As the Sept. 14 primary nears, accusations of racial politicking are being leveled at Common Council president candidate David A. Franczyk after some of his decade-old campaign material resurfaced recently.
About half a dozen white opponents of Franczyk, who represents the Fillmore District on the Council, appeared outside his campaign headquarters at Hertel and Colvin avenues Sunday to distribute copies of the two separate mailings from Franczyk's 1989 Fillmore District campaign.
Although nearly identical in layout, one mailing was targeted specifically at black voters in his district and the other at its white voters. Franczyk's opponents contend that the separate mailings and the different content of each are evidence of his racial politicking.
"If the mayor did these separate mailings, would we tolerate it? I don't think so," said Sandra Shatley, a Fillmore District resident who was among those handing out copies of the two mailings to pedestrians and motorists along Hertel.
"I don't think Dave Franczyk should get away with it, either," she added.
Franczyk on Sunday did not deny having distributed the separate mailings 10 years ago, but he did deny that there was anything wrong or inherently racist about the mailings. In fact, he insisted, many other local politicians tailor their campaign material to appeal to different constituencies.
"It's time-honored ethnic campaigning," Franczyk said. "It's a form of political advertising to appeal to particular ethnic groups."
Those opponents challenging Franczyk on the practice pointed out that the white version of the mailing showed pictures of Franczyk with white politicians and constituents, while the black version showed Franczyk with only black supporters and two black Council members who had endorsed him.
Further, the opponents contended,
the version targeted at whites appealed to fear among some whites in the district by running an excerpt from an Am-Pol Eagle editorial warning that a split in the vote between the two Polish-American candidates running could at that time result in the first-time election of an African-American representative in the Fillmore District.
The primary date was printed seven times in the white version, while not at all in the black version. William Wilkins, a Niagara District resident and one of the organizers of Sunday's protest, contends that the intent was to discourage black voters in the Fillmore District from going to the polls. "In the primary, voter apathy is extremely high," Wilkins said Sunday.
"There are 116,000 registered Democrats in the city. Over the last three elections, only 25,000 have voted. So the experts say you want to mention the primary date as often as possible, which is exactly what he did for the white version. It has the primary date seven times, four times on the front cover. The black version has it not at all, which plays on voter apathy to keep the African-American vote low," he added.
Franczyk said the primary date was not included in the black version in case it became necessary to use the same material for the general election. He insisted that there was no substantial difference in the messages conveyed in the two mailings.
"They both carried the same message: Support Dave Franczyk," he said, "and I obviously got support in both communities."
He said he had done nothing more than what some local ethnic advocacy journals, such as the Challenger, a local weekly African-American paper, and the Am-Pol Eagle, do in appealing to their individual constituencies.
Wilkins, however, insisted that he and his followers are politically unaligned. Wilkins said they plan to distribute 20,000 copies of the Franczyk mailings and material pointing out the differences between then.
"We're just concerned citizens," Wilkins said. "That's all it boils down to. We know people that have lived in the Fillmore District. We've been in the Fillmore District, and it's a shambles. (Franczyk) has used racial politics to further his career over the last 14 years, and I think that's terrible. It has no place in politics, especially in Western New York, which is an extremely diverse community."