Six newcomers won the key Democratic primary election for Common Council Tuesday, three of them by beating incumbents in at-large races and in South and North Buffalo.
A strong showing by African-American voters also sets the stage for a historic shift on the Council, providing for its first black majority if all of Tuesday's winners are victorious in the November elections.
The results, which came at the end of what veteran member and primary winner Rosemarie LoTempio called one of the "strangest elections" she's ever been in, virtually guarantee the Council will undergo its largest turnover in decades, with nearly half of the 13 seats changing hands.
Going into Tuesday's balloting, one at-large and three district seats were already assured of being vacant -- Niagara, Fillmore and University. However, voters also decided to dump two incumbents, including four-term North Council Member Dale L. Zuchlewski, who came out on the losing end after being locked in a feud with former supporter Joseph Golombek Jr.
The other losing incumbent was South Council Member Dennis T. Manley, who faced an energetic newcomer, Mary M. Martino.
Heavier than average turnouts in African-American neighborhoods propelled three new minority politicians to wins: Betty Jean Grant in the University District, Karen R. Ellington in Fillmore, and Charley H. Fisher III, an at-large winner.
Also benefiting from the strong minority vote was incumbent At-Large Council Member Beverly Gray, the leader in a pack of seven at-large hopefuls.
Ms. Gray, the only incumbent who was denied the party endorsement going into the primary, credited her first-place showing to her trust in God, coalition-building efforts throughout the city, and campaign help from Constance Eve, wife of Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve.
"There's no way I could have won without the person of Constance Eve," Ms. Gray said as supporters celebrated in the background at her Jefferson Avenue headquarters.
Eve supported Ms. Grant and Ms. Ellington, while Fisher was backed by the Grassroots political organization.
As expected, Mrs. LoTempio, the Council majority leader, also won her bid for an at-large nomination. However, another incumbent, Niagara Council Member Robert Quintana, lost his bid to move up into an at-large seat vacated by former Council Member Barbra Kavanaugh.
According to former Council President George K. Arthur, Tuesday's results, while sweeping, apparently will not eclipse the Council's famed Revolution of 1977, when voters replaced five incumbent city lawmakers.
This year, Arthur claimed, voters merely filled vacant seats, a process which he described as "musical chairs."
"It wasn't musical chairs in 1977. It's not surprising that there will be six new people because there were four vacancies going in, and there were only two incumbent Council members who didn't win re-election," Arthur said.
Many of the novice politicians appealed to voters claiming they would reform the Council.
Among other issues, the upstarts blamed incumbents for enacting Buffalo's unpopular garbage service fee and for handing themselves a 24 percent pay raise last year, boosting Council salaries to $52,000.
However, Mrs. LoTempio, who ran second in the at-large races, welcomed the fresh faces, saying: "You need both. God forbid that we'd have a Council with 13 new people, because you've got to have somebody who knows what to do. But there's nothing wrong with having fresh faces."
Speaking to reporters at a Democratic Party victory celebration, she said: "I feel wonderful that people in the City of Buffalo feel I deserve another four years. I certainly thank them for their confidence and support, and will work hard over the next four years to assure their confidence has not been wasted."
In the Niagara District, Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr., a well-known longtime youth worker, beat out five other candidates in what was regarded as a model campaign. Bonifacio, who had the Democratic endorsement in the primary, will face rematches with two of his opponents in November.
"It was a team effort by my personal friends," he said. "I always said it was a three-step process. The first step was to win the primary. The second is to win the election, and the third is to deliver services to the Niagara District.
Incumbents Byron Brown (Masten), Richard A. Fontana (Fillmore), and Barbara Miller-Williams (Ellicott), also won handily against their opponents. Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola had no primary opponent and was not on the ballot.