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.