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The race for Council President is turning ugly.

Television ads show James Pitts screaming on the Common Council floor.

David Franczyk gets a $15,000 contribution from Buffalo's premier business group while Pitts claims that business leaders control Franczyk.

And Pitts' decade-old tax and arrest records are dredged up, as are charges that Franczyk doesn't live in his district.

With only four days left before the Democratic primary, Pitts and Franczyk are taking off the gloves.

They're also spending money, lots of it, on TV and radio ads that attack each other's records and reputation.

Franczyk is paying for those ads with help from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. The group gave him $15,000 and wasted no time Thursday in criticizing his opponent.

"We need elected officials who will look at new ways of running the city," said Partnership President Andrew J. Rudnick. "For the first time in a number of years, we have an alternative candidate who's in line with the partnership's thinking."

The partnership has been an outspoken critic of how the city does business and six years ago recommended a series of reforms to make it more effective and efficient.

Pitts, who has been at odds with the partnership for years, said the contribution can be traced to his frequent disputes with Rudnick and M&T Bank Chairman Robert Wilmers.

"Those two individuals, who I have a lot of respect for and who I've tried to work with, are playing power broker," he said. "Those days are over."

An even bigger contribution, $29,000, came from a suburban business group known as the 43 X 79 Political Action Committee. The group, a new PAC formed this year and made up of about 15 business people from Buffalo and the suburbs, is the single biggest contributor to Franczyk's campaign.

"I think there's something wrong there," Pitts said when asked about the money. "This isn't about change. This is about control. This is about power."

Franczyk said the contributions reflect his widespread support among business leaders, as well as Pitts' reputation as an obstacle to change.

"They're sick of the gridlock," Franczyk said. "Mr. Pitts is blocking the economic rebirth of Buffalo. He's anti-growth. He's anti-business."

Both candidates turned to TV as a vehicle for attacking each other.

From Day One of the campaign, Pitts compared his record as Ellicott Council Member, the job he held before Council President, with Franczyk's record as Fillmore Council Member.

His TV commercials show Pitts walking through a blighted neighborhood and suggesting his challenger is not running for Council president but rather running away from the problems in his neighborhood.

"My ads call on David to go back to Fillmore and clean it up," Pitts said.

Franczyk countered with a new commercial that shows Pitts yelling at former Lovejoy Council Member Norman M. Bakos on the Council floor and using vulgar language.

"That is Pitts being Pitts," Franczyk said. "He's showing the mean, divisive obstructionist that he is, in the most public of public forums: the Council chambers."

The attacks aren't limited to television.

Franczyk has gone out of his way to resurrect some of Pitts' old problems, from a $584 state tax lien to his arrest after a Buffalo Bills game in 1986. Pitts eventually paid the overdue taxes, and the arrest was withdrawn.

On Wednesday, Franczyk put out a press release reminding voters that Pitts spent $17,393 on office furnishings in 1988 -- about 10 times the average for every other Council Member.

"It's a pattern of contempt for the public," said Franczyk.

Pitts countered by referring to the frequent claims that Franczyk doesn't live in Fillmore -- a charge Franczyk denies. His home is on Fillmore Avenue.

"People have come to me with his other addresses," Pitts said. "I could raise all those issues, but I choose not to. I refuse to be a bottom feeder."

Despite the charges and counter charges, both candidates bristle at any suggestion that it's become an ugly campaign.

On Tuesday, voters will go to the polls and decide whose message was more effective.

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