Gearing up for the political season

The political season is upon us and in our role as the region’s leading business advocacy organization, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership is engaged in the process.

Like most organizations our size, we engage in political action which includes endorsements and financial support for candidates that support economic development for our region.

We have a very active economic development agenda, however New York State has a very unfriendly environment for business.

With higher taxes and a harsh regulatory environment, it is our job to be engaged and involved in advocating for policies that will result in job growth in Buffalo Niagara.

march 28 manfact blog post to use
The Capitol building

But how do we decide who gets our support and who doesn’t?

To help you better understand, I thought it would be helpful to give you some ‘behind the scenes’ insight into how these decisions get made.

The Partnership represents members with very diverse sets of opinions, who are bipartisan in every way. We engage in various races and look at each individual race to assess whether or not we should be involved, and which races require our engagement.

Generally speaking, we need a compelling reason to endorse a candidate.

Some are easy: a public official who is heavily engaged in a pro Western New York agenda gets our support without much formal process.

But when there is a wide open field, we ask all candidates to complete a survey which is often followed up by an in-person interview.

This is exactly what happened with the Buffalo public school board elections this past May. We invited every candidate and their campaign to complete a survey and come in for a discussion on their candidacy.

In the end, we supported three candidates for election that we determined were reform minded and qualified to lead the district. Two of them made it onto the ballot and won.

How does the interview process work?

quinn and pierce garphicThe interviews we conduct are led by a group of Partnership members – the “Political Roundtable,” a bipartisan committee made up of CEOs and government affairs professionals who understand what’s really happening in the political world. They make recommendations to our Executive Committee, who serves as our PAC (Political Action Committee) that must vote on every endorsement.

There’s often debate among the roundtable about what the Partnership should do and in some cases, when we are truly split as a membership, we decide not to endorse at all. (That’s what happened in the last gubernatorial election.)

The Partnership has different criteria depending on the type of race.

For example, our criteria for federal elections includes:

  • candidate support for the Partnership’s Regional Agenda
  • support for the Partnership’s Legislative Action Agenda items
  • a clear focus on Buffalo Niagara issues
  • the ability to deliver for Buffalo Niagara

We also have the criteria of “accessibility”: can we engage in a conversation with our federal elected official in a way that’s meaningful for the region?

In his last election, there was overwhelming support from our board and roundtable for Senator Charles Schumer. Although some of his macro-level policies do not exactly align with the Partnership’s agenda, he is a tireless advocate for Western New York.

Senator Schumer is also the type of elected official that is interested in hearing the details of what’s happening on the street and how he can personally fix it. That can be seen through his engagement on the Peace bridge. He always delivers for Western New York.

DGC blog sept 5
from left to right: Brian Sampson, Robin Schimminger, Pat Gallivan, Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Ray Walter, and Partnership President & CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen at the Unshackle Upstate New E.R.A. press conference

In New York State elections, we look at support for the Unshackle Upstate agenda (judged by the UU Legislative Scorecard,) our Regional Agenda and Legislative Action Agendas, engagement in the REDC process and accessibility to our members.

In local elections, we support candidates who support a pro-employer, pro-“smart growth” development agenda and someone who’s a strategic partner in advancing the Western New York economy.

We only engage in races for offices that are impactful to business development.

Very rarely will we engage in primary elections except for when the winner of the primary is very likely to be the winner of the general election or there is a stellar candidate that rises above the other candidates in the primary and general elections who warrants our early support.

Stay tuned for a blog on Monday on some of our primary election endorsement decisions, and mark your calendars to remember to get out and VOTE on Primary Day, September 9 and Election Day, November 5!

Dottie Gallagher Headshot

About Dottie Gallagher

President & CEO