Will Giambra put Grisanti in the race for County Executive?

It is well known that former County Executive Joel Giambra lusts for a political comeback – preferably as an elected official himself.

That prospect remains unlikely. During his tenure as County Executive, he squandered just over $1 billion over the first six years of his tenure. The projected deficit was $118 million in fiscal year 2005. It was so bad that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership had to volunteer its members’ time to come in and right the ship with their Erie County Budget Stabilization Project.

But this election cycle is the best shot that Giambra will ever have to retake Erie County. His protégé, former Senator Mark Grisanti, remains popular among voters. His independent style, moderate views, and willingness to work across party lines earned him a lot of respect among his Erie County constituents. But his refusal to blindly toe the party line made him unpopular among tea party types.

Despite that – or perhaps because of that – Mark Grisanti is among only a handful of local Republicans who can plausibly defeat the incumbent County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Political operatives have been speculating that Giambra might put Grisanti in the race. Here are some of his potential strengths:

  • Grisanti’s name recognition is pervasive – and he’s a far more recognizable figure than Poloncarz – locally, statewide, and nationally.
  • Grisanti is remembered sympathetically among a national network of financial contributors who bankrolled millions in campaign spending. Many operatives suspect that he can rekindle that network and outraise Poloncarz.
  • Grisanti will have the support of key swing constituencies that make him highly competitive in a countywide race: independents, Italians, gays, and moderates of both major parties.
  • Grisanti has an asset that most politicians would kill for: the perception of being politically courageous.

If Grisanti runs, Walter would likely get out of the way. He has little chance of winning, and who wants to contribute to a non-campaign? Stepping aside would avoid an unnecessary blemish on his political career.

The wiser move for Walter would be to step aside and work on building a more bipartisan appeal. Then run next time when he is in a position to do so credibly – not as the party’s haphazardly selected third choice candidate.

Others say that Grisnati would never consider such a move — he’s busy trying to woo his friend, Governor Andrew Cuomo, into appointing him to a judgeship somewhere. But then again, Cuomo and Poloncarz have never been warm and fuzzy, and Cuomo of course has bipartisan tendencies.

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