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Donovan challenges Kennedy in ‘David and Goliath fight’ for 63rd State Senate seat

There are those who believe that the race in the 63rd State Senate District ended with September’s Democratic primary.

In a district encompassing much of Buffalo, and all of Cheektowaga and Lackawanna – and where Democrats account for 115,284 of the 168,800 registered voters – incumbent Timothy M. Kennedy prevailed in a challenge by Betty Jean Grant.

The race isn’t over, however.

Lovejoy resident Ricky T. Donovan Sr. is challenging South Buffalo’s Kennedy on Tuesday, with the endorsement of the Republican and Conservative parties. But Donovan, a longtime member of the Independence Party and former leader in the Buffalo and Erie County parties, lost that line in September’s primary to Kennedy, who also was endorsed by the Working Families Party.

“It’s a David and Goliath fight, but I think I’m going to beat him,” said Donovan, a corrections officer at Albion Correctional Facility.

Though it has become a political cliché, that analogy still applies to this race on a couple of levels.

Donovan’s modestly funded campaign hasn’t surpassed the state Board of Elections’ $1,000 threshold for financial activity requiring disclosure reports. Kennedy’s campaign, meanwhile, has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars – mostly on the Democratic primary.

Further, Donovan ran unsuccessfully for elective office numerous times since the 1990s, while Kennedy has two terms in the State Senate under his belt and, before that, was an Erie County legislator.

Donovan is persistent, if nothing else. His campaigns are motivated by specific issues; it was Buffalo’s garbage fee and the movement to downsize the Buffalo Common Council that spurred two bids for office in the 1990s.

In this race, repealing the state’s SAFE Act on gun control is one of the issues in his sights.

“That’s an unconstitutional law that makes law-abiding citizens criminals,” said Donovan, 56, who received an A+ rating by the Shooters Committee on Political Education, or SCOPE.

Kennedy, 38, who was among legislators who voted for passage of the SAFE Act, was rated F by SCOPE.

Another issue is Common Core education standards, which Donovan wants eliminated.

Kennedy has his own problems with Common Core, as it exists.

“We need to get testing right,” Kennedy said. “We need to ensure the students are seen as individuals with individual educational needs.”

Kennedy’s work in the Senate has been highlighted by the passage of two laws, both rooted in local tragedies, that he co-sponsored.

One was JJ’s Law, which toughened penalties against repeat child abusers. It was named after Jay J. Bolvin, who now suffers from a severe form of epilepsy because of injuries suffered at the hands of his father.

The other was Jackie’s Law, which aids police in investigations of stalking. It was spurred by the shooting death of Jacqueline Wisniewski by her estranged boyfriend, who had surreptitiously installed a GPS tracking device on her car.

“It is a major accomplishment for our entire community and our state,” Kennedy said of those two laws. “That is really government in action.”