Dan Ward, the perennial Erie County Democrat candidate for long-shot offices (the former Amherst town councilman and one-term town supervisor’s most recent actions have included running against Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer in the heavily-Republican 61st Senate District and a nasty intra-party fight with Erie County Legislator Michele Ianello) apparently has no regard for Erie County Democrat Boss Len Lenihan.
Neither, apparently, does Dennis Virtuoso.
Ward was among those individuals who applied for the post of Niagara County’s next county manager. Aside from the fact that an activist Democrat who attended the Democratic National Convention as a Hillary Clinton delegate would be a long-shot for this job anyway, more surprising is his personal insistence—and that of his long-time political ally Dennis Virtuoso—that he remain in consideration for the Niagara County post after Lenihan spent significant political capital getting him a plum state job at the same time he was applying.
Ward was named as the new assistant regional direct for Western New York at the Empire State Development Corp. just a few days after the application deadline for the county manager position passed. We are told that, when this was pointed out to Virtuoso by Legislature Chairman Bill Ross at a meeting of the county manager search committee, Virtuoso insisted Ward be considered for the Niagara County post. We are also told that Ross reached out to Ward to verify he intended to press on with his candidacy despite his new job, and was told in no uncertain words that he saw himself as a natural fit for the county manager job.
This is, in political terms, stunning. Assistant regional director jobs at the EDC don’t just fall out of the sky, and Lenihan, we are told, had to do a good deal of horse-trading to gain the job for a party hack like Ward after already securing the top Western New York EDC job for Erie County’s Christina Orsi. It’s uncommon for the governor’s office to give all the top jobs in any state agency to one county chairman. In fact, rumor has it that Lenihan was rewarded by state Dems after taking steps to ensure Byron Brown was unable to effectively mount a campaign for a spot on the Andrew Cuomo gubernatorial ticket this fall, and the job given to Ward was one of his 30 pieces of silver for preventing Buffalo and Erie County Dems from pressing the case for Brown.
In political terms, Ward’s new job cost Lenihan plenty. So, it’s shocking that Ward would so quickly go on the hunt for a new job, in another county.
What’s even more shocking is that Virtuoso would go along with Ward’s betrayal of the man who effectively runs much of the Western New York apparatus of the Democrat Party—including issuing marching orders to Niagara County Democrat Chair Dan Rivera.
No doubt, both Ward and Virtuoso will soon find out that Lenihan is keeping score.