Bar closing times likely to complicate Stocker-Jacobs primary

Chris Jacobs has not yet made his intentions to run for State Senate public, but sources say that Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy is pushing the County Clerk to challenge Kenmore attorney Kevin Stocker for the 60th district Senate seat. The race is shaping up to be a “Headquarters vs. Grassroots” battle between two popular and well known political figures.

Jacobs finds a soapbox, but alienates blue collar workers 

Earlier this year a poll was conducted that indicated a significant majority of voters agree with an earlier bar closing time, but that very few people think it’s an important enough issue to determine their vote. Long criticized for lacking convictions, Jacobs ran with the poll and publicly demanded an earlier bar closing time on the logic that it would improve traffic safety. Almost immediately, Jacobs was roundly criticized for faulty logic and suspect data. Even County Legislator Joe Lorigo publicly opposed the change.

The public discourse didn’t end there. It evolved into a brutal debate about class, gentrification, and the Buffalonian identity as a blue collar working class community. Buffalo has long been known as “a drinking town with a sports problem.” The city’s history as an industrial center with third shifts ending beyond midnight, is the root of the 4:00 am closing time. But the city’s drinking culture is far deeper than that — stemming from proud ethnic communities, like the Germans, the Polish, and the Irish, whose traditions revolve around beer.

Still, the discourse remained civil — until developer Rocco Termini, a recipient of millions of dollars worth of development incentives and public subsidies — made statements supporting Jacobs’ proposal. He made the argument that wealthy folks who were moving into his loft conversions and high end apartments downtown don’t want to be bothered with Chippewa Street nightlife, which is seen as working class and low brow. That’s when the discourse took on a dishearteningly classist tone.

At the same time, residents of Marine Drive were complaining about noise emanating from Canalside concerts, creating a public backlash against them that included the slashing of tires of 30 vehicles parked at the public housing complex. Ironically, when Termini complained about drinking at Lafayette Square in 2010, he had the low-brow free concerts moved to the waterfront.

The city is already riled by issues of gentrification, rent increases, and residential displacement. Up until the issue of bar closing times was raised, working class whites were nominally supportive of gentrification — which they presumed to associate with the prospect of better schools, higher home values, and safer neighborhoods. But the issue of bar closing times has now put their culture and communities in the same crosshairs as the minority community.

Increasingly, working class communities are realizing that the wealthy scions of Buffalo are imagining and actively building a future that doesn’t include them; that will refuse to live, eat, and drink alongside them; that dreams of a city without them.

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Will Stocker take a position on bar closing times? 

Stocker is remembered as being one of the toughest prosecutors in Kenmore’s history. His record of convictions against drunk drivers is particularly impressive. Some even credit the town’s hard nosed law enforcement reputation to his tenure in office. While he hasn’t taken a position on bar closing times, supporters say that he may.

Operatives say that Stocker is more likely to focus on his core message, which has always been about restoring trust and integrity to the State Senate — an institution thought to be among the most corrupt legislative bodies in the United States.

Stocker is a strong and consistent supporter of the second amendment. Gun owners have organized aggressively in response to Cuomo’s NYSAFE Act, and have identified the 60th district as a prime pick up opportunity in the coming election cycle.

Last year, Stocker defeated the high profile former Senator Mark Grisanti in a jaw dropping primary, but — because of party bosses Ralph Lorigo and Langworthy — was narrowly defeated in the general election by Marc Panepinto. A faux candidate, Tim Gallegher, was run on the Conservative line by the political operative G. Steven Pigeon and Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo. Gallegher did not campaign at all, but in the last several days of the election a well funded slew of radio ads promoted him as “a real conservative.”

Pigeon and Lorigo conspired for months to ensure that Stocker would be defeated, and as a result a pro-late-term abortion candidate was elected. Despite Panepinto’s history of election fraud convictions, he won the seat with only 31.5% of the vote, by siphoning 8% of the vote away from Stocker, who earned 31%.

Stocker has never been well like by party headquarters. His willingness to challenge the party establishment, to buck incumbent politicians, and to articulate the electorate’s dissatisfaction with career politicians and party bosses. However, his relentlessly humble attitude and door to door campaigning have earned him a deep base of support in the district.

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