As always, a fierce contest expected in 60th Senate district

The 60th district is rare in the State Senate Chamber.  In the last two decades, the seat has switched occupants more than any other: Anthony Nanula, Al Coppola, Byron Brown, Marc Coppola, Antoine Thompson, Mark Grisanti, Marc Panepinto, and Chris Jacobs have all briefly occupied the high turnover seat, in a chamber that rarely sees an incumbent ousted at the ballot box.

So it is of no surprise to Western New York political operatives that the 60th district would again be fiercely contested, where a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage favors Democrats.

Chris Jacobs, the freshman occupant of the seat, is well-liked and well-known in the district, for his moderate tone and centrist policy approach. He is expected to have the backing of the Republican and Independent Party state organizations.

Pressure from New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio has prompted Cuomo to take a step back from the governing caucus of the Senate, in which a breakaway faction known as the Independent Democratic Caucus joined Republican members to prevent mainline Democrats from forming a governing coalition.

Two widely expected Democratic primary contenders are former Senator Alfred T. Coppola and Parkside Community Association Executive Director Amber Small, though neither has committed to the race.

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Other names being actively floated by various party factions include Patrick Mang, Mayor of the Village of Kenmore; Gayle Syposs, the influential Chairperson of the Democratic Party in Tonawanda; Anthony Caruana, former Town of Tonawanda Supervisor; Aaron Bartley, the founder and former Executive Director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH); Rus Thompson, a Grand Island community organizer; and Laura Polisano Hackathorn, a Hamburg Village Trustee.

It is unclear whether Jacobs will face a primary contest.

Kevin Stocker (who has run highly competitive primary campaigns in recent years) was rumored to be considering a bid for Congress in the 27th Congressional district — a seat currently held by Chris Collins.  He has made no public commitments, but he has recently registered as a member of the Democratic Party.

At least one Republican operative is pushing a plan to run Jacobs for Congress against Brian Higgins, a heavily Democrat enrolled district where Jacobs has performed strongly in contests for County Clerk.  It is widely thought among Republicans that Jacobs has the policy profile and civic stature to take and hold the Congressional seat — which hasn’t been seen as competitive in recent years.

Higgins hasn’t faced a serious challenge since Nancy Naples ran in 2004.  He is thought to have become bored with the job, and is now quietly considering private sector opportunities. One source even says that Higgins would prefer ‘handing off the seat’ to Jacobs to become the next President of the University at Buffalo; or, perhaps, a senior DC-based lobbyist for a multinational concessionaire.

In that scenario, Lynn Dixon, the popular County Legislator from Hamburg (an enrolled member of the Independence Party) would receive GOP backing for the 60th district seat.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Kevin Stocker as a Republican.  He became a Democrat earlier this year. 
  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Gayle Syposs as the former Democratic Party Chair in Tonawanda.  She is the current Chairperson. 
Joe Mascia is being prodded by activists to run for State Senate on a minor party line. In previous years, he has been endorsed by the Conservative Party.

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