The wildly popular Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski — the region’s highest profile advocate for infrastructure modernization — is being urged by environmental activists to seek the 63rd District’s State Senate seat. The district comprises Cheektowaga, Lackawanna, Depew, South Buffalo, and the East Side.
Incumbent Senator Tim Kennedy has been damaged by his funneling of more than $80,000 into a political action controlled by G. Steven Pigeon. Pigeon and his two associates, Kristy Mazurek and Dave Phaff, have since been charged with campaign finance violations in State Supreme Court.
Kennedy has, at times, struggled to retain his office. It’s increasingly unclear whether he intends to seek re-election.
During her short tenure in office, Benczkowski — as a first term Supervisor — has secured millions in funding from the State to address sewer and grey water systems. For decades, runoff from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and from the Town’s vast shopping centers and the surface parking lots that accompany them, has fouled the Black Rock neighborhood down stream.
Environmentalists are quick to note that when the Scajaquada Creek cleanup is complete, it will be due in large part to Benczkowski’s leadership.
The Supervisor’s record of balanced, on time budgets that are widely acknowledged to be fiscally conservative has earned her great admiration in Cheektowaga, with it’s constituency of older, culturally conservative, pro-labor Democrats. Benczkowski’s message of fiscal prudence coupled with infrastructure modernization resonates strongly in the predominantly German and Polish community.
The district is overwhelmingly Democrat-enrolled.
In Albany, a fight is brewing between two factions of the Democratic Party. The Independent Democratic Caucus, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, is at odds with the mainline caucus led by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County. Since 2012, Governor Cuomo has orchestrated the alignment of the independent caucus with the Republicans.
Among political operatives it is widely known that Cuomo abhors the idea of Democratic control of the Senate, fearing leftist Democrats would hijack his more centrist agenda, thereby undermining his control of the legislative process and complicating the politics of a presidential primary bid.
Pressure from New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been forcing the Governor’s hand, though that alone is unlikely to prevent key primary battles aiming to keep the Senate chamber in fiscally conservative hands.