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Smith has strong support to fill Masten District seat

County Legislator Demone A. Smith is considered a shoo-in to become Buffalo's newest Common Council member.

Four others also are vying for the Masten District seat now occupied by Antoine M. Thompson, but none matches Smith's high profile in the city.

Thompson will become a state senator Monday, representing a district that includes most of Buffalo, half of the cities of Tonawanda and Niagara Falls, and all of Grand Island.

The Common Council seat pays $52,000, almost $10,000 more than the Legislature, and terms are for four years, not two like the Legislature.

The Council will interview candidates for the job, then hold a special meeting Jan. 12 to elect someone to fill the final year of Thompson's unexpired term.

Smith, a Buffalo Democrat who represents the 7th District in the County Legislature, is expected to win the backing of Masten's Democratic Party leaders next Saturday. Historically, Council members have honored the will of district committeemen when filling vacancies.

Council Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. says Smith will have overwhelming support among city lawmakers. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. agreed, adding that he will support Smith.

Among the four other candidates who have expressed an interest in the seat, at least one has met with some lawmakers. Leon M. Hicks, a legislative assistant to Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana, has been making the City Hall rounds.

The City Clerk's office said the other candidates who have expressed interest in the seat are Mary J. Christ, Terrence A. Robinson and Lance Woods. All are being invited to attend a meeting at 10 a.m. Jan. 10 to discuss their backgrounds and views.

In November, voters approved a law requiring that new steps be taken before the Council appoints someone to an empty seat. The city must advertise the vacancy for at least five days on its Web site and public access television. The city also must accept resumes from candidates.

South District Council Member Michael P. Kearns, sponsor of the measure, thinks the law will provide for a more open process when filling Council vacancies. He says political bosses wielded too much power in the past.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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