By Rick Miller

Cattaraugus County Democrats expecting to meet Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul at a fundraiser in Ellicottville Monday instead got Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz as a last-minute guest speaker.

Frank Puglisi, Cattaraugus County Democratic Party chairman, said Hochul, a popular figure in Western New York, telephoned him earlier to apologize for not being able to attend. She was in Albany to preside over the swearing-in of two new Democratic senators who won special elections last Tuesday, Puglisi said.

Hochul last week expressed no interest in reported efforts by some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s supporters to convince her to run for her previous congressional seat against U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican.

In a Democratic primary separate from Cuomo, who is being challenged by actress and liberal activist Cynthia Nixon, Hochul faces New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams.

Some, including Jean Bond of Ashford, who attended the fundraiser, saw Cuomo as throwing Hochul “under the bus” with his public comments saying she would be the strongest candidate against Collins. There was some speculation last week that Cuomo made the comments because he would prefer a new lieutenant governor candidate with more liberal credentials to counteract Nixon’s challenge for the nomination to run for governor.

“We support her,” Puglisi said of Hochul. “She’s a great lieutenant governor. We absolutely need to keep her because she’s from Western New York.”

Puglisi told the 80 in attendance at the Villaggio restaurant that Hochul “apologized and said she was very thankful for the support Cattaraugus County gives her. She does not take us for granted.”

Puglisi said, “We need to support her come Sept. 13” in the Democratic primary. Puglisi thanked his Erie County counterpart Jeremy Zellner for arranging with Poloncarz to speak at the event.

It’s not the first time he’s pinch-hit for someone, Poloncarz told the group of Democrats.

His message was: “When Democrats work together, we can win.” He warned Democrats not to let Republicans define them. “They want to control the narrative.” Instead, the county executive told them to engage the public with a message to the middle class: “We’re here to represent you and our values are your values.”

Poloncarz, who sits on the Western New York Economic Development Council, said he told Cuomo early in the first Buffalo Billion that the state needed to help surrounding counties in Western New York as well.

Puglisi said all the 23rd Congressional District candidates were attending an event in Ithaca. The Cattaraugus County Democratic Committee has endorsed Jamestown attorney Edie Sundquist.

The county chairman took a swing at Democrat Tracy Mitrano of Penn Yan, who “said it was OK to lose 250 jobs at the Dresser-Rand plant in Wellsville and that she was not against outsourcing.”

Forrest Richardson, Sundquist’s campaign manager, spoke briefly on behalf of the candidate’s jobs plan.

“We need to bring economic activity back to the Southern Tier” where unemployment is hovering in the 7 percent range across Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties.

“Some areas of the district are experiencing economic growth, but there’s a lot of economic pain,” Richardson said.

Sundquist would fight outsourcing, he added.