Golisano for Congress?

Joe Davis State Park on the lower Niagara River, just north of the Village of Lewiston. Economic development professionals have long wondered why Niagara County's waterfront hasn't emerged more quickly as tourist destinations for downstate residents and Canadians.

Following the sudden death of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, age 88, observers are speculating who might replace the longtime Representative — who rose to serve as the Chairwoman of the powerful House Rules Committee during her three decades in elected office.

Initial political chatter pits Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren against former Lt. Governor Bob Duffy — two popular and well know Democrats in the district.  Observers prognosticate that Duffy would have the backing of the business community and the political machine lead by Governor Andrew Cuomo; while Warren would have the support of the minorities and progressives who are aligned against the scandal plagued Governor.

But New York’s 25th, while certainly a Democrat-advantaged district, is hardly a lock for the eventual Democrat in a general election.  In fact, Slaughter had retained the seat in 2014 by fewer than 900 votes following a challenge by Republican Mark Assini.

The dynamic has the Monroe County Republican Committee lusting for a candidate with the name recognition, resources, and platform that spell viability in the district, which is comprised of the City of Rochester and most of suburban Monroe County.

Their candidate of choice: businessman Tom Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex, who owns a home in Pittsford.

While Golisano is 76 years old, he is said to be quite spry and still interested in New York politics — even rolling out a campaign to encourage homeowners to challenge their property tax assessments.

Golisano — whose net worth is valued above $3 billion — certainly has the resources to win the seat.  He spent a combined $93 million in his three campaigns for Governor.

The bigger challenge for Golisano: surrounding himself with higher caliber political operatives.  His chief operative of many years, G. Steven Pigeon, has been indicted in a slew of bribery and campaign finance related felonies that are likely to put him in prison for, potentially, more than two decades.

Other political compatriots with who Golisano surrounds himself have also been indicted on series of felony charges, raising a concern among some observers that the unseemly associations could become problematic in the heat of a campaign that would be sure to attract the attention of the Democratic National Committee.

Others think that the associations can be overcome, especially in a district where Golisano is such an endeared civic figure — whose name adorns a Children’s Hospital and whose philanthropy has benefited Rochester mightily.

At least one prominent Rochester-area Republican thinks that Golisano’s independent style would make him Congress’ most outspoken and high profile member of Congress nearly immediately.  He could get more accomplished with two or three terms in the Congress than anyone else, the Republican suggests.

Such a political bid would require that Golisano moves his official residence back to New York — from Naples, Florida — requiring him to pay a considerably higher level of income taxes.  But observers think that such a tax burden is bearable for the billionaire.

Others suggest that Golisano’s wife — the tennis star Monica Seles — is the Republican candidate who could take and retain the seat with Slaughter’s longevity.  If she — or Golisano himself — does so ahead of the next Congressional redistricting, it would make such longevity a considerably more achievable objective in the Democrat leaning district.

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