservative Party, however, swung its endorsement to Swanick, the former Erie County Legislature chairman who represented the Island in the legislature.
"We are not surprised or shocked that a political deal was cut," Grisanti said in response to the announcement by Erie County Conservatives. "It is my intention to continue to focus all my efforts on creating jobs and opportunities here in Western New York. We will continue to put people first and not politics."
The announcement of Swanick's endorsement for State Senate by Erie County Conservatives drew a stinging response from their Niagara County brethren. Niagara County Conservative Party Chairman Dan Weiss took a verbal shot at his counterpart Ralph Lorigo as well.
"Until new legislative redistricting lines are approved by the legislature and the governor and withstand a court challenge, Mark Grisanti still represents part of Niagara County and still has the full support of the Niagara County Conservative Party," Weiss said.
"We would like to say we are shocked and dismayed that Erie County Chairman Ralph Lorigo has cut a side deal with ultra-liberal Steve Pigeon so Pigeon's protégé Chuck Swanick can get the Conservative line, but the sad fact is the Lorigo abandoned Conservative principles long ago in exchange for patronage jobs and legal clients. He is an embarrassment to the party," Weiss added.
"We can understand that some conservatives are upset about Mark Grisanti's vote for gay marriage," Weiss said, "but we need to look at the totality of his record. Chuck Swanick is a political opportunist and a fiscal nightmare who ran Erie County into the ground. He is exactly what we do not need. And his mentor Steve Pigeon is a cheap political hack that lacks any true conservative principles."
"I'm also appalled at the lack of understanding of political ramifications statewide for this move that could see a return to downstate liberal control of the Senate," Weiss said. "This again proves Lorigo stands for nothing but his own personal gain.
"And let me make one more point. Should the current lines stand and Sen. Grisanti's seat is wholly contained in Erie County, I will send my Conservative committeemen into Erie County and support either an opportunity to ballot for Mark or an alternative conservative candidate. That is how disgusted I am with this Chuck Swanick/Steve Pigeon endorsement."
Weiss' stand drew an instant response from Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York in the most recent gubernatorial election. Paladino said he was "shocked" to read the statement by Weiss and said that it "amounted to a personal attack on Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo."
"Weiss' accusation that Ralph abandoned true conservative principles is a despicable lie. It appears that Weiss was the messenger for the treacherous Dean Skelos and Al D'Amato and their cohorts who are desperately trying to salvage Mark Grisanti after he sold his integrity and character to boost Andrew Cuomo. They have no right to slander the good name of a true conservative leader doing what they don't have the guts to do.
"During my 2010 run for governor, Ralph taught all of us about true commitment to conservative values. My campaign was a stark contrast to my liberal primary opponent. Ralph stood steadfast in my corner enduring a blizzard of criticism and pressure to back the less conservative candidates. Oftentimes, I was awed by how he defended me on the basis of principle, not politics. An unprincipled man would have retreated. Ralph stood strong. As a result, the Conservative Party moved up to the C line on the ballot and was truly reinvigorated.
"At the same time Weiss, Skelos and D'Amato cowered behind Rick Lazio. If the Conservative Party rank-and-file had abandoned their principles like those Cretans the party would not exist today.
"Weiss' cynical statement was about politics, not party; driven by puppeteers, not principles. I stand behind Ralph Lorigo like he stood behind me in 2010: on shared values, with an eye toward advancing the Conservative Party into the future."
Grisanti lost the support of local and statewide TEA New Yorkers, said Grand Island's Rus Thompson.
"Mark Grisanti does not deserve our support or endorsement this year and he will not get it," Thompson said.
"Two years ago TEA New York and reform groups from Western New York endorsed and fully supported Mark Grisanti for his Senate run against incumbent Antoine Thompson. Our groups supplied manpower with signatures for petitions, literature drops, phone calls, meetings, emails and fundraising. The TEA Party carried Mark over the finish line to victory against an entrenched incumbent with a better than 5 to 1 advantage.
"In his first term as senator, his voting record on TEA Party issues has been abysmal. We will actively work against him and find a candidate to primary him if at all possible. This in no way should be taken for support for any particular candidate.
Thompson said the message is not aimed at Grisanti alone, but at all Senate Republicans who received TEA NY support but have since not answered the call on matters of reform.
"The Republicans should have demanded the gay marriage vote be put up for referendum instead of passing it, and breaking campaign promises not to vote for it," Thompson said.
"We have Republicans that have let down the people of New York state. So we ask, where were the Republicans like Grisanti in the Senate? Nowhere to be found.
"We will work hard to replace them with honest, hardworking men and women who will actually stand up for the people of Western New York, instead of the political class that has sold out to the parties, special interests, lobbyists and their own personal agendas," Thompson said.