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Feroleto wins Buffalo Common Council race in just three days

It was perhaps the shortest campaign in Buffalo history, one candidate suggested.

It started Monday, when Delaware District Councilman Michael J. LoCurto announced he was pulling out of the council race to take a job with Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s administration.

It ended three days later, when Democratic Party leaders picked LoCurto’s cousin, Joel P. Feroleto, from among the three women and three men interested in taking LoCurto’s place.

“Joel is qualified for the job based on his government background,” Democratic chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said. “He is an attorney, a hard-working guy, a lifelong resident, and he’s from a strong family of public servants.”

Because LoCurto pulled out after the deadline for filing candidate positions in the upcoming election, the Democratic Party leaders got to appoint LoCurto’s replacement. No other candidates from any party filed petitions for the seat, so Feroleto is virtually assured the Delaware District seat in the November election. It is a four-year term.

Feroleto is also from a family that donates lots of money to politicians and political organizations.

The Feroleto family has contributed about $191,000 to state and local campaigns, party organizations and political action committees since 2000, according to state Board of Elections records.

Donations totalling $20,200 were made to the Erie County Democratic Party from 2006 to 2015, and another $1,000 went to Zellner.

Almost half the contributions – $95,000 – went to help finance the judicial campaigns of Joel Feroleto’s mother, Paula L. Feroleto, who is a state Supreme Court justice. Another $28,000 went to LAWPAC of New York, an organization representing trial lawyers.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo received $2,000; Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, $3,340. Another $1,500 went to former state Sen. Mark J. Grisanti.

Feroleto’s father, John, a personal injury attorney, made most of the contributions.

Joel Feroleto has donated about $1,500 since 2006, including $200 last year to Poloncarz, Democratic County Executive, and almost $300 in 2011 to Republican Christopher Jacobs, the current Erie County clerk.

“I haven’t looked at what everyone has contributed,” Joel Feroleto said. “My family has always been involved in public service, with supporting candidates they believe in.”

The contributions had nothing to do with his being chosen to run for the Delaware District seat, he said.

Zellner agreed. The family contributions did not influence the decision on the Delaware District selection, he said.

“Has John been generous to a lot of candidates?” Zellner responded, referring to Joel Foreleto’s father. “Yes. They are a strong family of public servants. His wife is a state Supreme Court judge. Joel’s brother is in the District Attorney’s office.”

Joel Feroleto, 33, of Tacoma Avenue in North Buffalo, described himself as a lifelong city resident who received his undergraduate and law school degrees from the University at Buffalo.

He worked as a legislative aid for two council members, including his cousin, and also as chief of staff.

He also worked as a legislative assistant to former state Sen. Mark J. Grisanti.

Feroleto has done legal work for a Syracuse law firm and is currently working for his father’s personal injury law firm in Buffalo.

Since his first internship in City Hall when out of college, Feroleto said, his passion has been to become an elected official representing his North Buffalo neighborhood.

“I’ve been interested in public service for a very long time,” he said.

As a councilman, Feroleto said, he will emphasize on constituent issues.

“I think one of most important responsibilities for council members is constituent issues and making sure all constituent issues are not only heard but addressed,” he said.

Also important in the Delaware District, he said, is working with small businesses.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the community,” he said.

The Democratic committee selected Feroleto to basically replace his older cousin on the ballot.

LoCurto, 44, had already filed his nominating petitions to seek re-election, when he pulled out of the race Monday. He said he would take a deputy commissioner job with the Poloncarz administration and would start at the end of July.

LoCurto is viewed as among the most liberal and independent members on the nine-member Council. He and Mayor Byron W. Brown have a cordial public relationship, but the two don’t have a strong working relationship.

Zellner described Feroleto as being “as progressive as LoCurto would be.”

“You’re not losing anything with progressive values,” he said.

But Feroleto described himself as a Democrat without labels. He doesn’t want to be called a liberal or conservative.

Feroleto said he appreciates that Brown’s political camp supported him for council.

“I am going to have a great relationship with the mayor,” he said. “The progress of the City of Buffalo has made it exciting.”

But he would not be identified as being part of a pro-Brown faction, or, like his cousin, someone taking a more skeptical approach toward the Brown administration.

“I’m not going to be labeled a whatever person,” he said. “I am independent. I will do what is right.”

In addition to Feroleto, others who approached the Democratic leaders about the job included Steven Cichon, a former radio personality; Carima El-Behairy, founder of the WNY Book Arts Center; attorney Julie Kruger; Amanda Matyjas Crotty, manager of the Delaware Soccer Club; and Samuel Magavern, a lawyer who is co-director of the Partnership for the Public Good.

Several Democratic insiders said that, in the end, the voting came down to Feroleto or Magavern, though the final vote for Feroleto was said to be unanimous.

“I’m disappointed,” Magavern said of not being selected. “I gave it a college try.”

“I didn’t get a clear picture of why it all went down the way it did. I couldn’t tell,” he added. “The whole thing was so fast.”

Perhaps, he said, one of the shortest campaigns we’ve seen.

email: sschulman@buffnews.com