Democrats still want Panepinto to step aside

The embattled freshman State Senator Marc Panepinto is doubling down on a reelection effort amid calls that he step aside in light of a tenure rocked by ethics controversies that include a lobbying scandal and election fraud.

His chances of defeating a generic Republican in the general are unlikely, even with the party’s significant enrollment advantage — which has local Democrats worried they will lose the seat in a year when the party is desperate to retake the chamber.

Former Senator Al Coppola has been leading Panepinto in internal polling since December of 2014 and is expected to wage a strong campaign. Coppola nearly defeated Panepinto two years ago. He is a longtime Democrat but actively seeking bipartisan support.

Activist Amber Small has announced her candidacy and is expected to have the backing of the Independent Democratic Caucus, a splinter group ostensibly controlled by the Senate Republicans. The group is expected to contribute $500,000 to $600,000 to her campaign.

Grand Island teacher and school board member Richard D’Augustino continues to consider the race. Teachers are politically mobilized and expected to play a decisive role in several senate contests.

As Republican Chris Jacobs prepares to challenge Panepinto, with the backing of State Chairman Ed Cox and local party boss Nick Langworthy, a primary contest with Kenmore Republican Kevin Stocker is expected to cost State Republicans upwards of $2 million.

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