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City GOP backs Rodriguez for mayor

After passing on the mayoral race in 2009 for the first time in their history, Buffalo Republicans are about to challenge the Democrats once again.

Sergio R. Rodriguez, a Marine veteran and former administrator at Medaille College, has been officially endorsed by the City of Buffalo Republican Committee to face the winner of the Democratic primary between incumbent Byron W. Brown and challenger Bernard Tolbert, according to Chairman William E. Nowakowski.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Nowakowski said. “I think he’ll present a different choice.”

But Rodriguez faces a major challenge in a city with a 7-to-1 Democratic advantage in registration.

Indeed, Brown clobbered Republican Kevin J. Helfer by almost 40 percentage points in 2005, while the party endorsed Democrats in several previous elections.

As a result, some Republicans were content to let the line go blank in 2009, when 48,000 fewer voters went to the polls than in 2005 without the draw of a Buffalo mayoral election.

Some countywide Republicans had also privately indicated a preference for Rodriguez not to enter the race this year, so as not to encourage turnout in heavily Democratic Buffalo to the detriment of countywide GOP candidates for sheriff and comptroller.

But Nowakowski said the Buffalo committee felt the need to once again field a Republican candidate.

“Everyone is behind Sergio,” he said. “There was no issue there at all.”

The chairman said that he is encouraged by the presence of a Hispanic candidate on the ballot as the party reaches out to minority voters and that he is impressed by a strong cadre of volunteers surrounding Rodriguez.

“He will run a spirited campaign, though he has still got to raise some money,” he said.

Nowakowski cited the possibility of a rare GOP primary, since Republican Matthew J. Ricchiazzi is also circulating petitions. He did not seek the party endorsement, Nowakowski added.