Week to remember in quest for 60th State Senate seat

Mar 19, 2016

It was a twist-filled week for political wags who are closely watching the race for the 60th State Senate, a seat that could play a pivotal role in shaping Albany's balance of power.

In the span of several days, the following developments occurred:

* Democratic incumbent Marc Panepinto, who has only served in the State Senate for 14 months, stunned observers by announcing he will not seek reelection.

* The state’s primary ethics agency reportedly launched an initial inquiry into complaints surrounding Panepinto’s office.

* State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, confirmed that he is seriously considering a run for the 60th State Senate District seat.

* Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs launched his Republican candidacy for the seat, capping off persistent speculation that he might jump into the political fray.

Meanwhile, high-profile neighborhood activist Amber Small, who launched her Democratic candidacy for the seat this winter, wasted no time criticizing Jacobs, claiming Republicans represent an “anti-working families agenda.” She also underscored the need to improve ethics in state government.

Amber Small
Credit Parkside Community Association

"We've created this culture of accepted irresponsibility," she said. "So often we see that our legislators, our elected officials, are not even held up to the standards that we would expect our neighbors to be held up to. We really deserve better."

Political experts note that the outcome of the November election in the 60th District could have statewide implications. Depending on whether Democrats can retain the seat or whether Republicans manage to reclaim it, the outcome could have an impact on which party controls the State Senate.

“This is a critical seat,” noted Nick Langworthy, chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee. “I believe Chris Jacobs is the best possible candidate we could be running right now to bring the seat back into the majority."

The 60th District covers parts of Buffalo and the towns of Grand Island, Tonawanda, Kenmore, Orchard Park, Evans, and Brant.

WBFO’s Michael Mroziak contributed to this report.