A source close to Democratic Party Headquarters says that Chairman Jeremy Zellner and the Executive Committee are increasingly losing confidence in Senator Tim Kennedy following revelations that Western New York’s only Democrat in the State Senate has taken $5,400 from the nation’s largest opioid dealers. Families of the victims of the opioid epidemic have been asking Kennedy to return the money, but he has refused those requests thus far.
Political observers call Kennedy’s handling of the situation callous and distasteful. It is a sensitive issue: more than 71,000 individuals died of opioid overdoses last year. Such has been a subject of conversation among many committeemen aligned with Zellner.
There has never been a lot of warmth between Kennedy and Zellner, who have been seen as representing competing factions within the Democratic Party. Kennedy’s willingness to caucus with local Republicans to give former County Executive Chris Collins control of the County Legislature badly damaged his relationship with mainline Democrats.
It’s those same Democrats who have all but decided that the party will endorsing Kennedy’s challenger this cycle — they just don’t know who that challenger will be yet.
There are several exciting possibilities, among them: Diane Benczkowski; Rory Allen; Austin Harig; Jennifer Mecozzi; Mark Schroeder; and Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux. Although many names are being floated among the committeemen, most agree that the party apparatus should coalesce around which ever challenger earns the party endorsement.
Kennedy has only taken $5,400 in contributions from Allergan, Pfizer, and Pharmacy PAC of NYS, which spends heavily in State Senate elections; so the decision to return or donate the contributions should be an easy one. His willingness to turn a blind eye while wining and dinning in Albany could become an electoral issue, certainly in Cheektowaga where the crisis has hit hard.
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