This results in a view of the chairmanship as a final destination to be plundered rather than a post from which to serve the party faithful. In Wonder Boy's case, this rewards structure is enhanced by the fact that he has a patronage plum job as chief of staff of the legislature, to the tune of $80K per year. (Not a bad gig for someone barely qualified to work at Walmart.) Retaining this job requires support of a majority of the county legislature. Since the legislators who employ him depend on the party endorsement which he controls, Zellner has a screaming conflict of interest which has somehow gone unchallenged and unexplained. As his personal enrichment is more important than electing Democrats, Wonder Boy can only back Democrats who will blindly obey his whims. That's where the crux of the issue lies. Zellner cannot allow a Democrat to be elected who will not back him without question as chairman and chief of staff. As a result, he openly violated the rules of the ECDC, intentionally failing to reorganize town and zone committees or hold endorsements in districts he didn't control. This robbed he ECDC members affected of their rights to participate in party decision making and allowed Wonder Boy to misapply ECDC resources to support his boot licking candidates without the support of district committee members. This is a formula for disaster in a close race, and Wonder Boy struck out three times.
1) Independent newcomer Pat Burke snuck down the middle between committee member backed Rick Zydel and Zellner's unendorsed candidate in LD-07 (Cheektowaga, Buffalo Lovejoy and South). It is unlikely that Burke would have run or won if Zydel had been endorsed. The future path of young Burke is uncertain, as only one other independent Democrat has ever been elected to the county legislature and she only lasted one term.
2) LD-08 (Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Alden) was a special circumstance. When it became clear that Republican Ted (Money Bags) Morton was going to run, it so frightened the incumbent legislator that he decided not to run for re-election and reportedly applied for a job out of town. Morton had spent lavishly on a prior run for Cheektowaga Supervisor in 2011 which he narrowly lost. He can apparently spend whatever he wants on politics. Had the committeemen been allowed to exercise their right to endorse, Wes Moore was considered a favorite. Wonder Boy never scheduled an endorsement meeting and went with the troubled Alden Town chairperson who was widely viewed as a weak place keeper while a more viable candidate was sought. After Wonder Boy's pick beat Moore in the ensuing low turnout Democratic Primary Election, she was unceremoniously trounced by Morton in the general election. Morton's win cost Democrats the majority in the legislature, but Morton's victory was way too easy, and he is rumored to be nominating Wonder Boy as Republican of the Year.
3) The endorsement votes in LD-10 (West Seneca and points southeast) are concentrated in West Seneca. This is not Wonder Boy country, so he again chose not to schedule an endorsement meeting and decided to support an unknown recent law school graduate. She was beaten like a rented mule by former Democrat turned Conservative incumbent Joe Lorigo. Three auto endorsements by Wonder Boy, three train wrecks.
In another key contest, insurgent political veteran Barbara Miller-Williams took back her seat from ineffective first termer Tim Hogues in LD-01 (Buffalo). The Miller-Williams vs Hogues battle was unavoidable, as Hogues had been nominated by the ECDC executive committee in 2011, denying Miller-Williams any opportunity to enter a primary election and give the Democratic voters a choice. Hogue's unanticipated loss to Miller-Williams probably cost Wonder Boy the votes necessary to remain as chief of staff, even if Democrats had held the legislature majority.
In one of the more comical contests, school teacher William Conrad was reported to be staging a competitive race in LD-04 against popular incumbent Canisius College professor Kevin Hardwick. That's when Zellner sent out a personal letter to voters in the district, which began, "Two years ago I earned your support when I ran for the Erie County Legislature...." Apparently Wonder Boy suffers from amnesia, as he was clobbered by Hardwick in 2011 by nearly 4000 votes. However, Zellner's 2011 race was notable for the fact that he spent nearly $54,000 to garner 9543 votes, an astronomical cost of nearly $6 per vote! This is Ted Morton level spending and much of his financial support was garnered while Zellner was employed as Executive Director of the Democratic party, well positioned to strong arm the faithful to the detriment of other more viable Democratic candidates. Clearly, his voters would have been better served if he had bought them each a pizza. This year, Zellner's attempt to capitalize on his self-perceived popularity failed miserably and Conrad was beaten so badly by Hardwick that it probably wasn't even a good lesson.
Coming articles to look for: Wonder Boy Meets NYSUT and The Man Who Would Be Judge: Cleaning Up Dennis Ward.