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Grisanti Loses Conservative Backing, Swanick Formally Enters Senate Race

7:52 PM, Feb 26, 2012   |    comments
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State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-60th District)

BUFFALO, NY - It hasn't been a banner week for NYS Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo).

On Friday he learned no charges would be filed against those who severely beat his wife during a brawl inside the Seneca Niagara Casino two weeks ago.

This was less than 24 hours after learning he had lost the backing of the Erie County Conservative Party in his bid for re-election to the 60th District seat, with the party instead backing Democrat Charles Swanick, who formerly served in the Erie County Legislature for 26 years.

Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Larigo made clear his party's decision had "nothing" to do with the dustup at the casino, and everything to do with Grisanti's decision last spring to back a bill legalizing same sex marriage in New York State, less than a year into his first term which he won with Conservative Party backing.

"We knew this issue was on the horizon, and clearly he told us he was 100% for traditional marriage," Larigo told WGRZ-TV. "Five months later he breaks that commitment, and a lot of people on my board consider that a betrayal."

"This is a big deal," said veteran political campaign manager and consultant Michael Caputo. "The Conservative Party was very important to his election and I think folks in the Grisanti camp are regretting the Erie County Conservative Party walked away from them."

Political analyst Carl Calabrese, a Republican, agrees.

"It's very important for any Republican in Western New York to have the Conservative Party endorsement and especially when you're running in a district where you're the underdog in terms of enrollment," Calabrese said.

Calabrese also says, should the loss of Conservative Party backing end up costing Grisanti re-election, it could have ramifications state wide, especially for Republicans.

"This seat could very well decide what party controls the New York State Senate," where Calabrese notes the GOP holds a only a one vote majority.

Grisanti's office only issued a statement saying he was: "not surprised or shocked shot that a political deal was cut. It is my intention to continue to focus on creating jobs and opportunities in Western New York."

Meanwhile, in a sharply worded statement critical of Lorigo and calling him "an embarrassment to the party, who abandoned Conservative principles long ago in exchange for patronage jobs and legal clients" Niagara County's Conservative Party Chairman Dan Weiss is threatening that even if redistricting results in Grisanti no longer representing Niagara County, Weiss will "send my conservative committeemen into Erie County" to pass petitions on behalf of Grisanti should he -or anyone else- want to wage a Conservative primary against Swanik.

"Everybody has the right to say what they want to say, but I can tell you this. That the Erie County Conservative Party made its endorsements based on what I believe to be the right principles," Larigo said.

Swanick did not return several phone calls seeking comment, but did send a press release announcing his candidacy for State Senate and his intent to formally seek the Democratic Party Nomination.

However, Caputo doesn't think Swanick is a lock to get it.

"He is against gay marriage and against a woman's right to choose, and those are two very basic tenets of the Democrat Party, so we're not guaranteed that Chuck Swanick is going to be the Democrat (endorsed candidate) come primary day," Caputo said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden.

Click here to read Dave McKinley's blogs.

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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