Feb 12

2022

Giambra tests run for State Senate

A poll suggests the former Erie County executive is considering a challenge to incumbent Sean Ryan. Or at least trying to keep his name in the public eye.

It looks like Joel Giambra, the former Erie County executive, is once again kicking the tires on a run for elected office.

This time the Democrat-turned-Republican seems to have his eyes on the 60th District State Senate seat, currently occupied by Democrat Sean Ryan.

Last week a poll began popping up on the cell phones of likely voters in the district, one of whom shared the link with Investigative Post.

The poll begins with a handful of questions meant to determine where on the political spectrum the respondent resides: Is New York State headed in the right or wrong direction? How do you feel about Joe Biden? Kathy Hochul? Mark Poloncarz?

Then the poll gets specific: What do you think of Joel Giambra? How about Sean Ryan? Which one would you vote for if an election were held today? What’s your opinion of Assemblyman Jon Rivera, a Ryan ally? 

Finally, the poll gets topical: Should the state’s bail reform measures, championed by Democrats in the State Legislature, be reversed? Should the state end mask mandates for kids in schools? Are you concerned about “the rise of New York City dominated socialism in the State Legislature?”

 

Since leaving the county executive’s office 15 years ago, Giambra has made a living as a lobbyist and an investor in West Side real estate. He’s kept his hand in politics, too, and put himself forward as a candidate for office several times. 

For example, in 2018 he said he was running for governor, but ultimately withdrew from the Republican primary and failed to win third party support. 

In 2020, he suggested he’d run for the Assembly seat Ryan left when elected to the Senate that year. He called off that campaign due to illness, and Jon Rivera won the seat. 

Last year, he told the Buffalo News he was interested in running for governor again. 

Now his attention seems to have shifted to the State Senate.

After this story published, Giambra texted a statement to Investigative Post:

“I was ready to ask the voters if they would want me to represent them in the Buffalo Assembly seat last cycle,” he wrote, noting he dropped out in order to get a kidney transplant. “My interest in returning to government has not diminished. Chances are very good that I will be asking voters to consider my candidacy for some state office.”

Giambra, 65, hasn’t filed a campaign finance disclosure statement since January 2021, when he reported having about $70,000 in the bank left over from his career as an elected official. Before his two terms as county executive, Giambra served 10 years as Buffalo city comptroller and eight years as Niagara District Common Council member. Ryan has about $235,000 in campaign funds.

Two long-time participants in Western New York politics, who requested anonymity, characterized Giambra’s recent candidacies as marketing: Getting his name in the press, they told Investigative Post, helped Giambra to impress potential clients.

A third was more succinct, describing Giambra’s motivation in one word: 

“Relevance.”