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Even record spending in Common Council race can’t break Democratic stranglehold

In the city of Buffalo, where Democrats rule, the notion of a true democracy has gone to the dogs.

A recent story in The News reported that the two candidates for Common Council in the Delaware District set a spending record, together shelling out a staggering $126,164 for a job that pays $50,000.

Maybe that outlay wouldn’t be so outrageous for a campaign in a highly competitive district, but the outcome in the heavily Democratic city was preordained. It would be easy to blame Republicans for not fielding more candidates in the city, but the Delaware race shows the hopelessness of that.

As News staff reporter Susan Schulman outlined, Republican Peter A. Rouff spent $92,462 in a failed attempt to beat Democratic incumbent Joel P. Feroleto, who spent $33,702. This was a case where more money did not add up to more votes. Feroleto won handily, 71 percent to 29 percent.

Rouff’s campaign raised about $14,500. The rest of the money – about $78,000 – came from the candidate himself. He said his campaign continues receiving money pledged during the campaign season and figures his final out-of-pocket cost will be around $55,000.

In one sense we could be happy that the contest showed that money does not always dictate the outcome. Except that the Goliath in this situation was not the one with deep pockets.

Feroleto had the benefit of incumbency, however short, and the Democratic affiliation in a district that is 4-to-1 Democratic. Rouff said he was standing up for “what I thought was right.” That is, he objected to the process in which Democratic leaders selected Feroleto to run after his cousin, Michael J. LoCurto, left the Council for a post in the Poloncarz administration when it was too late for voters to select a Democratic candidate in a primary. Preordained.

Feroleto is an attorney who, as the story stated, spent $10 per vote cast for him. Rouff, an orthodontist, spent $65 for each vote he received.

One has to appreciate Rouff’s willingness to tilt at windmills. It certainly did voters an injustice not to have a choice in the Democratic primary, where most city races are decided. The Republican political novice at least provided an alternative in the general election.

Rouff said he has not soured on the political process and may run for another office, but not for a Council seat. As he says: “The Common Council is firmly in Democratic hands.”

Indeed, an unfortunately accurate comment on politics in Buffalo.