|6th Executive of Erie County|
January 1, 2000 - December 31, 2007
|City Comptroller of Buffalo|
January 1, 1990 - December 31, 1999
|Robert E. Whelan|
|Member of the Buffalo Common Council |
from the Niagara district
|Born||Buffalo, New York|
|Political party||Republican (1999-present)|
|Democratic (before 1999)|
|Spouse(s)||Michelle (Lettieri) Giambra|
|Children||Gabriella, Nicholas, Dominic, Joel|
|Residence||Buffalo, New York|
|Alma mater||Erie Community College|
Giambra was born in Buffalo, New York in 1951 to a single mother, Shirley. He was raised in Buffalo by his mother and his grandmother. He lived in the Lakeview Housing Project, near the east bank of the Niagara River. Giambra later said, "It was an environment where everybody was poor but we didn't know it." His mother eventually married Salvatore "Babe" Panaro. Giambra considers Panaro to be his father. His mother and stepfather had a daughter, Angela. The family was Roman Catholic.
Giambra was one of the youngest Buffalo Common Council members ever, and also served as Buffalo City Comptroller early in his career. He was a Democrat who changed his political affiliation to Republican in 1999 to better position himself to run for County Executive. He was seen as a future statewide candidate and in 2002 was considered by Governor George Pataki as a running mate for lieutenant governor, before Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue was nominated for reelection.
Investigations into the mismanagement of a highway garage and exorbitant prices paid for county office furniture to a Giambra campaign contributor preceded the 2005 budget problems. Then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer initiated a lawsuit against the furniture company for the overcharges. Some have accused Giambra of providing lucrative jobs to associates. His county staff measured 18, while Monroe County's executive had only four staffers and then downsized to three. Giambra's boyhood friend Victor Getz was particularly singled out for notice, for his salary as an executive assistant and driver to Giambra. A panel appointed by Giambra found that Giambra's and other county employees' salaries should be raised by 40%.
Giambra lowered or declined to raise county taxes for years for a total of 31% lower taxes, financing his budget partly through the use of surpluses from the previous county administration and monies from the tobacco settlement. The county then had to accept either massive reductions of services or increases in taxation. Giambra said that "an end to county government as we know it" would occur without a sales tax hike, ending county libraries, snowplows and road patrols.
Giambra proposed this "red budget" of $940 million which eliminated services, and after failed negotiations to raise the sales tax in a "green budget" of $1 billion, a modified plan was adopted which laid off 2,000 county employees and closed many county services, including the Parks Department. In 2005, a Control Board was implemented by the state to monitor county finances. This, coupled with an investigation into patronage positions, led to Giambra's announcement that he would not seek reelection in 2007.
In April 2006, Giambra said that the "War on Drugs" was being lost and models used successfully in other countries of decriminalizing certain drugs and thus reducing violence associated with the illegal drug trade needed to be examined. The Buffalo News published an Op-Ed agreeing with Giambra's statements that drug legalization should be studied further.
Since 2012, Giambra has been the co-host of the political debate program 2 Sides on WGRZ.
In 2018, Giambra announced he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of New York Giambra described himself as a "socially moderate" Republican, a supporter of campaign finance reform, and an opponent of corporate welfare.Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long "flatly reject[ed] Giambra who...[has made] significant donations to [Democrats such as] [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton [and supports] abortion rights, same sex marriage, gun control and marijuana legalization." After failing to generate support from Republicans, Giambra withdrew his name as a Republican candidate on March 1 and instead sought the nomination of the Reform Party of New York State. Giambra later asserted that the Conservative Party was "an albatross...around the neck of the Republican Party." After the Reform Party deadlocked between Giambra and presumptive Republican nominee Marc Molinaro in its first attempt at nominating a candidate, delegates at the Reform Party state convention nominated Molinaro for governor on May 19, 2018.
Giambra married Michelle Lettieri in 1982, and they have four children, Gabriella, Nicholas, Dominic, and Joel.