In the 60th State Senate district, it’s expected that newbie Senator Marc Panepinto — who won his last Democratic Party primary by fewer than 400 votes, and his general election with just 34% of the vote — will face at least one primary challenger next year. Democrats are worried that Panepinto will lose badly in a one on one rematch with Kevin Stocker, the popular Tonawanda Republican who defeated incumbent Mark Grisanti in a landslide primary victory.
The party’s traditional factions have shaken off any notion of cooperation and are in an all out war over next year’s chairmanship election, when Mark Manna is expected to wage a more robust campaign to unseat Jeremy Zellner. Much of the behind the scenes maneuvering this election cycle is motivated by that party leadership fight next year.
The prevailing consensus among operatives has been that, if Panepinto retains his office, an ouster of Zellner would be more likely. Panepinto is close to the high profile political operative G. Steven Pigeon, and despite his attempt to maintain cordial relations with headquarters Democrats, is thought to be loyal to the anti-headquarters faction.
Former Senator Alfred T. Coppola, a well respected elder statesmen of local politics, is rumored to be considering a primary challenge. If Coppola decides not to run, some party operatives make the argument that an educator should challenge Panepinto, who last year benefited from over $400,000 in spending by the NYSUT. Union funded PACs will have a more difficult time attacking an educator, and may back off of Panepinto’s candidacy all together given his controversial ethics record.
They say that a retired teacher or principal with a talent for public speaking and a passion for education policy, could easily unseat Panepinto.