State Senate candidate Marc Panepinto, a Buffalo Democrat who was once convicted of election fraud and whose license to practice law was suspended for one year, is expecting that the New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) will be bankrolling his campaign. Panepinto said as much in a meeting with the Erie County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee earlier this summer, where he effectively bullied Laura Hackathorn out of the Senate race — despite the committee working closely with her for months.
Several sources say that Panepinto threatened to run without the endorsement and guaranteed that he would win because Mike Deely (of NYSUT) committed to delivering “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to his campaign.
Marc Panepinto is married to New York State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto, who formerly served on the Buffalo Board of Education where she was very closely allied with Buffalo Teachers’ Federation president Philip Rumore.
The teachers’ unions are upset with Grisanti because of his sponsorship of a Tuition Tax Credit that would have made it easier for working class families to send their children to private or parochial schools. Grisanti also supported the Common Core standards that were poorly rolled out by the Cuomo Administration last year.
There was an enormous amount of pushback on the committee, because the Town Chairs had worked for months organizing the campaign of Hackathorn, a popular Hamburg Village Trustee who was encouraged to run by former Rep. Kathy Hochel. Hackathorn was well liked by the Town Chairs. They asked why Panepinto didn’t inform the committee of his intentions sooner — knowing that they had been searching for a candidate for months and that he too serves as a Town Chair.
Many sources say that Panepinto was acting arrogant, condescending, and mean.There were widespread feelings of sadness for Hackathorn, many worried “what are we going to tell Laura?”
Committee members were shocked because just the night before Chairman Zellner hosted a fundraiser for Hackathorn, where he gave no indication that he would be introducing Panepinto as the party’s candidate the next night.
So understandably — suspecting a conspiracy was afoot — Panepinto was asked if he would be supporting Jeremy Zellner’s Chairmanship at the next reorganization meeting. Zellner is a divisive figure in the party who has lost support from a multitude of party factions.
“Not if he’s not endorsed, no; I wouldn’t” Panepinto responded to their surprise.
They suspected Zellner’s hands were tied because the NYSUT has donated to the Erie County Democrats heavily in the past, and just two years ago spent staggering sums on Zellner’s efforts and gained very little to show for it. The executive committee then resigned themselves to voting the way that they were told (as many hold patronage jobs that they believe would be lost if they opposed Zellner’s recommendation).
They figured that Zellner was beholden to the teachers, and they were beholden to Zellner, so there was nothing they could do about it. The next day, Laura Hackathorn was thrown under the proverbial bus.
Still though, some political operatives continue to speculate that Panepinto is running as a placeholder candidate who intends to help Republican Mark Grsianti run for office on the Democratic line, after his widely expected defeat in the GOP primary. They are baffled why Zellner would endorse a weak and deeply flawed candidate who cannot possibly win with a history of election fraud hanging around his neck.