Tom Golisano will be using
his fortune to influence this year’s battle over the State Senate.
The maverick billionaire and
three-time gubernatorial candidate will next week travel to
committee to support candidates in State Senate races across
A source familiar with
Golisano’s thinking said the former gubernatorial candidate plans to spend $1
million of his own money per race on behalf of each candidate he supports. This includes
targeting several incumbents, including at least one who was not previously in
danger. Golisano could also potentially involve himself in contested Assembly
The source said Golisano
plans on supporting candidates who share his agenda of reforming
development upstate, particularly in the region around
Candidates will mainly be
Democrats, but Golisano will consider endorsing Republicans in the races.
Candidates will need to be moderate, committed to Golisano’s agenda and not
aligned with career politicians, according to the source.
Golisano’s political website, www.golisano.com, which has remained dormant since his announcement that he
would not run for governor in 2006, was updated June 27 with a teaser to “Stay
tuned for an important announcement coming soon.”
Golisano will be supporting
Erie County Legislator Kathy Konst (D) in her bid to unseat State Sen. Dale
Volker (R-Erie), former boxer Joe Mesi (D) in his primary bid to succeed
retiring Sen. Mary Lou Rath (R-Erie) and former State Sen. Rick Dollinger
(D-Monroe) in his bid to unseat Sen. Joe Robach (R-Monroe), though Golisano is
unlikely to announce these specific candidates at his press conference next
The source did caution that
developments are fluid and more candidates could be announced next week. Dan
Squadron, the former aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D) who is running a primary
contest against State Sen. Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan), could end up as
a Golisano-backed candidate, according to the source, who noted Golisano has
yet to talk to Squadron or reviewed his positions.
The source said that Golisano
has made no final decisions on supporting Assembly candidates, but noted that
former Buffalo Council Member Barbra Kavanaugh’s primary challenge to Assembly
Member Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo) is a likely pick. Three other Assembly races with
primary challengers are already under consideration.
Though the effort will boost
Democrats, Golisano has apparently not yet discussed his new PAC with State Senate
Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) or other state Democratic leaders. He
could, however, team up with other wealthy businessmen upstate to influence the
elections. One possibility is powerful
Volker has already led to his support for Volker’s primary challenger.
He is open to expanding the
effort, and plans to send questionnaires to candidates statewide and conducting
interviews in order to find more likeminded supporters.
Geography influenced his
early decision to support Konst, Mesi and Dollinger.
“They are close to home,” the
source said referring to Golisano’s
Ahead of this effort,
Golisano has become a major player in
Buffalo Sabres hockey team. Golisano’s chief political advisor is former Erie
County Democratic Chair Steve Pigeon, who is expected to play a major role in
the Konst and Mesi endorsements.
Konst is the most surprising
move of the Golisano involvement, given her May announcement that she was
seeking the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-Erie). Golisano
offered his support if she switched to the Senate race in a meeting last week. Konst,
who according to sources was floundering in her bid to secure petition
signatures for her late start congressional bid and was circulating Senate
petitions at the same time, began telling people over the weekend that she had
made the change.
According to former East
Aurora Mayor Dave DiPietro (R), who is running a primary challenge to Volker,
Konst’s husband, politically active attorney Harry Konst, told him last week
that Golisano promised $1 million to support his wife’s Senate bid.
Harry Konst, who is managing
his wife’s campaign, claimed he has not discussed the Senate bid with her and said
he did not know who Golisano is.
Kathy Konst, who is known for
her independence from the county political leadership, did not return a message
left for comment.
Golisano’s support of Konst
could be the second part of a one-two punch that could end Volker’s 33-year
Senate career. DiPietro’s campaign has at least $60,000 in the bank and the
active support of Palladino, who said he will raise money for DiPietro.
Palladino has also been running independent radio ads attacking the Legislature.
DiPietro’s potentially strong and damaging challenge to Volker from the right also
apparently encouraged Konst to change races.
Palladino said he plans to do
anything he can to support DiPietro in his bid and hopes to see him unseat
Volker in the primary. He did not rule out assisting Konst in a general
election, but noted he would prefer the Senate to remain Republican. Palladino
said he opposes Volker’s support for what he defines as anti-business
legislation and for being in
“I’ve thought of him as a
friend,” Palladino said. “His shelf life is over. He thinks everything is fine
is murdering upstate
Barack Obama would be a better alternative to Dale Volker. And that’s bad for
Mesi is currently locked in a
three-way primary battle with Amherst Council Member Dan Ward and Erie County
Legislator Michelle Ianello in the contest to succeed Rath. Mesi, who is famous
for his boxing career, is close to Pigeon, who is playing a major behind the
scenes role in the Mesi campaign.
Erie County Legislator Mike
Ranzenhofer is the Republican nominee in the race.
Dollinger declined to
challenge Robach in 2002, instead seeking a county judgeship. He was recruited
into this year’s race by Smith and then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and used that
backing to muscle out several other candidates. The race is viewed as the most
likely Democratic pick-up upstate.
In the Assembly, Hoyt is
facing off against Kavanaugh for his
Byron Brown (D), who has long feuded with Hoyt, who has been seen as having his
eye on the mayoralty. Brown is close to Pigeon, including once employing Pigeon
on his State Senate staff. Hoyt is also close to Erie County Democratic
Chairman Len Lenihan, with whom Pigeon has often feuded.
The other Assembly primaries
against wealthy soccer mom Jane Corwin. Cole has been embattled since he was
censured by the Assembly last year sleeping on an intern’s bedroom floor.
But Golisano could expand his
challenge beyond the
Ball (R-Dutchess) by former Brewster Mayor John Degnan and Assembly Speaker
Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) by Paul Newell and Luke Henry are under
consideration. According to the source familiar with Golisano’s thinking, the
billionaire is studying these races and deciding whether to intervene.