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Bonifacio has votes for Council majority leader

He dislikes confrontations and rarely raises his voice.

His colleagues claim he has no patience for petty politics.

Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. has been less visible than many of his peers during his six-year stint in City Hall.

But that's likely to change in a few weeks. The Common Council's Niagara District representative has lined up the five votes needed to become majority leader. Barring last-minute twists, lawmakers are expected to make the appointment at a Jan. 3 meeting, the same day they plan to re-elect David A. Franczyk Council president.

Bonifacio has won the backing of Franczyk, current Majority Leader Marc A. Coppola, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. and Bonnie E. Russell of University. Russell had earlier considered supporting Richard A. Fontana of Lovejoy for majority leader. But she said Fontana hadn't firmly committed to running at the time. "I think Nick fits the bill," said Russell. "He's not politically absorbed, and he has a brilliant mind with numbers."

As Budget Committee chairman, Bonifacio has been branded a human calculator by some lawmakers, who occasionally test his wits by challenging him to do tricky math without pen or paper.

He's also known for making frequent stops in City Hall on weekends and holidays to catch up on paperwork.

"From a work ethic standpoint, he'll work 27 hours a day," said Coppola. "The politics of the job will come to him -- and I don't mean that in a bad way."

While some view Bonifacio as less inclined to push political agendas, he's certainly no stranger to politics. A former director of the Butler-Mitchell Boys and Girls Club, Bonifacio is a longtime friend of Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and has been active for years in the Niagara District Leadership Club, a political group that helped launch his elective career.

Bonifacio said he decided to run for majority leader after reflecting on the progress that has been made since a Council downsizing in 2004. He believes the nine-member body is more united, efficient and focused.

"I think I have the leadership skills to keep people working together," Bonifacio said.

Coppola is not seeking re-election as majority leader. He is viewed as having the inside track for the Democratic nomination in a special election to fill State Sen. Byron W. Brown's seat when he becomes mayor.

Fontana has served on the Council for eight years, earning the distinction of serving the longest uninterrupted period among current members. He said this week that he has been talking with some of his peers about a run for majority leader. But Fontana also is considered a prospective candidate for Brown's soon-to-be-vacant seat in the State Senate.

Russell considered running for Council president, but she said a chronic health condition prompted her to withdraw her candidacy. Russell is expected to continue to serve as president pro tempore.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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