Among local political operatives, a rumor is swirling: that Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) is conspiring with State Senate candidate Mark Panepinto (D-Buffalo) to secure the Democratic nomination for the Republican who is expected to lose his own primary. After voting for the NYSAFE Act, Grisanti has become deeply unpopular among Republicans. He is expected to lose the GOP primary to Kevin Stocker, a Kenmore attorney and former Town Prosecutor in Tonawanda.
The operatives suspect that Panepinto is circulating Democratic nominating petitions with the intention of dropping out of the race so that Mark Grisanti could then be appointed to the line by the designated committee on vacancies. If the rumor is true, it could constitute violations of multiple election and public corruption laws.
And it invites questions about why Lisa Hackathorn, the Hamburg Village Trustee who declared her candidacy several months ago, suddenly ended her campaign at the direction of Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner. Simultaneously, party headquarters coalesced around Mark Panepinto, a longtime political participant who was once convicted of election fraud. After other brief candidacies (he raised $50,000 in campaign funds two years ago for a supposed Senate candidacy), he has been deemed unelectable.
Why, observers wonder, would the party back him with such anonymity?
In light of Andrew Cuomo’s recently announced agreement with Senator Jeff Klein (D-New York City), that his Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) would rejoin the Democrats after the current election cycle, observers suspect a conspiracy.
They say that Grisanti is working with local Democratic party headquarters to orchestrate a party switch shortly before he loses the Republican primary. Such a plot, if revealed, would be damning in the Republican primary — causing many to wonder if Grisanti will even contest the primary.
Grisanti, they say, prefers to forgo the primary rather than be weakened by a likely defeat. They note that Grisanti needed to spend nearly $2 million to get through a primary with Stocker only two short years ago. Despite spending that unprecedented sum, Grisanti was only able to get about 5,500 voters to the polls; while Stocker spent only $50,000 and got just over 4,800 voters to the polls.
And that was before Grisanti’s gun vote. So expect Grisanti to rejoin the Democratic party any day now.