Mychajliw, on the outs, must prove himself to GOP leaders

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw was conspiring with Republican political operative Michael Caputo to aggressively primary County Clerk Chris Jacobs for County Executive.

But party leaders have pushed back hard against that prospect in recent weeks, effectively putting the 41 year old’s ambitions in check. They viewed his eagerness to divide the party as unseemly, and they took offense to his disrespectful posture towards Jacobs — who has long been a favorite son of the local party establishment.

In an effort to mend fences, Mychajliw quickly exited the race and threw his full support behind Jacobs. He even published a rather pedestrian explanation of the situation on PoliticsNY.net, a website owned by Caputo, who has also endured his fair share of criticism for the episode from powerful Republican donors.

Those same party leaders will be watching Mychajliw’s behavior very closely this election cycle. If he works to undermine Jacobs so that he might run for higher office sooner himself, it could be the end of his ability to fundraise a credible campaign for anything.

GOP operatives are saying that there will be enormous pressure on the Comptroller to “prove his worth” this election cycle. They expect him to dutifully perform as “a relentless attack dog” in support of Jacobs’ effort to take the County Executive’s office.

A Comptroller who is willing to investigate the administration could be very helpful to Jacobs. Operatives have a wish list of investigations that, well timed, could help manage the public discourse relating to County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s performance. Among the investigations, operatives would like Mychajliw’s office to look at a number of issues:

  • County capital asset management policy related to road maintenance and reconstruction. Poloncarz has been ignoring essential county functions — like road repair — but has been heavy on patronage.
  • Patronage hires at the County’s Human Services’ departments, including Child Welfare. Poloncarz has stuffed the department with patronage hires and has offered poor management of service delivery. Several young children who were under the supervision of the Child Welfare unit died while under protective services.
  • The County’s “Storm Knife” episode early this winter brought the Governor to Buffalo for ten consecutive days to manage the state’s response. The state response was impressive, but County roads in Hamburg were ignored under suspect circumstances. Observers initially thought that it was a petty political move by Poloncarz, because Hamburg has a Republican Supervisor, Steve Walters. But the real reason has to do with patronage contracting, and one particular snow removal contract has raised eyebrows.

If Mychajliw is able to deliver, he could earn the goodwill that could catapult him to higher office. If he is stand offish or declines an aggressive posture this year, it could make fundraising very difficult come reelection time.

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