The first African-American majority on the Buffalo Common Council looks as if it will end after only two years with Fillmore Council Member Karen R. Ellington's loss in Tuesday's key Democratic primary.
Former Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk defeated Ellington and community activist Ronald H. Fleming.
Voters in two energetic Democratic primaries -- one in the University District, the other in the Fillmore -- picked between two black first-term incumbents and several challengers.
University Council Member Betty Jean Grant won her primary decisively among a crowded field.
But Ellington could not hold onto her seat, losing to a man who held the seat from 1986 to 2000 before running unsuccessfully for Council president two years ago.
According to unofficial results, Franczyk won 41 percent of the vote, with Ellington and Fleming garnering 32 percent and 27 percent, respectively, with 40 of 41 districts reporting.
"I did a lot of door-to-door," Franczyk said. "I feel very humble and grateful. I don't feel like crowing about it."
During his campaign, Franczyk called for a complete change in how the Common Council operates, and he said he would push a regional agenda.
"The city should be much more aggressive in pursuing regionalism," he said.
Franczyk said he walked door to door in African-American neighborhoods in the district, including the three largest black electoral districts.
"I didn't win those districts, but won enough votes to help me win the primary," Franczyk said.
"People want to see results or they're going to turn their Council member out," he said.
Ellington did not comment on her defeat.
Fleming said he took the loss hard, but he did not express bitterness toward voters.
"It was a devastating blow for me and my family and for the district," Fleming said. "The voters spoke, and although I didn't like what I heard, I have to accept it."
Fleming said he does not expect to see a new and improved Franczyk take office.
"We've been there before," he said. "History has a tendency to repeat itself. Look at the condition of this district, and now that the former councilman appears to be headed back to that seat, we'll see more of the same."
Fleming discounted the significance of blacks on the Council losing their 7-6 majority.
"I didn't get into this thing to affect the balance on the Council," Fleming said. "I'm colorblind when it comes to improving the quality of life for people. You never hear me speak in terms of a black thing or a white thing."
Still, the Fillmore results show that "we have to get whites to vote for a black," he said.
"They do sometimes," he said, citing State Sen. Byron Brown's past electoral wins. "But they didn't do it this time."
Grant, the University District incumbent who some thought could be headed for a rough ride in the Democratic primary, beat back her opponents.
Grant won 47 percent of the vote, with the second-place finisher, Diane Wray, picking up 24 percent.
Two other challengers, Michael A. Scott and William I. Stoner, won 16 percent and 13 percent of the vote, respectively.
Mary Martino, another first-term incumbent, faced tough issues in her district, but won by a larger-than-expected margin.
She won 59 percent of the vote, compared to 30 percent for Michael Blake, a Democratic committeeman for six years who took a leave from his job as assistant youth director at the Old First Ward Community Center, and 12 percent for Rick Ammerman, president of the Hickory Woods Concerned Homeowners Association.
Incumbents also dominated the primary races in the Delaware, Masten and Lovejoy districts.
Freshman lawmaker Antoine Thompson won easily over challenger Kenny J. Williams in Masten.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Thompson had received 2,476 votes, or 68 percent, compared with Williams' 1,192 votes, or 33 percent.
In Delaware, incumbent Democrat Marc A. Coppola defeated Griffith D. Pritchard by a 6-to-1 ratio.
Coppola tallied 2,908 votes, or 87 percent, with 97 percent of the vote counted. Pritchard had 439 votes, or 13 percent.
Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana also won big, beating challenger Marguerite Hastreiter.
With 96 percent of the vote counted, Fontana had 1,896 votes, or 77 percent, while Hastreiter had 568 votes, or 23 percent.
In the only open seat on the Council, Brian C. Davis, 32, won a slim victory to replace Barbara Miller-Williams, who's giving up Ellicott District seat in her bid to become Erie County sheriff.
Davis, who worked as chief of staff and legislative assistant for Miller-Williams, won 1,199 votes, or 35 percent, with all of the districts reporting.
Kenneth N. Robinson, 31, a youth counselor and part-time chaplain, won 1,060 votes, or 31 percent.
Rounding out the field were Raymond L. Goodrum, 58, with 13 percent; Larthonia "Squirt" Redden, 37, with 12 percent; and William F. Trezevant, 33, with 9 percent.
Robinson said there may be enough absentee ballots cast to put him over the top.
"We'll see what happens," he said. "I don't know how those ballots will shape the outcome."
Robinson said Davis received the support of powerful political groups and that put him at a disadvantage.
"I feel very good about what we were able to do, in light of that," Robinson said.
Though criticized on her handling of the Hickory Woods situation, Martino said the results reflect her district's confidence in her job performance.
"We won in Hickory Woods, and as far as I'm concerned, the people of South Buffalo have spoken," she said. "I worked very hard with the residents of Hickory Woods. This says they have confidence in me."
Martino said she would continue to be outspoken about getting help for neighborhood residents.
"We will continue to work together," she said. "I'm confident we'll be able to resolve this."