Mark J.F. Schroeder’s long ties to Erie County Conservatives will not gain him the minor party’s nomination for mayor this year – for the moment anyway.
The tiny band with only about 1,200 Buffalo members bypassed the city comptroller and instead named South Buffalo attorney Anita L. Howard as a “placeholder” candidate.
The party still could influence the election, but that depends on Schroeder pulling off an upset in the Democratic primary by defeating incumbent Mayor Byron W. Brown and co-challenger Betty Jean Grant. If he does that, Conservatives then could exploit an obscure provision in New York election law and hand Schroeder the often important Conservative line.
Because Howard is an attorney, the party is allowed to remove her from the mayoral ballot in Buffalo and nominate her for a Supreme Court race else in the state. Her name would then be entered by agreement into a heavily Democratic area (probably in New York City), where a Conservative candidate would provide negligible impact. The judicial nominating convention enabling such a move occurs after the Democratic primary on Sept. 12.
Local Conservatives could then in turn give Schroeder the Conservative spot in Buffalo and create the November general election contest that Brown desperately hopes to avoid with a Democratic primary victory in September.
James D. Griffin won his first term as mayor in 1977 solely on the Conservative line.
Are the Conservatives committed to Schroeder should he win the Democratic primary?
“The answer to that is yes,” said Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo.
Schroeder and Brown both boast long histories with the Conservative Party, with support dating to their days in local government and the State Legislature, and possibly explaining the group’s reluctance to prolong the election for the mayor.
But Lorigo made it clear earlier this year that despite continued good relations with Brown, his status as chairman of the state Democratic Party and strong support for major Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo precluded further consideration.
Schroeder said he believes he deserved the minor party nod, but accepts its decision and will aim for gaining its backing in September.
“I believe I have earned it,” he said. “How I get it is the decision of the Erie County Conservative Party.”
Schroeder also predicted he will win the Democratic primary, freeing him from circulating Conservative petitions and allowing him to concentrate on September.
“I respect how things work, and unfortunately, sometimes in the business we’re in, it’s not all about merit,” he said.
Howard, 44, is a registered Democrat who Lorigo said has agreed to the convoluted arrangement.
“We’ve had discussions with her about her values and her views on fiscal responsibility,” Lorigo said, “and socially she’s with us on our issues.”
Howard did not return a call seeking comment.