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David Bellavia

January 6, 2014 - 3:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia.

The way David Bellavia sees it, there's no real chance of going back to Fallujah, not that he and few of his fellow Iraq War veterans haven't mentioned the idea in conversation.

The news reports of al-Qaida-linked forces capturing Fallujah and Ramadi hasn't sat well with Bellavia, nor the families of those who lost loved ones in battles to secure those cities for Iraq's government, said the Batavia resident who was awarded a Silver Star for his role in liberating Fallujah from insurgents in 2004.

"It's a black eye for our foreign policy in the Middle East," Bellavia said. "It's the same group we backed in Syria and not a damn thing was said about it. The enemy in Iraq is the very force that has tried to overthrow Assad. It shows how absolutely difficult the Middle East has become. This administration has decided Iraq is not important. All of the focus is on Afghanistan, so as far as Iraq goes, it's a closed chapter and we move on. For the veterans of that war, it's a bitter pill to swallow."

Bellavia said he talks regularly with fellow veterans and he's also heard from three families who lost loved ones in Fallujah and nobody is happy about the turn of events. It does indeed cause some to ask "what did we fight for?" -- he thinks that's really the goal of al-Qaida.

Bellavia compared the fall of Fallujah to the fall of Saigon, saying Fallujah is his generation's Normandy. He said it was sacred ground.

"Fallujah has no tactical value to the enemy at all," Bellavia said. "It's nothing but a moral victory. If you want to take over Iraq, you capture Basra and Baghdad. Taking over Fallujah is nothing but a thumb in the eye to Americans."

What's particularly galling, Bellavia said, is the seeming willingness of Fallujah residents, who once welcomed the Americans, now supporting al-Qaida.

"Before last month, we believed people (in Fallujah) appreciated the sacrafice, but you can't say that now," Bellavia said, "especially when you hear the locals are taking al-Qaida in and housing them and helping them stand against the government. What do you say to that?"

Perhaps if the administration had more aggressively pursued a status of force agreement that allowed more air cover for government forces, al-Qaida wouldn't have felt emboldened to capture the cities of the Al Anbar Province.

As it is, it didn't take much for the Islamic radicals to capture territory Americans once fought so hard to free.

"You know there's a problem when you get a report that a city fell and there are only eight people dead," Bellavia said. "That means whoever was defending the city just left. They didn't want to risk their blood to defend the city."

One thing Bellavia doesn't see happening is U.S. troops returning to Fallujah.

"I don't think anybody wants boots on the ground," Bellavia said. 

Even with the change in circumstances, al-Qaida isn't in full control of the city. Sunni tribal forces are also asserting authority while the Shiite-led government of Iraq has seemingly abandoned its posts.

Eventually, Bellavia believes, Iraq will muster sufficient security forces to retake Fallujah. But then what? The Sunnis and the radicals will just want it back, and so on, with no end in sight.

But perhaps, Bellavia said, that's the enduring lesson of Iraq, with consequences for U.S. foreign policy throughout the region.

"We can't be there forever," Bellavia said. "Were we going to have permanent bases in Iraq like Germany or Japan? That's the tough lesson. If they choose not to fight, they choose not to fight. It doesn't make it easier for those who lost loved ones, but we can't go back. We're all now 10 years from the fight. We have families. We have children. Would we want our sons and daughters to go back to Iraq and finish the job we couldn't? Absolutely not. There's no way I would want my son to go through anything like I went through. We served our country, we did it with honor and an unflinching sense of duty, but we can't save the world if we are the only ones willing to die for the cause."

June 27, 2012 - 1:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, kathy hochul, NY-27, chris collins.

In the end, David Bellavia expressed more regret for his volunteers than he did for himself.

"I’m just exhausted," Bellavia said. "I’ve been walking so many miles and...so many doors...and I’m just trying to think in my head, what could I have done more, what could I have done, but at the end of the day, I’m just so sorry to all of these volunteers who gave me so much time and effort. I just feel really bad that I let them down."

The decorated Iraq War veteran thanked several of his volunteers by name during his concession speech at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia on Tuesday night. He then pledged his support to the Republican party and the effort to defeat President Barack Obama and Rep. Kathy Hochul in November.

"I spoke to Mr. Collins and I congratulated him on his victory," Bellavia told his supporters. "I’m telling you right now, we are going to lock shields as a party. We are going to stand in the trenches shoulder to shoulder."

After a campaign in which Bellavia characterized Collins as a "country club Republican" who was out of touch with the rural voters of the GLOW counties, the natural question for Bellavia after his speech: Did you just pledge to stand behind Collins?

His answer, "We’re going to talk. I stand behind the party and the process. I don’t make any excuse for whether it’s perfect today. We lost. I have kids and it’s important that they understand that you have honor when you win and you have honor when you lose. I have no excuses. I’m a Republican. I want to see Republicans win. Chris and I will talk in the future and we’ll move forward."

If Bellavia backs Collins, it's unclear if many of his GLOW supporters will follow.

But at the Clarion on Tuesday night, one of Bellavia's volunteers clearly said she won't vote for Collins in November.

Michelle McCulloch believes Collins was at least tangentially responsible for losing her staff position with State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer.

"You’re asking a person who lost her job because Chris Collins didn’t want me helping someone else in the race," McCulloch said. "I have never tried to work against my party, but I have no use for Mr. Collins. I know what he is and he knows what he is. He will never have my vote or my family’s vote."

Asked if she would help Hochul's campaign, McCulloch said, "I’ll see how things play out. I guess I’ll listen to Kathy Hochul and see what she has to say and go from there."

McCulloch was among the volunteers Bellavia singled out for thanks during his concession speech.

"Michelle McCullough has sacrificed so very much for me and on the side of honor, principle and integrity," Bellavia said. "Your family is beautiful. Your husband is an outstanding man. I’m so sorry for what you’ve had to endure and we’re going to make it right."

Collins will now face Hochul, who won her seat in a special election in May 2011 in which she attacked Collins ally Jane Corwin for her support of the Paul Ryan Budget Plan. Within an hour of Collins declaring victory on Tuesday, the Hochul campaign sent out a press release attacking Collins on the same topic.

Statement from Campaign Manager Frank Thomas:

"Chris Collins has made it a hallmark of his campaign to avoid taking positions on key issues. But one thing is clear, Mr. Collins supports Paul Ryan's budget; a plan that turns Medicare into a voucher program and makes seniors pay $6,400 more for their Medicare benefits to fund tax cuts for multimillionaires. He has even has said that it does not go far enough.

“It is time that Chris Collins comes clean with voters about his plans to take the Ryan’s budget further. What more could he do on top of decimating Medicare and protecting the super rich? We hope that now that he is the nominee he is willing to answer questions on the issues that matter most to the people of the 27th district.”

Previously: Collins landslide in Erie County sinks Bellavia in NY-27 GOP primary

PHOTO: Bellavia during his concession speech with his wife, Deanna, his children and parents (not pictured, his brother, Rand).

June 26, 2012 - 11:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, chris collins.

I imagine that by this point, anybody who cares knows that Chris Collins defeated David Bellavia in the NY-27 GOP primary. I spent the evening with the Bellavia camp at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia. I'll have pictures and quotes later.

Meanwhile, here are the available results:

With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, it's Collins 10,124 votes (60 percent) to 6,720.

Erie County dictated the outcome of the race, with Collins winning 5,889 votes to 2,094. Bellavia won every other county except Niagara.

Bellavia took Genesee County 1,105 to 683.

Wyoming County hasn't reported yet, but in Orleans and Livingston, it was Bellavia 758 to 389 and 854 to 679.

In the section of the district that covers Monroe and Ontario counties, it was Bellavia 1,048 to 586.

UPDATE: Wyoming County, Bellavia 734 to 623.

June 25, 2012 - 4:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, chris collins.

Batavia, the heartland of the redrawn 27th Congressional District, became a hotbed of political activity today as the two candidates in the GOP primary engaged in some last minute campaigning with Buffalo TV news crews in tow.

Chris Collins stopped for lunch and handshakes at the Pok-A-Dot and David Bellavia stopped at GOP households along Naramore Drive, Batavia.

Collins and Bellavia both predicted victory and took a couple final swings at each other.

Collins on why Genesee County Republicans should vote for him rather than Bellavia:

"You need look no further than this campaign. We're spot on with the issues. We have a professional campaign, 100-percent positive, 100-percent focused and he’s taken a page out of the Barack Obama playbook -- divide and conqueror, vote against Chris Collins because he’s from Erie County. He’s insulted every resident in the county of Erie. He’s divided us just like Barack Obama, the haves, have nots, the ones, the 99s, we’re running on the issues. He’s running a negative campaign. People don’t like that."

Bellavia on Collins saying he's run a divisive campaign:

"It’s very funny, because I’m not campaigning against Erie County. I’m campaigning against him and the handful of individuals who make up the Erie County GOP machine who embarrassed the Erie County Republic Party, who have almost ruined the party in Erie County and have done nothing but embarrass us and fail us. He should have beat Mark Poloncarz handily. He didn’t. He talks about the 64 percent of Erie County in the district that voted for him, but there’s never been a menu option and now there’s another entree on the menu and he’s going to find out that a lot of people held their nose last time. It’s not about Erie County at all. It’s about Chris Collins."

At the Pok-A-Dot, after I turned off my tape recorder, Chris Collins and I discussed the likely voter turnout tomorrow. I said it would be low. Collins said that he had a deal with Genesee County GOP Chairman Richard Seibert that he wouldn't do robo calls in Genesee County if Seibert promised to get out the vote.

Collins said he had the same deal with Livingston County.

Collins repeated the statement, no robo calls if Seibert got out the vote.

This sounded like a deal between Collins and Seibert, who is officially neutral in the race (and the county GOP did not endorse a candidate).

Reached at his office, Seibert said there was no such deal.

Seibert said he had a conversation with Collins about robo calls during the Jane Corwin campaign, that people were getting as many as 16 calls a day and it didn't go over well with Genesee County voters.

"I told him that robo calls were killing us," Seibert said. "That's not what our people want or like."

Collins said he wouldn't do robo calls in Genesee County, but Seibert said there was no promise to get out votes for Collins.

The county GOP is not doing any specific get-out-the-vote effort, Seibert said. Individuals are free to support and work on behalf of either candidate and are doing so, Seibert said, but he hasn't asked any Republicans to work for either campaign.

Reached later, Collin's campaign spokesman Michael Kracker said Collins did not mean to leave the impression that Seibert promised to deliver votes for his campaign.

"Dick Seibert has been very good at remaining neutral in this race," Kracker said.

As for the predicted turn out, Seibert said he doesn't think it's going to be has big as he had hoped.

With David Bellavia being from Genesee County, he thought the Bellavia campaign would work hard to get out the vote in Genesee County, and that to counter that move, the Collins campaign would match the effort. Neither candidate, Seibert said, has put any extra emphasis on Genesee County and he's not hearing many people around the county talking about the election.

Seibert ordered enough ballots to handle a 40-percent turnout among Republican voters.

"I've got a bad feeling I ordered too many ballots," Seibert said.

June 24, 2012 - 9:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27.

David Bellavia wants to be your congressional representative because he has old-fashioned values -- honor, integrity and service.

He's a conservative Republican, but not the hardline hawk some might expect from a decorated Iraq War veteran whose book on his experiences is about to be made into a Hollywood movie.

In the GOP primary for the NY-27 congressional district, all he wants is a chance to debate his opponent, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, because he thinks he can beat Collins on the issues.

"I want to be able to look him in the eye and say he’s not a true conservative," Bellavia said. "He can’t express these values. He doesn’t know these federal issues. And the only job he was probably most qualified for, he got voted out of office on."

Bellavia grew up in Orleans County and lives in Batavia with his wife and three children.

His top issues are jobs, agriculture, taxes and health care.

On jobs, he wants to reduce burdensome regulations, especially Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley, which he said makes it harder for smaller companies to raise funding and go public.

"No medium-sized business can compete if you have to pay for all of these compliance tasks," Bellavia said.

He would also like to end inheritance tax (aka, legacy tax or death tax) because, he said, it forces families to sell businesses.

"What better way to build a community than to have a business in the family for generation after generation." Bellavia said.

He also believes multinational corporations that are keeping a large portion of their profits overseas in order to avoid taxes should be granted amnesty if they bring the billions and billions of dollars back to the United States and use it to fund research and development and create jobs.

On taxes, he considers the capital gains tax unconstitutional because it taxes a person's money twice (once as earned income, second as investment income), and the corporate tax rate should be lowered from 37 percent to 25 percent.

Taxpayers should be able to choose, he said, between paying a graduated tax with deductions -- much like our current system -- or a flat tax with no deductions.

The first $20,000 a person earns should be tax free, he said.

Related to taxes is the need to reduce spending.

"We've got to aggressively slash entitlements in this country," Bellavia said. "If we continue to use the same principles as Europe, we're gong to wind up like France, Italy, Cyprus or Greece, the list goes on."

Bellavia supports the Ryan Budget Plan, at least the part that would block-grant Medicaid to the states. He said federal education funds should be handled the same way.

"Why is federal government holding the strings on education?" Bellavia said. "Let teachers teach and give powers back to the communities to control their own destiny."

On agriculture, the first order of business is to fix the worker visa program so that dairy farmers, in particular, can hire and retain workers.

"People in the city think crops grow at waist level," Bellavia said. "Farm work is hard work and we need to help workers come here from other countries. They don't want to be citizens. They don't consider themselves workers. They think of themselves as professional farmers who want to make a living, do their jobs and take care of their families back home."

The Environmental Protection Agency, Bellavia said, is "out of control." The regulations it puts on dairy farmers add high overhead and makes it harder for dairies to grow to meet new demand.

On health care, Bellavia believes that the Supreme Court will find Obama's health plan -- the mandate for health insurance -- unconstitutional.

But, he said, there's an easy fix: competition. Allow health insurance to be sold across state lines, with people -- not employers -- choosing where they purchase insurance, and creating a system of community-based healthcare cooperatives.

He also said tort reform would help bring down healthcare costs.

On foreign policy, Bellavia fears the United States will be dealing with problems in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan for another generation or more.

"It breaks my heart," Bellavia said. "I don’t want my babies to have to experience anything like I went through."

Afghanistan, he acknowledged, is looking a lot like Vietnam, an endless drain on American resources.

The U.S. has no strategy in Afghanistan, he said, and while the news media tends to portray the enemy as the Taliban, the groups that engage the U.S. military are more diverse than that, from tribal war lords to drug runners.

"We're not there to die and sacrifice and look good for the world," Bellavia said. "The mission is not worth it if we can't defend our brothers and protect them and do what we need to to bring them home.

"Right now, these men and women do not have rules of engagement they can follow. All this administration does and all Congress does is say, 'Oh, we've dropped another bomb and killed X number of people.' "

On trade, Bellavia says, "China is our enemy," and believes China needs to be confronted over currency manipulation.

He also believes foreign goods that compete with U.S.-made goods should be taxed.

Every component needs to be made in the U.S., he said, in order to avoid extra fees.

"If every one of those boxes isn't checked, another and another VAT," Bellavia said. "You can't call it a tariff. That's a bad word. Call it a value added tax, add it on. I'd like to see a Hyundai Elantra become a $70,000 car."

If Bellavia makes it to the general election, he knows there will be huge sums of money spent on his behalf trying to defeat Kathy Hochul. While Bellavia said he will have no control over these independent expenditures, he won't stand, he said, for ads that are nothing more than mud slinging.

"I have standards and honor is important to me," Bellavia said. "I’m a father. I'm an example to my children. I’m a husband. If I have an ad where an organization is showing representative Hochul throwing an elderly woman off a cliff, you better believe the next day after that commercial airs, I will stand up and say this is completely repugnant and unnecessary.

"I can beat her," he added. "I will beat her, but I’m going to beat her the old-fashioned way. With issues. We’re going to talk to the people. I don't need to smear Mr. Collins or Mrs. Hochul. I think their records stand for themselves."

June 20, 2012 - 11:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, chris collins.

According to David Bellavia, when it comes to fiscal policy, his GOP primary opponent in the NY-27 race, Chris Collins, isn't conservative enough.

His proof: Collins said President Barack Obama's multibillion dollar economic stimulus spending was good for Erie County.

Collins was county executive for Erie County in 2009 and his office put out a newsletter saying as much, Bellavia said in a press conference today at his new campaign headquarters on East Main Street, Batavia.

"I can't find one fiscal conservative who agrees that Obama's stimulus was a good thing," Bellavia said.

Bellavia said Collins loved the stimulus plan so much that he asked that a total of $1.9 billion be channeled to Erie County.

In an effort to fact check Bellavia's statement, a Google search turned up a press release from the City of Buffalo in which Collins and Mayor Bryon W. Brown say they want to see Erie County and Buffalo receive the stimulus funds.

Collins quote:

“At a time when county resources are scarce, a possible injection of federal dollars could have a tremendous impact on Erie County’s aging and neglected infrastructure. Funding for even a fraction of these projects would represent a significant investment in our community, the opportunity to hire thousands of local workers, and reduce our need for capital borrowing in the future.”

Bellavia also said Collins used $85,000 in stimulus money to balance the Erie County budget.

Ask for a response via email, Michael Kracker, spokesman for Collins, wrote:

Chris Collins balanced the budget in Erie County the old-fashioned way -- by reducing the size of government, vetoing hundreds of additional spending requests from liberal Democrats and making government more efficient. Mr. Collins was actually threatened with a lawsuit by Democratic politicians like Louise Slaughter and Kirsten Gillibrand for NOT spending the stimulus money. Mr. Bellavia has his facts wrong.

While still in office, Collins did an interview with Buffalo's Art Voice and explained that Buffalo was receiving $75,000 in stimulus money, available through the efforts of liberal Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, to offset anticipated shortfalls, as a result of the recession, for Medicaid expenses.

The other ongoing dispute between Bellavia and Collins is over the conditions of any debate.

Numerous times, Bellavia has said he wants a chance to debate Collins on the issues, but he claims Collins keeps dodging a debate.

On Tuesday, there was a debate scheduled in Clarence that Bellavia did not attend because, he said, the whole format was set up to favor Collins. Bellavia says the scheduled moderator is an Erie County legislator who has received substantial financial support from Collins, and that Collins wouldn't allow a reporter from the Buffalo News on the panel. Bellavia also asserts that the Erie County GOP was handing out tickets to only 200 Collins supporters. In addition, Bellavia wanted the debate to be televised.

Bellavia said that the no-debate stance by Collins is a strategy to marginalize the Bellavia campaign since Bellavia doesn't have a personal fortune to spend, as Collins does, on campaign ads.

Here's the response from Kracker on behalf of Collins:

As for the debates, Mr. Bellavia once again demonstrates an aversion to the truth. In May, Mr. Bellavia enthusiastically agreed to the debate sponsored by the ECFRW -- in front of over 100 people. It was only afterwards that his campaign made up numerous stories to cover for his ducking of the issues and Mr. Collins. His claims are simply untrue -- pure and simple. Of the five candidates invited to participate -- including all three U.S. Senate candidates, Mr. Bellavia was the only one who took issue with the terms and refused to participate.

UPDATE Thursday, 7:31 a.m.: Here's a link to a Buffalo News article on what happened with $41 million of the stimulus funds. (Link provided by the Bellavia campaign.)

June 14, 2012 - 7:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, David Bellavia, kathy hochul, NY-27, chris collins.

Kathy Hochul supports Obama, Obama is destroying the country, and only Mitt Romney in the White House and Chris Collins in the NY-27 seat can put things right, Collins told local reporters outside Batavia City Hall today.

“We have to defeat a representative who does not represent our core values," Collins said. "My core values are smaller government, personal accountability, local decision making, fiscal discipline, serving taxpayers and respecting future generations.

"These are not only the core values of the 27th Congressional District, they’re the core values of America. They are not President Obama’s core values. They are not Kathy Hochul’s core values."

Not once during his five-minute speech did Collins mention his GOP primary opponent, David Bellavia.

Asked about it, Collins said he is entirely focused on defeating Hochul on Nov. 6. Even if he loses the primary -- which he said he would win -- he will still be on the Conservative Party line and he said he intends to continue campaigning against Hochul right up until the general election.

"Kathy Hochul supports Obama," Collins said. "She is totally out of sync with the values of the 27th District. She won’t even admit she’s a Democrat."

According to recent reports, Hochul has a voting record that has not been in line with Obama or the Democrats.

The Buffalo News reported over the weekend that "Hochul is bucking the party line," noting that "Hochul voted with the Democratic Party line 81 percent of the time and with the Obama administration 78 percent of the time," which is less than other Democrats.

"Politico" noted that Hochul has not been the lapdog for Obama's health care policies that Democrats expected when she beat Jane Corwin -- in part because Hochul latched onto the GOP's Medicare reform plan as a wedge issue.

Still, Hochul did tell the Buffalo News she will vote for Obama, even though she won't attend the Democratic convention and, the News said, "she gives the president mixed reviews."

For Collins, however, Hochul and Obama are inexorably linked. 

The hook of Collins's remarks today was a statement by Obama that "the private sector is doing fine."

Collins said, the private sector isn't doing fine, not when there is 8.2 percent unemployment, China is cheating at trade and corporate tax rates are too high.

“We’ll keep talking about jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy," Collins said.

With Romney as president and Collins part of a GOP majority in Congress, Collins said policies would be enacted to put Americans back to work, most specifically, lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

He also said the nation's debt is too high and promised smaller government if the GOP is given a chance to lead the way.

"Small businesses have a lack of confidence in the future of our country," Collins said. "We have a president who let that happen because he needs to keep going to China to borrow money. We cannot continue to borrow $4 million a day, $1.4- $1.5 billion a year and have small business invest in our future. They don’t know where the future is going."

One point Collins and Hochul seem to agree on: Trade. 

Hochul kept her campaign promise and voted against free-trade agreements supported both by the GOP leadership and President Obama.

Collins said he would push for tarriffs on China if the nation continues its current trade policies, which include not letting its currency float on the open market, and giving Chinese businesses a 30-percent price advantage over U.S. companies.

Collins's message for China, "Float your currency, respect our IP, open your own markets -- or else. They need us more than we need them."

June 4, 2012 - 12:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, michael ranzenhofer, NY-27, chris collins.

UPDATED at 1:08 p.m. with response from Sen. Ranzenhofer. UPDATED 2:15 p.m.: Response from Ranzenhofer clarified regarding cooperation with commission.

A former member of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer's staff who claims she was fired for backing the wrong congressional candidate has sent a formal complaint to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The complaint alleges that Ranzenhofer violated Public Officers Law 73, 17(c) by requiring paid legislative staff to work on political campaigns.

Michelle McCulloch, a 45-year-old Attica resident and mother of four children, was on the state payroll as an aide to Ranzenhofer until April 30.

McCulloch said she was never given a reason Ranzenhofer terminated her employment, but she believes it was because she backs rural Republican David Bellavia while Ranzenhofer is closely allied with the Erie County GOP and that county's candidate, Chris Collins.

(Previously: While Ranzenhofer claims neutrality in congressional race, petitions for Collins seem to tell a different story)

Reached earlier today, Ranzenhofer said he had not yet seen the complaint and "I find it ironic that you've seen it before I did."

He said any response he would have at this point would be the same as May 11 when he denied asking staff to do anything out of the ordinary, but said he couldn't discuss McCulloch's dismissal since it's a personnel matter.

He said he might comment further after he's had a chance to read the complaint.

The ethics complaint, McCulloch said Sunday, isn't really about her firing, though.

"Honestly, I've been asked many times if I'm crazy for going forward with this and I am afraid of retribution," McCulloch said. "I happen to know a lot of people who are in the same situation I was in and everybody is afraid to speak up.

"Constituents are supposed to be able to believe in their elected officials," McCulloch added. "It's an honor to serve constituents and when elected officials don't behave in an ethical way, it needs to be brought to public light. I hope this will inspire others to come forward and stop what is going on."

McCulloch believes Ranzenhofer's alleged violation of the public officers law is "pretty black and white."

The law reads:

No state officer or employee shall, directly or indirectly, use his or her official authority to compel or induce any other state officer or employee to make or promise to make any political contribution, whether by gift of money, service or other thing of value.

According to her complaint, which was delivered Friday to the commission and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Ranzenhofer forced staff to deliver signed petitions for the Conservative Party line to the campaign of Collins.

Collins, a businessman and former Erie County executive, is running against Iraq War veteran and Batavia resident David Bellavia for the GOP nomination in the reconfigured NY-27.

McCulloch, a lifelong resident of Attica and longtime member of the Wyoming County GOP Committee, is supporting Bellavia for the nomination.

Wyoming County is outside of Ranzenhofer's senate district.

According to McCulloch's sworn statement, some time in late March, Jon McNulty, a field representative for Ranzenhofer and an ally of Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, informed Ranzenhofer staff members that the senator wanted each one to determine a time when they could commit to circulating petitions on behalf of the Collins campaign.

"We were to use either personal time or comp time to fulfill this obligation," said McCulloch, who added she felt no choice but to comply.

It was up to Ralph Mohr, an Erie County GOP Committee member, to determine the locations of the petition drive.

On or about April 1, Mohr arrived at Ranzenhofer's legislative office with a packet of prepared Conservative petitions and lists and maps of registered Conservative Party voters in the Town of Newstead, Village of Akron and a portion of the Town of Clarence.

Mohr allegedly told staff members that Ranzenhofer requested the petitions.

"At this time, I and another staff member indicated to Jon McNulty that we did not wish to pass petitions for Christopher Collins," McCulloch wrote. "Mr. McNulty told the staff this was a team effort and the senator expected cooperation from the full staff."

According to McCulloch, passing petitions for Collins wasn't a novel requirement. Staff was required, according to McCulloch, to volunteer for Collins during his failed bid to win reelection as Erie County executive.

The chief reason, according to sources, that taxpayer-paid legislative staff members often have notary certificates is so they can collect signatures on minor party lines. According McCulloch, McNulty directed staff members to ensure their notary qualifications were up to date.

On April 4, the Republicans in Wyoming County endorsed Bellavia, and McCulloch subsequently passed Republican petitions for Bellavia outside of Ranzenhofer's district.

On April 9, Bellavia asked McCulloch to be among the Wyoming County Republicans on his steering committee.

"I personally felt he was the best candidate in the race," McCulloch wrote.

On April 17, Bellavia announced the names of those on his steering commitee, which included McCulloch and another Ranzenhofer aide, former Genesee County Legislator Jerome Grasso.

Soon after the announcement hit the Web, the wrath of McNulty and Langworthy came down on McCulloch, according to her statement.

She described McNulty, who was in her office when he got a test message about the committee, as "visibly angered."

During the course of the day, McCulloch said, there were several conversations about Grasso and McCulloch supporting Bellavia and McNulty felt Ranzenhofer should "lay down the law" and demand that Grasso and McCulloch withdraw their support of Bellavia.

On that same day, Grasso and McCulloch met with Ranzenhofer's Chief of Staff Kathleen Donner. Donner, according to McCulloch, told the two staff members that she didn't think Ranzenhofer would have a problem with their participation in Bellavia's campaign. An hour later, she called McCulloch back into her office and said that at the direction of Ranzenhofer she was to discontinue her support of Bellavia.

At about 6 p.m., Ranzenhofer called McCulloch.

"He indicated he was very disappointed in my participation with the Bellavia Campaign Steering Committee," McCulloch wrote. "He stated his political consultant Mr. Hook had contacted him regarding this issue and that Mr. Hook was not happy, either. He also stated I was not to do anything political, at any time, without informing him. This included any actions I may take as a committeewoman with the Wyoming County Republican Committee."

McCulloch was an elected member of the committee.

On April 26, Bellavia contacted McCulloch and informed her he would be attending a fundraiser hosted by Wyoming County Republicans and asked if McCulloch and her husband could provide some introductions to local GOP members. She said she introduced Bellavia to no more than eight people.

The next day, believing she was following Ranzenhofer's instructions, she emailed the senator and informed him of her political activity.

On April 30, McCulloch was summoned to Donner's office. 

"She was visibly upset," McCulloch wrote. "She said this was the hardest thing she has had to do and then she informed me the senator was no longer in need of my services effective immediately."

It was a tough decision, McCulloch said in last night's interview, to go forward with the ethics complaint, but she's received a tremendous amount of support from fellow GLOW Republicans.

"When I did my own thing and in my own county, that’s when I was chastised, McCulloch said. "If they can do that to me, who else can they do it to, and who might be afraid to speak out?"

GLOW Republicans, McCulloch believes, are getting fed up with the Eric County GOP trying to dictate politics in rural communities, and she hopes that if her ethics complaint is upheld by the commission, it will send a message about the end of power politics locally.

"I went back to school in 2001 and graduated in 2006 because I believe we need a voice out here as much as any community, maybe more," McCulloch said. "We are good, hard-working people in Wyoming and Genesee counties. We shouldn't be beholden to Erie County."

The complaint against Ranzenhofer is the second big case sent to the new joint ethics commission, which was formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo about six months ago.

The other case, a complaint against the second most powerful man in the Senate, Sen. Thomas Libous, has created some controversy for the commission because of an alleged leak about the status of the case.

The commission, charged with fostering a more transparent government,  operates in secret and leaks of its proceedings are criminal acts.

Ellen Biben, the commission's executive director, has the power to open a preliminary investigation on her own, but a full investigation requires the support of eight of the 12 commissioners, including at least one of the three Republican senators on the commission.

The commission has 45 days to decide whether to proceed.

If there is an investigation, McCulloch, Grasso, McNulty and other staff members would likely be asked to provide sworn testimony.

Ranzhenhofer can choose to be represented by an attorney. He said today that he would cooperate completely with the commission if there is an investigation.

The commission will not publicly disclose whether an investigation is taking place and only its findings would be made public. If the commission finds against Ranzenhofer, any potential sanctions are the purview of a legislative committee.

Ranzenhofer is facing a reelection challenge from Democrat Justin Rooney.

Meanwhile, according to sources, Ranzenhofer, who has publicly proclaimed neutrality in the race between Collins and Bellavia, appeared at two events that Collins also attend in Genesee County on Friday -- a fundraiser for Genesee Cancer Assistance at Batavia Downs and a Rotary Club function in Le Roy. Grasso typically is with Ranzenhofer at any appearance he makes in Genesee County. Grasso, who remains on the Bellavia steering committee, has not returned a call seeking comment and clarification.

Today, Ranzenhofer said any attempt to tie his appearance at these events with Collins was "one of the most ridiculous things I've heard."

"I'm an elected official," Ranzenhofer said. "I got invited to the cancer event by Joe Gerace and the event in Le Roy was at Grasso's Rotary Club. The events were on my schedule. I have no control over who else shows up at these events."

May 30, 2012 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release:

The campaign of GOP congressional candidate David Bellavia today criticized former Erie County executive Chris Collins for borrowing the ideas of former Western New York Republican Congressmen in his Small Business Bill of Rights but failing to give credit where it was due.

In 2010, Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) co-sponsored H.R. 5109, titled the Small Business Bill of Rights. (bit.ly/KIWkKL) The bill was meant to stimulate growth and innovation in small businesses, much like Mr. Collins' initiative of the same name announced today. Rep. Lee's Small Business Bill of Rights included provisions for tax relief, limiting government regulations, protecting the secret ballot, lowering health care costs, and protecting intellectual property.

Also in 2010, Rep. Lee unveiled "Manufacturing for Tomorrow," a five-point plan to strengthen manufacturing in Western New York. The initiative called for tax relief and fairness for U.S. workers and manufacturers, tort reform to address job-killing lawsuit abuse, and customs reform to stop intellectual property violations. (scr.bi/Lg8olA) Collins' Small Business Bill of Rights, meant to bolster small businesses in the 27th Congressional District, mirrors the key points of Rep. Lee's plan, but without giving him credit. Mr. Collins advocates tax relief for small businesses ("right to lower taxes"), tort reform ("right to be free of frivolous lawsuits"), and intellectual property protection. (bit.ly/LGBjyE)

During his time in office, Rep. Lee was one of two representatives from New York State who opposed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which denied workers the right to a secret ballot. (bit.ly/KZMoLi) Another tenet in Mr. Collins' plan is the "right to secret ballots for union elections."

"A large portion of Mr. Collins' Small Business Bill of Rights comes directly from the work of Rep. Lee," Bellavia campaign manager and former Lee staffer Paul Cole said. Cole also charged Collins with borrowing the ideas of former Congressman Tom Reynolds.

In the document, Collins also states that "China needs to play by the rules." Mr. Collins advises that China must float its currency in order to end currency manipulation and protect the U.S. from unfair trade practices that harm American-made products and small businesses. He failed to credit Rep. Reynolds (NY-26) for that idea. Reynolds co-sponsored the Chinese Currency Act, which aimed to end Chinese exchange-rate manipulation and insulate American manufacturers from being harmed by currency manipulation. (bit.ly/NfBIuv)

"By failing to give credit to former congressmen Lee and Reynolds for their ideas, Mr. Collins is violating his own call for protecting intellectual property that he outlined today in this very plan," said Cole, who also worked for Rep. Reynolds. "For a candidate who touts his business experience as his sole qualification for Congress, he sure has a problem coming up with his own policy prescriptions."

"Some points in Mr. Collins' initiative are principles all Republicans espouse -- eliminating the death tax and government regulations, simplifying the tax code, balancing the budget, and repealing Obamacare," Cole said. "But once you compare the ideas of congressmen Lee and Reynolds with Mr. Collins' small business platform, it's quite clear that the other five solutions Mr. Collins offers are lifted from former the congressmen."

"At the very least, Mr. Collins should have the dignity to give credit where it is due," Cole said. "Anyone familiar with the policies of congressmen Lee and Reynolds would recognize these proposals in a hot second."

Cole noted that Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy, who is leading the Collins campaign, also worked for Lee and Reynolds.

NOTE: Chris Collins appeared in Batavia today to announced a "Small Business Bill of Rights," which The Batavian would have covered had the Collins campaign bothered to contact The Batavian in advance of the event.

May 13, 2012 - 12:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release:

BATAVIA, NY – The Bellavia campaign today invited Collins campaign officials to negotiate the details of a series of debates leading up to the June 26th Republican Primary in New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“It is unfortunate Mr. Collins took so long to assent to the wishes of voters,” Paul Cole, campaign manager for Bellavia for Congress, wrote in a letter to Michael Hook, general consultant for the Collins campaign. “But there is still time to assure the constituents of all eight counties are all afforded opportunities to see the candidates discuss the vital issues of the day.”

On March 27th, Bellavia challenged Mr. Collins to a series of eight debates in the eight counties of the 27th District. Saturday, 47 days later, Collins acquiesced and agreed to debate. The text of Cole’s letter to the Collins campaign can be found below.

Text of letter after the jump (click on headline to read):

May 11, 2012 - 3:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, michael ranzenhofer, NY-27, chris collins.

Petitions filed by the campaign of Chris Collins to help the Erie County millionaire qualify for the Conservative line on the NY-27 Congressional District ballot indicate Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer may not be as neutral in the race as he claims to be.

Though, even after being told of the petitions, the senator maintained he is staunchly neutral in the race.

"I have not endorsed and I will not endorse," Ranzenhofer said. "It's important that the voters in the district decide who will represent them in the general election. I do not even live in the district."

Ranzenhofer's involvement in the race became an issue last week when a former staff member told the Buffalo News she believed she was fired from the senator's office for supporting David Bellavia, the Iraq War veteran running against Collins.

The Batavian has obtained a half-dozen pages of Collins petitions (PDF) that indicate that paid legislative staff who report to Ranzenhofer worked in a coordinated manner to help gather signatures for the Collins campaign.

The fired staffer, Michelle McCulloch, a 45-year-old Attica resident, mother of four children, and Wyoming County GOP Committee member, said the message was sent loud and clear to staff members that Ranzenhofer expected all hands on deck to help Collins.

"This is a primary race," McCulloch said. "There are two candidates. If the senator wants to be neutral, that's a great thing to do, but when you direct your staff to do something else, that's a whole other thing."

After numerous attempts this week to get Ranzenhofer on the phone to discuss this issue, the senator called The Batavian today and denied that he directed staff members to gather signatures for Collins.

Ranzenhofer said that he cannot discuss specific personnel matters, but did say he "disagreed" with the assertion by McCulloch that he directed staff to help the Collins campaign.

"I believe I have staff members who are helping both candidates," Ranzenhofer said. "It's not unusual for staff members to circulate petitions for candidates and it's my belief that staff members have circulated petitions for both candidates."

Bellavia said he's only aware of two Ranzenhofer aides who have done anything for his campaign.

But McCulloch isn't the only member of the Bellavia steering committee who was harassed in his or her place of employment after the steering committee was announced, Bellavia said.

He's offered all steering committee members the chance to remove their names from the publically available list, but none have accepted the offer he said. He did add, however, that three new steering committee members asked that their names not be added to the list for fear of reprisal.

Also on the steering committee is Jay Grasso, a former Genesee County legislator who represents Ranzenhofer in the county.

Grasso has declined repeated requests for comment.

While Grasso and McCulloch have been publicly associated with the Bellavia campaign, all indications from McCulloch and other sources are that what they've done for Bellavia, they've done on their own.

The Collins petition effort, however, has the appearance of being a coordinated effort directed by somebody in authority.

The six staff members involved in the petition drive for Collins are all notaries public, enabling them to collect signatures across party lines (it's not uncommon for aides to be notaries just for this purpose). 

The petitions were for signatures on the Conservative line.

The petitions were passed only in Newstead and Akron (with some spillover into Clarence), which McCulloch said was a conscious decision by the Collins campaign not to bother with collecting signatures in any of the GLOW counties.

The staff members involved were McCulloch, Emily Berry, Dan Aikin, Jon McNulty, Kathy Donner and Carol Wojkowski.

And while Bellavia-supporter McCulloch gathered signatures for Collins, she said she only did so because she felt directed to take part in the effort.

In an interview with The Batavian today, McCulloch detailed why she believed she was fired for her support of Bellavia, who currently lives in Batavia and is a lifelong GLOW-area resident.

On April 17, Bellavia's campaign released the names of people throughout the NY-27 serving on his steering committee.

Within minutes of the news of the steering committee coming out, Ranzenhofer staff member and Collins ally McNulty sent McCulloch a text message that read, "Hook called ranz. Just want to warn you."

"Hook" refers to Michael Hook, a Washington political consultant who has worked on previous Collins campaigns (and may be working with Collins now, though it's not been publicly announced since Hook has been tainted by the campaign losses of Jane Corwin for Congress and the last Collins campaign for Erie County executive).

It was Corwin's loss that led McCulloch to seek a job with Ranzenhofer, whom she respected and thought would be a good elected official to serve. 

Previously, McCulloch had worked for Rep. Tom Reynolds until she took a position on Chris Lee's congressional campaign in 2008 and then she worked for Lee until Lee resigned in disgrace.

After the "Craigslist Congressman" resigned, McCulloch retained her job in the congressional office, which was ordered to conduct all of its business, on and off the clock, in a nonpartisan manner, so McCulloch was not in any way involved in Corwin's campaign.

A couple of hours after McNulty's message, Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy sent text messages to McCulloch questioning her support of Bellavia.

Up until this incident, McCulloch said she considered Langworthy a good friend -- he had been over for family dinners and taken her sons to sporting events.

While Langworthy hasn't publicly endorsed Collins, in political circles he's considered a Collins ally and in his text to McCulloch he made it clear he supported Collins.

In a response to Langworthy, McCulloch suggested Langworthy had called Hook.

Langworthy responded, "I haven't talked to your boss or Michael Hook. I am fully with Chris Collins. Hook is one of your boss' best friends."

Ranzenhofer said he's been good friends with Hook for more than 30 years, going back to a time before either were in politics and both were in Jaycees.

When McCulloch returned home that day, she received a call from Ranzenhofer.

"He discussed his displeasure with me being on the steering committee, that it didn't matter that it was in Wyoming County or not, whether I was a committee member or not, and that further political actions by me needed to be reported to him immediately," McCulloch.

She said it was noteworthy that Ranzenhofer didn't demand that she resign from the steering committee.

On April 26, Bellavia called McCulloch, she said, and asked if she would be willing to introduce Bellavia to Republicans at a fundraiser later that night in Attica. Since she was a steering committee member, a county committee member and a lifelong Wyoming County resident, so McCulloch agreed to introduce Bellavia around.

Wyoming County is entirely outside of Ranzenhofer's senatorial district.

She said she introduced Bellavia to five or six people that night.

The next morning, McCulloch said she sent an email to Ranzenhofer and to his Chief of Staff Kathy Donner informing them of her political activity, which she understood to be the direction given to her by the senator.

The following Friday, Donner called McCulloch into her office and told her her services would no longer be needed.

There was no explanation given for her termination, McCulloch said.

Up to that point, according to McCulloch, she had never been reprimanded, suspended or otherwise given any indication she has not performed her job in an outstanding matter. She said, in fact, she had always been praised for her work.

It was the first time in her life she had been fired.

McCulloch initially didn't want to talk about the situation, she said, but then personnel from state agencies and other elected officials started calling her to find out what was going on.

She didn't want the story to be, even if just in rumor, that she was fired with no explanation, and since she believed she was fired for helping Bellavia, she wanted to tell that story.

"To say I was fired for the first time in my life for a reason that’s not there, I couldn’t just sit there and let that happen," McCulloch said. "I didn’t want to put myself in a position for people to think I was fired for any other reason because it’s just not true."

She's also speaking out for the sake of her four children, she said, whom she said she has always encouraged to get involved in politics and support candidates they believe in. She said she thought they shouldn't see her just backing down when she doesn't believe she was treated fairly.

Her firing, McCulloch said, may also make her a rather public casualty of a growing rift between the Erie County GOP -- at least the Langworthy/Hook/Collins wing of it -- and GLOW Republicans.

Many key GLOW GOP activists are supporting Bellavia, and McCulloch said she doesn't believe Collins gets the rural counties. He's hardly even stepped foot into any parts of the district outside of Erie County since the campaign began.

She said the Erie County GOP is trying to bully its way into a primary win.

"It’s not about the issues and who the candidates are (with the Erie County GOP)," she said. "It's about their strength and force and what they can do to our rural counties and it’s not fair to our rural counties."

May 5, 2012 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, michael ranzenhofer, NY-27, chris collins.

State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer doesn't want his staff members showing public support for either of the two men running for the GOP nomination in the 27th Congressional District, and so he apparently fired one staff member this week for supporting David Bellavia.

The Buffalo News reports Michelle McCulloch, 45, was fired after introducing Bellavia at a campaign event outside of Ranzenhofer's district.

While she had previously been warned about her connection to Bellavia, McCulloch said she felt she was complying with Ranzenhofer's directive by reporting the campaign appearance to him the next day.

Nick Langworthy, Erie County GOP chairman and ally of Chris Collins, the candidate Bellavia would like to defeat, was at the campaign event in Attica. CORRECTION:  Langworthy contacted The Batavian and said, "Bob McCarthy reported falsely that I attended the GOP event Attica. I did not attend that event."

Langworthy denies he was involved in McCulloch's dismissal.

While McCulloch said she was given no official reason for her termination, she believes it's a logical conclusion.

May 2, 2012 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, David Bellavia.

"House to House: an Epic Memoir of War," a book cowritten by Batavia resident David Bellavia and released in 2007, will get the Hollywood treatment.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Rich Middlemas, who won an Oscar this year for the  documentary Undefeated will produce the film.

Bellavia won a Bronze Star and Silver Star and the book is based on his experiences in 2004 in the second battle for Fallujah.

Currently, Bellavia is running for Congress and is locked in a GOP primary battle with Chris Collins for the NY-27 District.

April 30, 2012 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, David Bellavia, NY-27.

Republican congressional candidate and Batavia resident David Bellavia made his tax returns available today for review by journalists and he's calling on his primary opponent, Chris Collins, to do the same.

"This is part of our narrative of being completely transparent," Bellavia said. "If you're going to ask for somebody for a vote, you've got to earn their trust."

On Friday, the Buffalo News ran a story about Bellavia falling behind falling behind on some tax payments and city fees (with all payments being current now), but Bellavia said the decision to release his tax returns is coincidental.

"We always planned on releasing the returns, but (that story) may have pushed it up a week," Bellavia said.

Collins is a businessman who is reportedly wealthy. His press agent, Michael Kracker, has not yet responded to a phone message, nor has the Collins campaign responded to a message on Twitter asking if he will release his returns.

Bellavia betrayed a little frustration with the focus on his finances while Collins, he thinks, has ducked any substantial discussion of issues important to the district.

"When I decided to run for the seat, some Republicans pulled me aside as said I needed to be careful as a Republican not to make the campaign about class warfare. They said Collins is not a bad guy just because he has a lot of money and I agree with that, but now the class warfare is pointed at me. Just as he shouldn't be disqualified for this race because he's wealthy, I shouldn't be because I'm not."

And Bellavia isn't.

While he and his wife, Rochester TV reporter Deanna King, own a house in Ward 1 assessed at $209,000, the family income has only once exceeded $100,000 (in 2007), and in 2009 the Bellavias' gross adjusted income dropped to $29,719. In each of the other three years of tax returns provided by the Bellavia campaign the family income never exceeded $70,000.

In 2007, the Bellavias owed more than $10,000 in taxes at the end of the year, but in each of the other four years the family received refunds.

Bellavia's primary income, according to the returns, comes as an author, and that income has fluctuated widely over the years -- in excess of $100,000 in 2007 (when the family's gross income was nearly $114,000) and as low as $2,400 in 2010).

In 2007, a book Bellavia co-wrote, "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War"  was released. Bellavia has said he also co-wrote and sold the screenplay for the movie "Tie That Binds."

In 2009, Bellavia took time off from writing and speaking to help start and run a nonprofit group for returning veterans called the Warrior Legacy Foundation.

On Friday, Bellevia told the Buffalo News he is "no country club Republican," and he repeated the phrase today.

"It was a fair story," Bellavia said. "It's a story. I'm running for congress and there has got to be transparency, but at the end of the day, it clears the narrative that I'm not a country club Republican.

"You can't elect a person to congress whom it doesn't bother to put $4.05 in their tank," Bellavia added. "It hurts me every day."

Bellavia has repeatedly asked the well-financed Collins to meet in a debate and Bellavia said the lack of substance will hurt either Republican candidate, which ever one wins the primary, when it comes time to face Kathy Hochul in the general election.

"Hochul is a very gifted, talented and competent politician," Bellavia said. "She knows the issues. I disagree with her on the issues, but we can't just wait until after the primary to find out where a candidate stands on the issues, but that's exactly what he (Collins) told the Buffalo News."

April 27, 2012 - 6:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, David Bellavia, NY-27.

David Bellavia has fallen behind on his property taxes and city fees in recent years, the Buffalo News reported today, and while he has paid penalties for being late, he's up-to-date on all of his payments currently.

The Batavia resident is running for the GOP nomination in the 27th Congressional District.

According to the Buffalo News, Bellavia has paid more than $700 in penalties for being late on school property taxes and has been assessed more than $100 in penalties for being late with water and sewer payments.

Bellavia told the News he's had his struggles with finances just like any average Western New York resident.

“I’m not a millionaire; I’m not a country club Republican,” he said. “Yes, my family on occasion has been late paying bills, but they are paid in full, including fees and interest.”

The Iraq War veteran earns money from book sales and according to the News recently sold a movie script to Hollywood.

Bellavia, who backed Tea Party candidate Jack Davis in the May 2011 special election won by Kathy Hochul, is running against former Erie County administrator Chris Collins. Jane Corwin, the GOP nominee who lost the special election in the heavily Republican district was reportedly tightly aligned with Collins and Collins is reportedly working now with the Corwin campaign team.

Photo: File photo.

February 22, 2012 - 11:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-26.

Batavia resident and Iraq War veteran David Bellavia says he wants to run for congress but "liberal New York politicians" are holding up the process of drawing new district lines, making it hard for him to start his campaign.

Bellavia made a plea for financial support from supporters to help get a possible campaign going in an open letter posted today to his website.

... here's why I can't jump in this race just yet: liberal New York politicians are creating new Congressional Districts. They've been holding back for months, dragging their feet and drawing secret lines to help Democrat incumbents like Rep. Hochul.

It's hard to believe - we simply don't know what district we live in yet!

But the courts have forced the politicians to announce those new districts in the next few weeks, and I need your donation if I am to get in this race as a strong competitor.

Bellavia blames Hochul for high gas prices and criticizes her for a "rubber stamp" of President Obama's policies.

The United States House of Representatives is working hard to fight President Obama's flawed policies. But in the conservative Republican district of Western New York where I live, we are represented by a liberal Democrat who believes in just about everything President Obama says or does!

May 18, 2011 - 1:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Jack Davis, NY-26, Jane Corwin.

Press release from David Bellavia:

(BATAVIA, NY) - Decorated Iraq combat veteran David Bellavia today challenged Congressional candidate Jane Corwin to come clean on her involvement in a gambit to disrupt a veterans' event in Greece, NY. The former Army Staff Sergeant whose actions during the Battle of Fallujah earned some of the nation's highest honors also pointed out the second Corwin staffer caught by WGRZ-TV videotaping the candidate's chief of staff as he repeatedly called a U.S. Marine a "coward."

"Media reports indicate the second camera was operated by Rep. Chris Lee's former Congressional staffer Emily Hunter, a native of Rochester," Bellavia said. "This is further proof Corwin has ordered the local GOP machine to push the edges of common decency in a desperate attempt to help her buy this seat."

Military veterans are hunting for Michael Mallia, Corwin's Assembly chief of staff, in Florida, where Corwin sent him to hide from the media after he embarrassed himself and his candidate in a Youtube video edited to look like he was assaulted. Angry veterans in the 26th Congressional District have taken to referring to Corwin's dirty trick as "CowardGate."

"I urge Jane Corwin to come clean on why she ordered her chief of staff and Rep. Lee's staff assistant to disrupt the Greece veterans' event," Bellavia said. "I also beseech her to release the unedited tapes of CowardGate, reveal where she has hidden Mallia from the media and produce the second shooter and her video."

"It was bad enough that Jane Corwin ordered this dirty trick - now she's lying. Corwin is the architect of a cover up designed to deceive voters and duck the media," Bellavia said. "The veterans of Western New York will not give her a pass on this despicable prank."

"Jane Corwin is failing her CSPAN audition: if she will not tell the truth about CowardGate, she is not ready for prime time and cannot represent our Congressional District with honor and effectiveness," Bellavia said.

Veterans in Florida have offered a $5,000 reward for information on Mallia's whereabouts that leads to a media interview of the Corwin staff chief. They have published a Web site offering a WANTED poster to help in the hunt (www.WheresMallia.com). Broadcast quality b-B-roll of the Florida search is available at http://vimeo.com/23776422.

May 16, 2011 - 10:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Jack Davis, NY-26, Jane Corwin.

David Bellavia’s dislike for Jane Corwin didn’t just begin when he was passed over as a candidate in the NY-26 race. It goes back to Corwin's earliest days in politics.

And while Bellavia has taken a genuine shine to Tea Party-line candidate Jack Davis, he regrets that his support for Davis is being seen by some as just sour grapes.

Mainly, he supports Davis, he said, because he is an "honorable man" who knows what he stands for while he doesn’t know whether Corwin is a real conservative or just an opportunist.

“She only believes what people within a 5-foot radius of her believe,” Bellavia said. “If she’s in a red district, then she’s red. If she were in New Jersey, she would be a Patacki Republican. I can’t honestly tell you what she believes because all she talks about is negative things. She tells us what’s wrong with Kathy Hochul, but she expresses no beliefs, she has no plans. She’s an empty-suit candidate.”

Bellavia, a Batavia resident and a decorated Iraq War veteran, stopped by The Batavian’s office Monday morning to discuss the race and why he’s come out in favor of Davis and against Corwin.

In 2006, Bellavia backed Republican Tom Reynolds against Jack Davis, and in 2008, even though some in the GOP had encouraged him to run, he backed Chris Lee's campaign. When Shirtless Chris Lee vacated the office, Bellavia let the GOP leaders know he wanted to be the candidate, but Erie County Republicans, particularly the Chris Collins' wing, had another idea.

In a weighted-vote system that disenfranchised GLOW Republicans, the Erie County GOP handpicked Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Even so, Bellavia said, after he couldn't get on the ballot as an independent candidate, he was prepared to sit out of the race. But then, the smear campaign started. There were e-mails to his wife's coworkers and bosses suggesting nefarious conduct by Bellavia.

Until this election Bellavia has been a loyal Republican. But he believes the whisper campaign was orchestrated by Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy. He said Langworthy denied it. Langworthy couldn't be reached for comment.

Bellavia believes the Langworthy/Collins camp is taking the Western New York GOP in the wrong direction, that Corwin isn't suited for the office she seeks. While he doesn't agree with Davis on all issues, at least Davis will give you an honest opinion, according to Bellavia.

The questions Bellavia has about Jane Corwin's character began, he said, when they met at a GOP function where she told the group they were talking with that she would never use her own money for an election campaign.

At the time, Bellavia said, he didn't know who Corwin was or the Lewis family/Talking Phone Book connection.

Later, when Corwin had an opportunity to run for Assembly, according to Bellavia, Corwin promised to drop $500,000 of her own money into the race. The self-funding vow immediately caused the other GOP hopefuls to drop out of the race.

He found Corwin's seeming double-speak distasteful, he said.

“Conservatives should stand for truth and honesty,” Bellavia said. “We don’t say just anything to get elected.”

When the nomination process came around for the NY-26 special election to fill the seat vacated by Lee, Bellavia said he witnessed Corwin use the same tactic. Corwin, he said, promised to spend $5 million of her own money on the race.

So far, she’s only put about $2 million into the race and outside money is flooding into the district to shore up her campaign.

“That’s money conservative Republicans in other districts are going to need to protect their seats,” Bellavia said. “Instead of spending her own money like she promised, she’s taking money that the Republican Party will need.”

Bellavia believes the NY-26 should be represented by somebody from one of the rural counties, which are the reddest part of the district. He thinks Erie County Republicans, led by Colins and Langworthy, hold too much sway – and aren’t conservative enough – to get the NY-26 the kind of representation it deserves.

They also represent too narrow a base of Amherst, Range Rover Republicans to truly reflect the more diverse parts of the district, or the working class, rural counties.

“Where are the black conservative Republicans?” Bellavia said. “Where are the conservative Hispanic Republicans? You know they’re out there. Where are they? Where are the farmers? Why can’t we be represented by a farmer?”

The thirtysomethings gaining power in the ECGOP, Bellavia said, are unprincipled, lack values and aren't true conservatives.

He wants to see them stopped before they become entrenched, which will only happen, he said, with a Corwin defeat.

“If she loses, I can guarantee you, the next candidate will be a conservative,” Bellavia said.

“If I have to be the one to fall on a grenade to change the direction of the Republican Party in Western New York, then I’ll be happy stay out of politics, to just raise my kids and stay right here in Batavia,” he added.

Which raises the question, is Jack Davis a conservative?

“He’s right on a lot of issues,” Bellavia said.

Bellavia then listed off trade (he characterizes Jack’s position as “fair trade”), he's right on the Second Amendment (he noted Davis has a substantial gun collection and loves guns), and Davis has said he will caucus with the Republicans and the Tea Party. He said Corwin hasn’t said that she will caucus with the Tea Party.

In fact, Bellavia said that typically, the Tea Party movement is supposed to stand against mainstream, GOP insiders, and today, the Tea Party Express was in Buffalo endorsing Jane Corwin, the epitome of a GOP insider.

As for abortion – Bellavia is staunchly pro-life -- he disputed claims that Davis has said he supports partial-birth abortion. While he doesn’t agree with Davis’s overall position on abortion, he said Corwin’s position is even worse.

“She said she favored allowing abortion in the first trimester,” Bellavia said. “Nobody talks about trimesters. Either you’re pro-life or pro-choice. You only talk about trimesters if you’re a career politician trying to have it both ways.”

Bellavia said he was disappointed in New York pro-life groups when he went to them to seek support for his candidacy and was told they were going to sit on the sidelines in this race. He said one group announced that Corwin is “pro-life enough.”

As for the other candidates in the race, Bellavia said he personally likes Kathy Hochul and Ian Murphy. He called Hochul a “good Catholic and strong woman.” He also said she’s a liberal Democrat and disagrees with her on a lot of positions.

As for Murphy, he said the Green Party candidate is smart and funny.

“If Murphy gets (as much as) 2 percent of the vote, it’s going to be an embarrassment for Corwin,” Bellavia said. “He’s nailed her character. He saw in her what the Republicans should have seen in her.”

As for regrets, he has a few.

Bellavia said he likes Assemblyman Steve Hawley but regrets that he got off on the wrong foot with him.

Early on, Bellavia admitted, he said that Steve never would have been elected to the Assembly if his name was Johnson rather than Hawley. He knows that really offended Steve and he never should have said it.

Then, in the run up to this race, word leaked out that Collins, Langworthy and Carl Paladino offered Bellavia Steve Hawley’s Assembly seat if Bellavia would drop out of the congressional race (the plan was, Hawley would move to Ranzenhofer’s Senate seat and Ranzenhofer would become a judge). 

Bellavia regrets that a discussion that was supposed to remain behind closed doors among a small group of people leaked out.

He said it was an unfair to Hawley that the conversation was leaked. 

“It didn’t come from me. I never said a word,” Bellavia said. “I never even considered it for a minute and I wouldn’t take such a deal.”

Bellavia’s other regret is that some people think he’s just the “candidate scorned” and that’s the only reason he’s backing Davis.

“Honestly, 90 percent of my initial response was these guys were so nasty that I wanted to get back at them,  but I stand with Jack today,” Bellavia said. “I could have just stood back and lobbed bombs, but Jack Davis is an honorable man. I honestly believe in Jack Davis.”

We left two phone messages with Matt Harakal, spokesman for Jane Corwin, and invited him either to provide answers to interview questions or submit a response of any length at any time after publication. We followed up the phone offer with an e-mail. We also reached out to Nick Langworthy for comment and would welcome a written response from Langworthy.

It should also be noted that we’ve extended at least a half dozen invites to Jane Corwin to stop by The Batavian office for an interview. We’ve never gotten a yes or no response from Harakal to any of those requests.

May 14, 2011 - 3:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-26, Jane Corwin.

The following was received from Batavia resident David Bellavia, a Republican and Iraq War veteran who was passed over for the GOP nomination in the NY-26:

Dear Tea Party Colleague:

Before you get involved in the special election in NY-26, there's something you need to know.

Jane Corwin's two top advisers defrauded Carl Paladino to shove combat veteran Gary Berntsen out of the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

In fact, when they were caught, Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and Corwin's campaign manager Chris Grant lied to me about it.

Why would you help Langworthy and Grant, when they hate the Tea Party so much that they would do this - potentially a criminal felony fraud - to push their establishment candidate for U.S. Senate over Carl's choice: my friend Gary Berntsen.

As Rus Thompson of TEA New York wrote: "[They] fancied themselves independent political operatives and clandestine master manipulators, and spent a small fortune of Carl's money WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE OR APPROVAL, for a large lit drop naming Jay Townsend as the Paladino endorsed candidate. We caught wind and squelched the effort as best we could, and Carl issued an urgent press release confirming Berntsen as the Paladino endorsed candidate...[but Gary] Bernsten got screwed."

Before you lift a finger to help these two anti-veteran Corwin advisers manipulate this election, too, be sure to read the whole story here:
http://wnymedia.net/buffalopundit/2011/05/how-corwins-dream-team-screwed...

I urge you: don't help the people that will do anything - anything - to kill the Tea Party movement.

In Freedom,
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia
US Army, Ret.

UPDATE Sunday, 3:49 p.m.: We just received this e-mail response from Rus Thompson.

Although what happened during the Paladino campaign was unethical and just  plain wrong the FBI investigated and there is NO current investigation  ongoing with this. The FBI came in, went through Bernstens accusations and  found no wrong doing in violation of any Laws. The investigation was over as  fast as it started. There were no violations of the Law and NO campaign  finance Laws were violated, end of subject.

On the other hand, is it not unethical to do what Bellavia, Bernsten and  Caputo are doing right now? Endorsing a fraudulent tea party candidate for  the sole purpose of vengeance, to pay back fools with the republicans for an  idiotic move during a campaign last year?

Grow up and take this battle to a primary and not throw a special election to  the democrats.

Rus Thompson
http://TEANewYork.com

May 13, 2011 - 2:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, NY-26, Jane Corwin.

Press Release:

(BATAVIA, NY) - Decorated combat veteran David Bellavia today accused Jane Corwin, the candidate of the Republican elite, of reneging on her commitment to self-fund her race - a broken promise that will cost real conservative Congressmen their seats in 2012.

"When the Erie County Republican chairman force-fed Jane Corwin to Western New York GOP organizations as his hand-picked candidate to replace Rep. Chris Lee, he said it was because she promised to spend $5 million on the race," Bellavia said. "Today it looks like she won't after all - and national Republican organizations are instead paying the bill."

"Where is Jane's $5 million?" Bellavia asked. "And why is she putting real conservative Congressmen at risk just to save a buck, when she's reportedly got $140 million in her checking account?"

To shore up one of the worst-run campaigns in recent Republican history, national GOP political action committess and their allies have committed to spending at least $1 million in the 26th Congressional District race. Bellavia said this puts more solid conservatives in harm's way in the next election cycle.

"Today Retired Army LTC Allen West, a combat veteran, is the number one target of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012 and they will pour millions of dollars into his opponent's campaign," Bellavia said. "Today Rep. West is the darling of the Tea Party movement and a potential candidate for Vice President - but because of Jane Corwin's miserable campaign, Rep. West and a dozen other targeted Republicans may not have the funding necessary to win in 2012."

"The only reason she was selected was because she could buy the seat herself," Bellavia said. "But now that the bill has arrived, Jane is headed to the powder room."

ABOUT DAVID BELLAVIA
David Bellavia is a former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who served in the 1st Infantry Division (Task Force 2-2). He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross, and received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Conspicuous Service Cross. In 2006 he was invited to attend the President's State of the Union address as an honored guest. In 2004, Bellavia was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story titled "Into the Hot Zone" which won a Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of the best selling book, "House to House," an account of his experience leading a platoon in the Battle of Fallujah published by the Free Press in 2007. Bellavia has endorsed Jack Davis in the hotly-contested special election, who is running on the Tea Party line.

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