Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, April 23, 2010

Albany County Republican Chairman John A. Graziano has made no secret of the fact that he's planning to leave his post as GOP elections commissioner July 1 -- assuming the party can find a suitable replacement in time.

But Graziano's impending departure after 10 years overseeing elections in the county has also fueled speculation that he will also be his party's candidate to challenge state Sen. Neil Breslin in the 46th Senate District.

Viewing Breslin as vulnerable because of his ties to the Senate's scandal-plagued Democratic majority, the GOP has vowed to field a candidate. Graziano acknowledged Thursday that he has been asked to be that person even though he views his job as finding candidates, not running for office himself.

"That rumor is probably focused on where I'm going next or what I'm doing next," Graziano said. "I'm out there looking for a candidate. I've been asked, though, by my people. ... I haven't ruled anything out. I need to put up a viable candidate. And never think of myself that way."

The Senate race was this week's dominant local political story, with the Albany County Democratic Committee's candidate review panel turning heads by voting not to endorse Breslin or the two other Democrats running for the seat and instead pushing the decision to the party's executive committee.

With Breslin's camp said to be furious, county Democratic brass moved quickly to patch things up with the Breslins -- culminating with party Chairman Dan McCoy personally endorsing the senator Wednesday even before the executive committee met.

(The committee was to meet Thursday night, after this column's deadline.)

The move, however, prompted one of Breslin's Democratic opponents, Luke Martland, to call on party leaders to stay out of the race at least until the full committee's 600-plus members gather on May 20 at Michael's Banquet House in Latham.

McCoy appears torn between his public commitments to open up the party beyond its traditional circles and one of the most influential Albany Democratic families.

One Democratic observer speculated the whole affair could result in a drawn-out, weighted floor vote of the full membership.

Even Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings -- who at times has clashed with the Breslins, which includes County Executive Michael Breslin and County Judge Thomas Breslin -- attended the senator's campaign launch, albeit arriving after the speeches were over.

All the Democratic intrigue has inspired even more optimism on the part of Republicans, who haven't held the Senate seat since Breslin defeated former County Executive Michael Hoblock in 1996.

"I do know that that's a race where we should have an 'A' candidate," Graziano said, "and we could win."

A challenger for McEneny?

The Republicans have declared their candidate to challenge Assemblyman Jack McEneny in the 104th Assembly District -- Knox resident and registered nurse Deborah Busch.

Busch, 46, won a respectable 44 percent of the vote against incumbent Democrat Paul Marra in the race for county coroner last year, her first bid at elective office.

She is also heavily involved in the local Tea Party movement and said she plans to make the case that McEneny has neglected the Hilltowns, the more rural part of his district, in favor of the city of Albany.

"Both aspects of this Assembly district need to be represented -- and at this point it's not," said Busch, who works at Albany Medical Center Hospital. "I come from a farm community, and it's really heart-wrenching to see that family farms that have been in families for generations are being lost because they cannot pay the taxes."

McEneny said he met Busch for the first time at the recent UAlbany debate between Karl Rove and Howard Dean, when they parked and sat near each other.

He said he looks forward to a spirited campaign but called the allegation that he's neglected the Hilltowns unsupported, noting he and Breslin recently secured $200,000 to help Westerlo overhaul its old and new town halls.

He also pointed out that he owns land in Berne and spent many of his formative years in the county's more rural areas.

"I've been in the Hilltowns since I was six months old. That's where we went every summer, that's where I learned how to drive," he said, noting -- however -- that the Hilltowns only have about 10 percent of the district's population.

"Sometimes the way I hear her talk," he said, "50 percent of the district is being neglected."

Both McEneny and Busch agree that the Tea Party movement is a reaction to dissatisfaction among a segment the electorate, but he offered a comparison that he acknowledged Busch and other devotees of the movement might find distasteful.

McEneny likened the Tea Party to, a liberal organization that has infuriated conservatives for years.

"Nobody makes it because they're on opposites sides," he said. "They feel their government isn't listening to them. ... This is the MoveOn two years later."

Inside Politics is a companion to the Local Politics blog ---- -- and compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist. Reach the Insider via e-mail at, on the phone at 454-5445 or at