Herbert L. Bellamy Jr. has not exactly endeared himself to Democratic Party leaders in recent months.
He has rebuffed their efforts to ease him out of the Buffalo comptroller race in favor of endorsed candidate Anthony R. Nanula. And as a result, city Democrats now face a wild and whacky three-way Sept. 14 primary race, the outcome of which even the most grizzled political veterans can't predict.
"I felt I had a chance," Bellamy explains, "so what would be the purpose in getting out?"
Indeed, the political novice's entry into the comptroller's fray creates a situation that provides more than a chance. In a city with a strong tradition of ethnic voting patterns, he is the only African-American candidate in a race against two whites -- Nanula and City Auditor Richard C. Pawarski.
Combined with the prospect of a heavy turnout in the black districts -- where a number of district Council contests are under way -- Bellamy brings potent political credibility to his effort.
And it doesn't hurt that his name is well-known throughout Buffalo. His father, Herbert L. Bellamy Sr., served for many years as a Council member at-large, providing a ready-made political base.
"We feel we're in a good position," the younger Bellamy says.
An East Side insurance man who also serves as a City Court marshal and chairman of the Buffalo Sewer Authority, Bellamy is campaigning as an "independent businessman." He takes aim whenever possible at Nanula, who he claims is in league with Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon to launch a future bid for statewide office.
"People are upset about how Pigeon and Nanula have handled this thing; how this has been pushed down everyone's throats instead of through a democratic process," Bellamy said. "I'll bring an independent approach to the comptroller's office."
Bellamy, 38, is vague about many of his proposals for the post, especially in comparison to the detailed plans offered by Nanula. But he thinks he brings a solid background as a small business owner and chairman of the Sewer Authority.
Bellamy originally was appointed to the authority by former Mayor James D. Griffin in 1991, and later was named chairman by Mayor Masiello. Since then he has instituted a hands-on management of a $43 million budget, preparing him for what he sees lying ahead.
"I'm already in City Hall. I know the people and how to work with them," he says. "We're saving money, mandating policy, cutting the operating budget and asking what innovations we can put into effect. We've instituted a whole new aeration project to reduce electrical costs."
He talks about establishing a Web site to keep Buffalo citizens more informed about city finances, and would implement more "preventive" measures to head off problems.
A licensed financial planner, Bellamy and his wife operate one of Buffalo's largest hair salons in addition to his insurance business.
"I know how to deal with money and with people," he said.
All this business background instills in him a need to tackle some daunting city problems, Bellamy said, such as settling the disputed contract with Buffalo teachers.
"It's affecting our credit rating," he said, referring to a dispute over back pay that Buffalo teachers say could rise to $192 million. "How are we going to float bonds with all this debt hanging over our heads?"
Turnout in the black districts of Buffalo could hold the key to Bellamy's success. And with primary contests in most of the inner-city Council districts, his own candidacy and Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk's challenge to incumbent Council President James W. Pitts, most observers think heavy African-American turnout could boost Bellamy's chances against a white vote split between two candidates.
He is strongly supported by Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, a major political force in black Buffalo, while Eve's traditional adversary -- the Grassroots political club -- is satisfied with both Bellamy and Nanula.
"I can't compete with his money," Bellamy said of Nanula, explaining his campaign will not enter the six-figure range.
"But we're on the radio now and we've got lots of signs and lit drops," he said. "We'll have enough money to mount a credible campaign."