The best moments were saved for last Thursday evening in the downtown YWCA in a lengthy political forum featuring 40 candidates in Tuesday's primary election.
"I'd like to say that I had nothing to do with the assassination of President McKinley," declared Joel A. Giambra, Republican county executive candidate, drawing laughter. "I'm being blamed for all the problems of city government that I had nothing to do with."
Giambra and his primary opponent, Jeffrey L. Baran, were the final speakers in a 3 1/2 -hour parade of political hopefuls which also included 20 candidates for Buffalo Common Council, seven for Council member at large, two for Council president, three for city comptroller and five for County Legislature.
The forum, sponsored by the YWCA's Leadership Development Committee, was videotaped for telecast Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Adelphia Cable Channel 21.
Baran, noting afterward that this was his first political forum, said that he directed his comments more to the cameras than to the tiny audience in the echoey third-floor meeting room. The candidates on hand appeared to outnumber the voters.
Several candidates showed up who do not have a primary contest, even though they did not get to speak in front of the cameras.
They included Emin Egriu, a candidate for Council member at large who has no party affiliation, and Independence Party hopefuls Harrison R. Woolworth, who is running for Council president, and Rick Donovan, who is seeking one of the at-large Council seats.
The 40 who did speak had one minute to state their qualifications -- a dinging bell reminded them when their time was up -- then had a minute to answer a succession of questions submitted by the forum sponsors and members of the audience.
The questions touched on major governmental themes such as economic development, regionalism, the schools, police protection and privatization of government services, as well as social concerns such as the area's high teen pregnancy rate, the city's curfew law and the lack of a quota rule for companies owned by minorities and women in city contracts.
While many candidates suggested lower taxes, cheaper utilities and a unified approach to industrial development would help create jobs, Susan A. McCartney, seeking the Democratic nod for the Niagara Council seat, said her key to economic growth would be "a major investment in entrepreneurship."
"Locally owned businesses are the greatest source of hope and optimism in our community," she said, "and we've done nothing in terms of public policy to help them. We give money to big out-of-state corporations, but nothing for local businesses."
City comptroller candidates Anthony Nanula, Kevin D. Helfer and Richard C. Pawarski all took aim at the Buffalo Board of Education, declaring they would like the power to audit the school system.
The evening's most colorful responses were delivered by Leon J. Colucci, Republican candidate in the County Legislature's Fourth District.
Noting that he became a candidate because he wanted to get involved in providing government services in the city, he declared that, in a snowstorm, "I will personally commandeer a county plow and I'll personally plow Elmwood Avenue, I'll plow Niagara Street."
Later, after saying he'd like to close Buffalo City Hall completely ("There are people there twiddling their thumbs"), Colucci said he thought first of running for Common Council, then decided on the County Legislature because he wanted to deal with larger issues.
"I didn't want to be in that bull pit in the Council chambers," he said, "where nothing gets done."