© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Len Lenihan leaving as head of county Democrats

WBFO News file photo
Len Lenihan

After helping to place a Democrat in the County Executive's office for the first time in 12 years, Len Lenihan is stepping aside as the Chair of the Erie County Democratic Party.

In a letter penned Monday, Lenihan announced that he will not seek a sixth term in September.

The letter also recounted the party's recent successes, including the election of Democrats in the area's three Congressional seats and the current 12-to-3 "supermajority" held by Democrats in the Erie County Legislature.

Lenihan was reportedly ready to leave the post last year for a job with the state Democrats, but eventually remained in Erie County.

The following is the letter Lenihan issued:

Dear Friend,

Today I informed County Executive Mark Poloncarz that 1 will not seek a sixth term as
Chair of the Erie County Democratic Committee when my term expires this September.
Mark was a founding member of the steering committee to elect me Chair in 2002, and
his election as County Executive was the culmination of 10 years of change that has
swept across Erie County Politics. There could be no better time to pass on what we have
built to a new generation of leadership.

But first, I'd like to thank you for changing the way we do politics in Erie County. 1 was
elected following years of scorched earth politics, division, and lost elections. Working
together, we changed the culture, the methods and the results. 

We rebuilt this Party from the ground up, opening the doors of headquarters to any and
all who wanted to help elect Democrats. This change in culture allowed us to assemble
the finest collection of political talent that Erie County has ever seen. We ushered in a
new era of professionalism, putting a priority on ethics, fiscal discipline, and
technological innovation.

And what results we achieved!
• For the first time in recent history, all three members of Congress from WNY are
• We won the first supermajority - ever in the Erie County Legislature, 12-3
Democrats- Republicans.
• We went from losing virtually every New York State Supreme Court race to
winning 11 out of the last 13.
• We endorsed and elected the first African American Mayor in the City of Buffalo.
• We reversed a 100 year history in the Town of Tonawanda in four short years,
changing the Tonawanda Town Board from being all Republican to all
• And lastly, we took back the office of Erie County Executive after 12 long years
of Republican control.

I do not consider myself lucky---I consider myself blessed---It takes more than luck to
achieve what we have since September 2002.   It took my three extraordinary executive directors, Kathleen Callan, Jeremy Zellner and  Katie Bartolotta, who worked the hours of a football coach in midseason and made me look good every day. It took all the members of our staff who they directed, a group of
young men and women who were as dedicated as they come. (over)

Leona rd R. Lenihan
Arthur 0 . Eve, J r .
Betty J ean Grant
Margaret M. McLa ughlin
Frank C. Max, Jr.
David A. Rivera
Dennis E. Wru·d
Gayle L. Syposs
Amelida Ortiz Weinmann

Also, it took Dennis Ward the best Elections Commissioner in New York State. It took the
Town Chairs and City Zone Chairs, it took the district Cornmitteemembers throughout Erie
County, and it took our donors who gave and gave until it hurt.
In short - we have accomplished what we set out to do. And while I may be leaving, what we
have built together cannot be stopped.

There are no words to adequately express my appreciation to you for having been given the
honor to lead this great Party for the last ten years. You elected me at 5 consecutive
reorganizational meetings, without one vote being cast in dissent.

I will always cherish the memories: hosting the 2006 State Democratic Convention; welcoming
President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton numerous times; the historic inauguration of
President Barack Obama and so many more. But most of all I will miss you and the friendships
we have developed and the many challenges that we have taken on together.

The Erie County Democratic Committee is strong, effective and poised for the future. I am
confident you will elect new Party leaders who will build on the foundation we have created and
maintain our high standards of excellence in service to the Democratic Party.

Thanks so much and my best wishes to you always.
Len Lenihan