Written by: James W. Newton
The candidate is married to a friend of mine, and I’d like to help her get to the finish line. I’m hoping you will, too, because she’s running against a Trump sycophant.
Erie County, in very-upstate western New York, has a population of close to a million people and includes the city of Buffalo and the surrounding region. It has a County Executive, currently a Democrat, and an eleven-person county legislature, each member of which is elected by district biennially. Right now, there’s a 6-5 split in the legislature favoring Republicans, and the elections are this coming Tuesday for all 11 seats.
While most of the races are non-competitive, one race, in particular, has the potential to flip the majority to the Democrats. And the Republicans, or the “Conservative Party” as they are known there, just went all Ed Gillespie-nasty on the challenger, Michelle Schoeneman.
"A County Legislature race? In up-up-state New York? I can't possibly have to care about that, can I?"
Yes. Yes, you can. And you should. First, about Michelle.
Michelle Schoeneman is a mother of two, a wife, a schoolteacher. Disgusted with the corrupt nature of her representative to Congress, Republican Chris Collins, who has been and is currently under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee, she started a grassroots group, Citizens Against Collins, before the 2016 elections. Then, after the elections, the group grew significantly.
Despite not being a political insider in the region, or directly involved in politics previously, her group, and she caught the eye of the local Democratic party. Well, to be honest, a couple roadside billboards for which she raised money, calling Collins to account, may have helped catch the party’s eye as well.
Before too long, she announced her candidacy for the Erie County District 10 legislative seat and hasn’t looked back since. You should watch her introductory video for yourself, but it’s safe to say she’s a natural, and she’s gotten up and running in an incredibly professional way in no time flat. She’s personally knocked on over 8,000 doors in a district of 80,000 people, and she’s gotten endorsements from just about everybody:
- Erie County Democratic Party
- Erie County Working Families Party
- Women’s Equality Party
- WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
- United Auto Workers
- Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council
- International Union of Operating Engineers
- Women’s Tap Fund
- Painters and Allied Trades District Council #4
- Schoolhouse Democrats
- Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Local Union No. 71
- New York State Nurses Association
- Communications Workers of America
- International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 14
- Springville Faculty Association
- CSEA Local 815
- Stonewall Democrats of Western New York
- Teamsters Joint Council #46
- I.B.E.W Local #41
- Buffalo Teachers Federation
- Eleanor’s Legacy
Moreover, she has the full support of the current County Executive, Mark C. Poloncarz (D), who says she is the kind of “citizen legislator” needed in Erie County.
Like everything in politics, however, there is another side to the story, in this case in the form of her opponent, Joseph Lorigo. Lorigo is an attorney who is the majority leader in the legislature, a political insider, and he and his family are Trump sycophants.
In January 2014, for example, Lorigo’s daddy, Ralph C. Lorigo, the long-running chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party, and a group of political operatives met with Trump at Trump Tower and tried to convince him to run for Governor of New York. Trump demurred, obviously, but his nastiness rubbed off.
In terms of the present campaign, Lorigo, a two-time incumbent, has said, without substantiation but certainly with arrogance, “that Schoeneman's campaign from "day one" has been a personal attack on him, while he has talked about his accomplishments” because his record is “so strong.” Sadly, this assertion defies all credulity.
On the one hand, he asserts that he is a small government, low tax conservative, but patronage appointments and cronyism seem to be part of his staffing modus operandi. Moreover, he and his daddy’s hand-picked supervisor at the town level, in West Seneca, have proposed a 12% local tax hike on top of other recent tax increases. I mean, the salaries for all those crony jobs in their “small government” aren’t going to pay themselves, right? When a community meeting was held with the West Seneca Town Supervisor, to talk about the tax hike, Lorigo was, by some accounts, spotted at Target doing a little shopping instead of facing his constituents. Coward.
On the other hand — and this is just delicious in its hypocrisy, the pièce de résistance if you will — after so boldly whining claiming that Schoeneman was making personal attacks against him, he and his gang recently sent out this mailer:
So who’s the one making personal attacks? Good grief. And then the schmuck followed this up with robocalls throughout the district filled with outright lies about Michelle’s position on the opioid crisis in the region. Just flat-out lies. In short, this guy and his daddy are nothing but county-level mini-mes of Trump.
Snark aside, however, what her opponent’s actions show is that she has them scared, or they wouldn’t be pulling this kind of crap. The election is this Tuesday. Michelle has done an amazing job making it a race. She’s met all the fundraising goals the local party asked of her. She’s gotten the endorsements. She’s personally knocked on more doors than any of us will ever knock on in our lives. Can you help to make sure her get-out-of-the-vote efforts next week are everything they need to be. $1? $3? More? Please? In any case, thank you for listening. And remember. Every. Election. Matters.