Who will fill Mark Grisanti’s Senate Seat?

State Senator Mark Grisanti and his wife were involved in an alcohol induced altercation after an event at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel Events Center.

Perhaps this year’s most exciting election will be held in the State Senate’s 60th district, the seat now held by Mark Grisanti. In all, six candidates are vying for the nominations of five parties. This is how it brakes down.

The Democrats

Al Coppola was reelected eight times to Buffalo's Common Council in the Delaware district before serving as State Senator.
Al Coppola was reelected eight times to Buffalo’s Common Council in the Delaware district before serving as State Senator.

Former State Senator and longtime Delaware District Councilman Al Coppola has announced his candidacy. Coppola has a longtime base of support in North Buffalo and the Westside. He has been active on environmental issues, like stopping the Peace Bridge Authority’s efforts to demolish vast expanses of the Westside. Coppola has long opposed to hydrofracking and two years ago harshly condemned Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $100 million annual cut to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. His lobbying on the issue got the funding restored.

Marc Panepinto will have a tough time competing with Coppola, whose reputation for integrity stands in sharp contrast to Panepinto’s election fraud conviction, in which he lost his license to practice law for one year. Many political operatives are speculating that Panepinto is a “placeholder” candidate, whose committee on vacancies will later appoint Mark Grisanti to the line after Grisanti’s expected defeat in the Republican primary.

The Republicans

Mark Grisanti is running for reelection but remains very unpopular in nearly all segments of the party, ever since his eager support of the NYSAFE Act which is widely understood to be a violation of 2nd amendment rights, and has riled the party in recent years.

Kevin Stocker is an attorney who previously served as Tonawanda Town Prosecutor and Kenmore Village Prosecutor.
Kevin Stocker is an attorney who previously served as Tonawanda Town Prosecutor and Kenmore Village Prosecutor.

Two years ago, before the gun vote, Grisanti had to spend over $1.2 million to get through a primary with Kevin Stocker, a former prosecutor now an attorney in private practice.  Despite that spending, Grisanti was only able to get about 5,500 voters to the polls. Stocker spent only about $50,000 and received about 4,600 votes. In recent months, Grisanti has been polling very badly in all head to head matchups.

Stocker is gearing up for an election cycle that is expected to be as heated as ever. County Legislature Kevin Hardwick bowed out of the race after earlier indications that he would run.

It seems Rus Thompson has also filed petitions — but no one is really sure what he’s thinking, as he himself has said on WBEN that a crowded Republican primary would only give the line to Grisanti.  Not to say that he has an ulterior motive, but he explained on the radio how running on the Republican line would get Grisanti reelected, so one can only surmise that that is precisely what he is doing.

Of course, Thompson is a registered Independence party member and would have had to secure a Wilson Pakula authorization from the Republican party chairman, so his is likely working in concert with GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, who has refused to endorse either Grisanti or Stocker.

Thompson, who is the highest profile organizer among the region’s robust Tea Party organizations, could pull it off. He certainly has the name recognition and, with his close friend Carl Paladino, has the relationships that could fund a competitive campaign.

The Independents

Mark Grisanti and Marc Panepinto filed to run in an Independence party primary, but a recent court decision invalidated Wilson Pakula documents issued by the county committee.

It was expected that Rus Thompson, being a registered Independent, would file for this party’s nomination. As of today, the Board of Elections website indicates that he did not. Thompson is also publicly known to have become a registered Democrat in recent years as well, so obvious questions are being raised about his political ideology — though many note that the Tea Party is generally opposed to both major party establishments, so we’ll see how he navigates the discourse.


Timothy D. Gallagher filed petitions for the Conservative party nomination and Mark Panepinto filed petitions for the Working Families line. Stocker filed an opportunity to ballot on the Working Families line, raising quite a few eyebrows.


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