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Vote for strangest choice goes to Giambra as analyst

During comments made to a group this summer, County Executive Joel Giambra joked that he doesn't get invited anywhere anymore.

That may explain why he showed up Tuesday as WB's analyst on primary night. If he's invited anywhere these days, he's probably going to accept.

Giambra's moonlighting gets my vote as the most bizarre TV news choice made on primary night.

The use of a politician who is still in office and has a vested interest in who wins as a station's expert is bizarre on its own. But using Giambra, whose handling of Erie County's fiscal crisis has made him so unpopular that WGRZ-TV analyst Kevin Hardwick declared him "radioactive" Tuesday night, was as strange as anything on the newscast's lead-in, "Supernatural."

"We thought it would give an interesting perspective and we thought he did," said WB 49 News Director Bruce Corris.

The absurdity of using Giambra as an analyst couldn't have been more obvious when he was asked about the county comptroller's race between endorsed Democratic candidate Mark Poloncarz and Robert Whelan, whom Poloncarz had effectively linked to Giambra.

Giambra's "expert" conclusion was that Poloncarz had engaged in mudslinging rather than address the issues. Though he and Whelan have been friends for years, Giambra said "that should not really have any impact on the race."

You had to wonder what political world Giambra has been living in. Any political analyst knows that candidates have tried to link their opponents to unpopular figures for generations to persuade voters that they lack independence and can't be trusted.

Kevin Helfer, the Republican candidate for mayor of Buffalo, began that strategy Tuesday night in his race against Democrat Byron Brown in a political commercial that started running on stations during the 11 p.m. news.

In the Helfer ad, Brown is portrayed as a nice guy who looks good and speaks well but who "runs with a bad crowd." Among the campaign contributors mentioned in the effective political ad is Giambra.

Giambra's appearance on WB 49 had a few positive effects on the station. It gave its low-rated news some attention. More importantly, it showcased anchor Kelly Kraft, who asked him some pointed questions that made her look good. Maybe they have a future as a news anchor team.

Giambra also showed up on the set of 7 News at 11 p.m. He wasn't there as an analyst, but to be interviewed by Keith Radford on the proposed county budget that he announced on primary day. Radford also was sharp. He asked Giambra about the timing, which the county executive claimed was "a coincidence."

If you believe that, then you believe former TV newsman Tony Farina is really an investigative reporter in those new ads for a car dealer.

The vote for the most logical question you might not expect to hear, especially in the 21st century, goes to Channel 2's Scott Brown.

"Let me ask you about the elephant in the room," the reporter asked Byron Brown. "Do you think the city of Buffalo is ready to elect a black mayor?"

The Democratic nominee handled the question smoothly, saying he thought Buffalo was ready to "put the best person in office to build a strong, vibrant city of Buffalo. And the voters will say that Byron Brown is that person."

As usual, WIVB-TV's Joe Crangle was the best man for the analyst's job. He quickly noted that Brown's race with Kevin Gaughan wasn't as close as early results made it appear and he declared Poloncarz the winner relatively early. Crangle was able to make the declaration on the basis of Whelan's weak showing in South Buffalo, where he needed to win.

However, Hardwick is the best analyst with a sound bite, and Channel 2 should find a way to get him more time. Assessing Whelan's loss, Hardwick concluded "Joel Giambra is still radioactive. You get too close to him, you are going to get hurt."

Unless you are Kelly Kraft.

* * *

The NFL Network features the Buffalo Bills linebackers in the premiere of a new series, "Six Days to Sunday" (8:30 tonight, basic cable), that takes an inside look at the team's preparation for the Houston game. NFL Films followed them through film and practice sessions, weightlifting, bowling and "everything in between." Linebackers Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher and Mario Haggan also wore wireless microphones under their pads during the 22-7 victory. The program repeats at 9 p.m. Friday.


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