Fresh from his unanimous endorsement by Democratic Party leaders last Saturday, Tonawanda Town Attorney John Flynn is chomping at the bit to get started on his primary campaign for Erie County district attorney against Acting DA Mike Flaherty and a former assistant district attorney, Mark Sacha.
“We’re putting together a two-pronged team, one focused on strategy and leadership and the second on finance,” said Flynn, “and we should be ready to go within a week or two. I’ve already had many people approach me about wanting to contribute and hold fund- raisers. The reception has been unbelievable.”
While Flynn is getting his team lined up, Acting DA Flaherty is continuing to raise money with another fundraiser set for happy hour on Friday (Feb. 19) at Soho on Chippewa St. With Democratic State Committee operatives Jimmy Eagan and Rich Horner leading the way, Flaherty is expected to have a war chest of close to $400,000 at the next filing date.
But Flynn’s popularity among party regulars and his long record of success in the Town of Tonawanda where he formerly served as judge are expected to help him generate a consider- able war chest of his own to make his case for district attorney.
“I think I have the legal experience, the leadership, and the character to be an outstanding district attorney,” Flynn said during an interview this week. “I will incorporate all of these attributes to bring about change [in the DA’s office]. There has been a loss of public confidence from law enforcement to the legal community in that office, and I’m going to change that.”
While Flynn has served in many positions over the course of his career, including as a judge in Tonawanda and in Buffalo City Court and as a town councilman, he says he has only run for office twice in 13 years and that hardly qualifies him as a career politician or perennial candidate as has been suggested by Sacha and the Flaherty camp.
Reacting to the Flynn endorsement by party leaders, Flaherty said in an interview that “I’m a career prosecutor, not a politician, and I can’t worry about what the [Democratic] executive committee did.” Flaherty says his campaign will be about establishing himself as his own man, not an extension of former DA Frank Sedita who he served as first assistant.
“This non-endorsement is a badge of honor,” said Flaherty, saying it should demonstrate to the public that he is not beholden to anybody, adding that as district attorney and a career prosecutor he will serve the public not the po- litical interests.
Both Flynn and Sacha are expected to hammer Flaherty as a carryover of the Sedita adminis- tration although Sedita served as president of the state District Attorney’s Association, was cross-endorsed for district attorney and State Supreme Court, and comes from a well re- spected political family dating back to Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita and State Supreme Court Judge Frank A. Sedita, Jr.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy has asked former State Attorney General Dennis Vacco to head up a search committee for a candidate for district attorney, but Langworthy has not ruled out anything in a presidential year where a heavy Democratic
turnout is expected, including supporting one of the Democratic primary candidates for the post.
“It is still early,” said Langworthy when I asked him about the DA’s race. “Our mission is to find the best candidate to run on the Republican line, someone we believe can do the job and win the election.”
Right now, Langworthy is focused on hosting the upcoming GOP state convention on Fri- day, March 4, at the Marriott Harbor Center, and letting the party know the local GOP “is getting things right, despite being down 2 to 1 in enrollment.” County Republicans control the legislature and hold the office of county comptroller.
Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo, the longest sitting local party chairman (1995), has met with all of the Democratic hopefuls and they continue to attend his famous Lackawanna breakfast every Saturday in this political year headlined by the big race for district attorney.