Buffalo, a liberal city with an overwhelming Democratic edge, is a pretty safe bet to side with Hillary Clinton in the race for president.
But it turns out Buffalo is friendly territory for Republican George Pataki, too, according to Crowdpac, an online political data service.
Crowdpac’s new political ranking puts Buffalo among the nation’s liberal cities, but – in what may come as a surprise to some – it found the city’s ideological score to be closer to Pataki’s score than to Clinton’s.
“Obviously, Buffalo is left of center, but the reality is that it’s more evenhanded and complex than that,” said Mason Harrison, Crowdpac’s political director. “There is more ideological diversity than just what party registration would tell you, based on donations and who the citizens have given to over the years.”
Pataki, the former governor of New York, has ended his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination after polling less than 1 percent in many polls.
As for Donald Trump, who’s leading the polls, one suburban town has emerged as his ideological match, according to Crowdpac.
That would be Clarence.
And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the candidate who’s the best ideological fit for Wheatfield, according to Crowdpac.
Crowdpac analyzed political contributions to all state and federal candidates since 2002 from every city and town in the nation with a population greater than 6,000. It determined an ideological score for each of the communities based on the contributions.
Crowdpac also assigned an ideological score to each presidential candidate. On the liberal side, Bernie Sanders received a score of 8.7 and Clinton got 6.5.
So each donation from a town or city to Bernie Sanders, for example, would credit that community with more liberal points than one to Clinton.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Pataki’s 0.9 conservative score is the lowest conservative score, while Rand Paul’s score of 10 is the highest. Trump and Christie received conservative scores of 1.5 and 2.6, respectively.
Based on the donations of people who live in Buffalo, Crowdpac assigned the city a liberal score of 2.3 – making it the 874th-most liberal out of a total of 4,994 places.
“It’s still a liberal score, and that would lead one to believe the voters would vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election,” Harrison said.
Buffalo ranked 23rd-most liberal among the nation’s largest 75 cities. Among large cities, the most left-of-center is Oakland, with a liberal score of 7.0, followed by San Francisco, Seattle, Newark and Boston. Right-of-center cities include Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, Louisville and Las Vegas.
“George Pataki is considered one of the least ideological candidates, and I would say Buffalo’s score shows the city is not as ideological as some of the other cities,” Harrison said. “You are a little more pluralistic.”
Around here, Buffalo’s hardly alone in its ideological closeness to Pataki, according to Crowdpac. Among the other Buffalo Niagara region communities whose ideological rankings appear more in line with Pataki’s politics: Niagara Falls, Amherst, West Seneca, Depew, Lockport, Grand Island, North Tonawanda, Lancaster, Kenmore and Elma.
Lackawanna, by contrast, is firmly in the Clinton camp. Crowdpac assigned Lackawanna a 3.5 liberal score, the highest liberal score in the Buffalo Niagara region.
Wheatfield’s 2.1 conservative score is the highest conservative score. Other communities with conservative scores include Clarence, Elma and Lockport.
Grand Island and North Tonawanda each received a 0.1 conservative score, making them just barely conservative by Crowdpac’s measurements.
Carl Paladino, who ran for governor in 2010, was not excited about Buffalo’s comparison to Pataki, who he calls a RINO, or “Republican in name only.”
“George was very much a RINO in his later years, and that turned into a close relationship with union people,” Paladino said. “He really didn’t carry the conservative values one would expect a Republican to carry, and he was probably the beginning of this extreme RINO-ism in the State of New York that is totally out of control today.”
“Buffalo’s ranking comes as no surprise,” said Legislative Majority Leader Joseph C. Lorigo, C-West Seneca.
Lorigo’s district includes first- and second-ring suburbs and rural areas, which typically vote more conservatively than Buffalo.
“I really don’t see a huge difference, locally, because we’re all Western New Yorkers, whether we’re in Holland or in the Elmwood Village. And we all want to see a burgeoning city and be part of the resurgence of Buffalo. Everyone wants to be a part of it, because at the end of the day everyone benefits.”
But Lorigo, 34, said voters could drift further leftward if Republicans don’t learn to do as good a job as Democrats in speaking to the interests of the emerging millenial generation.