BY MATT RICCHIAZZI
The retired State Senator and widely respected elder statesman of local politics, Al Coppola, has filed to seek the 60th district seat — a swing district that frequently determines control of the legislative chamber and is at the crux of the state’s power structure. Coppola nearly defeated Marc Panepinto two years ago and is considered the likely Democratic nominee for the seat he once held before retiring in 2001.
A little known politico who once worked for Mayor Byron W. Brown has filed petitions to challenge Coppola, but that campaign is widely seen as a ploy to protect the ambitions of County Clerk Chris Jacobs, who has long coveted the seat. Her name is Amber Small.
Operatives say that Jacobs — through his operative Todd Aldinger — has placed James DePasquale on the Green Party line as another faux candidacy to siphon votes from Coppola in a general election.
Coppola is a lifelong Buffalo resident and businessman who represented Buffalo’s Delaware District on the Common Council for over 17 years, before serving the region as a pioneering State Senator in Albany, where he championed a public takeover of Niagara Mohawk that would have cut energy prices by nearly 80%.
Coppola has a no-nonsense reputation, built on strong results-oriented constituent service, bold stands on alternative energy, visionary environmental proposals, and an intense scrutiny of the budget, government contracts, and public integrity.
When the Buffalo Common Council voted for their $10,000 pay raise, Al Copploa refused to accept it. He was a vocal opponent of the garbage tax, and lead the push for Buffalo’s recycling program. He spearheaded the Council’s Medical Waste Task Force, resulting in safe disposal of hazardous waste.
Coppola is perhaps best known as one of the city’s leading preservationists. He oversaw the rehabilitation of Delaware Park’s Marcy Casino, and personally saved the 1901 Pan Am House on Delaware Avenue out of his own pocket. He blew the whistle on Parks Department fraud, pushed sweeping proposals for waterfront access, and sponsored a bill to eliminate tolls at the Grand Island bridges. He has leading voice on the public health impacts of diesel exhaust from the Peace Bridge Authority’s trucking plaza and other environmental justice issues.
Coppola is a reliable vote for issues important to working families, but is an independent minded Democrat, as evidenced by his support of second amendment rights and opposition to the NYSAFE Act.
Coppola supported expansions of Epic coverage and health benefits for working families; extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit; a state aid increase to public schools; legislation increasing penalties for crimes against children; and passage of the Pesticide 48 Hour Notification Bill. He also secured $45 million to settle the 8 year long lawsuit between the Buffalo Board of Education and the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation.
After retiring from the State Senate, Coppola founded the Energy Cooperative of America, and continues to sit on its board.