It's almost traditional for South Buffalo's representatives in the Assembly to buck Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Democrat Brian Higgins collaborated in an unsuccessful coup against the Manhattan Democrat when he served in the Assembly in 2000, and Democrat Mark J.F. Schroeder touted his vote against Silver's leadership in ensuing years.
Now the 2012 campaign for the 145th Assembly District is under way in earnest with a promise by Common Council Member Michael P. Kearns of the South District -- a Democrat running on the Republican line -- to vote against the long-entrenched Silver should he win the March 20 special election.
Wednesday, he challenged his opponent, Democrat Christopher J. Fahey, to do the same.
"People want independent leaders; they don't want a puppet bought and paid for by Shelly Silver," Kearns said. "The more you get to know [Silver], the more you want to get rid of him."
Only in the last few days has the special election to fill the unexpired term of Schroeder (now the city comptroller) taken off with the distribution of several Fahey mailings throughout the district and a new Fahey ad on television.
Fahey, an aide to Higgins in the congressman's Buffalo office, introduces himself on TV by stressing his family history, while one of the mailings highlights Kearns' candidacy on the GOP line. Some of the mailings are sponsored by the Democratic State Committee, others by the Fahey campaign.
But Kearns convened a news conference Wednesday to link Fahey to Silver and complain that his opponent's campaign is orchestrated by the Assembly leadership and New York City Democrats.
"I will caucus with the Democrats," Kearns said, "but I am an independent Democrat with independent values."
Kearns contends that Silver's stands prevented a full-scale UB 2020 plan as originally envisioned, as well as proposals for independent redistricting. He said he would pattern himself after Schroeder in voting against Silver, even if it meant he would be ignored by the Assembly leadership.
"The way to be effective is to be a good legislator," he answered when asked how he would gain benefits for his district if he were on bad terms with the speaker.
Fahey did not return a call seeking comment.
Kearns, meanwhile, also criticized his opponent for relying on the downstate contributions that he said are funding mailings distributed by state Democrats.
"All my money is from Western New York people," Kearns said, defending the $30,000 he has received from Seneca Nation smoke shop owners. "They are corporate donations. That money will not influence any of my votes."