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Buffalo voters ensured a new look for the Common Council in Tuesday's primary, putting newcomers into the majority of seats in the largest turnover of Council members in recent years.

That will pose some leadership challenges for Council President James W. Pitts, who won his race against challenger David A. Franczyk. With seven new members on the 13-seat Council and some serious decisions on major development projects already looming, he must quickly tap the right blend of incumbent experience and newcomer enthusiasm.

Of course, this turnover was not unexpected. Four of the seats contested in the Democratic primary -- almost always more decisive than the November general election in the heavily Democratic districts -- were vacated by incumbents seeking other offices. This was not the incumbent "purge" of 1977, when five campaigning incumbents were turned out.

The new mix of incumbents and challengers has a significant opportunity to unify this Council into a legislative body that works solidly and conscientiously on behalf of Buffalo's citizens. That opportunity must not be squandered by turf battles or fealty to special interests.

This is a time for statesmanship, and we challenge the new Council members to rise to the occasion.

The most heartening race in this year's primary offers proof that can be done. In the Niagara District, six very good candidates waged energetic and issue-focused campaigns with a high degree of mutual respect and a marked absence of mud-slinging.

It was a model campaign that served district residents very well indeed, and was an example for the rest of the city.

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