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Campaign manager resigns following Mascia’s racist comments

The manager of Joseph A. Mascia’s campaign for a seat on the Common Council said she can no longer work for the candidate following the release of a recorded conversation that showed Mascia repeatedly using a racial slur to describe African-American elected officials in Buffalo.

Katrinna Martin, who is African-American, said she is resigning as Mascia’s campaign manager and is urging him to abandon his race to represent the diverse Fillmore District.

“I don’t think that he possesses the qualities to lead people in the district,” Martin said in an interview Saturday. She plans to hold a news conference elaborating on her views late Monday afternoon outside the Erie County Board of Elections offices.

Mascia said he has no plans to stop running because he continues to receive encouragement from supporters following last week’s disclosure of the months-old recording, on which the white candidate uses the N-word in describing Mayor Byron W. Brown, Council President Darius G. Pridgen and other officials.

“I’m getting calls every day: ‘Don’t drop out. Don’t drop out. Don’t drop out. Don’t drop out.’ What do you want me to tell these people? ‘I’m going to drop out?’ ” Mascia told The Buffalo News on Saturday.

Martin’s resignation is the latest development in a political scandal that erupted late Wednesday, when The News reported on the existence of a recording made by a former employer of Mascia, Paul Christopher, who said he recorded Mascia during a car ride in February or March. Among the racial slurs on the recording is this description of black politicians: “Once they’re in power, forget about it, forget it. They want it all.”

Martin, who is a registered nurse, said she had never heard Mascia use such language and she never would have agreed to work for him if she had.

She said someone she knew from a community anti-violence group suggested she join Mascia’s campaign. She said she met with Mascia several times in late May before agreeing to help him circulate designating petitions starting in early June.

Mascia was the Erie County Conservative Party’s endorsed candidate for the seat, and he also is entered in a Democratic Party primary for the post with incumbent David A. Franczyk and fellow challenger Sam Herbert.

Martin said it was her initial shock, and her interest in finding new leadership for Fillmore residents, that kept her from resigning immediately after hearing the recording for the first time, on Wednesday afternoon, with Mascia and another associate in the offices of The News.

She said she hoped to persuade Mascia to stop campaigning, allowing a committee on vacancies to pick a replacement for him on the ballot. Martin said she has since learned the deadline for taking such a step has passed, so she believes there is no longer any reason for her to continue in her unpaid position.

She also said she is distressed by the reaction from some members of the African-American community, who she thinks are unfairly attacking her for working with Mascia. She said she feels singled out for criticism by Pridgen, in particular.

Martin posted to her own Facebook page a screen grab of a post Pridgen made late Wednesday on his Facebook page that stated, “Thanks Katrina (sic), do you really know what our people went through for equality???? and you help someone who call us ‘N’ words???? Come back home.” The post is no longer on Pridgen’s Facebook page, and the Common Council president could not be reached to comment Saturday.

Martin said she resigned in a phone call with Mascia on Friday afternoon, when she urged him to end his campaign. Numerous other officials have condemned Mascia’s remarks and urged him to withdraw from the race.

Mascia, who on Thursday lost the Conservative line in the race on a technical mistake with his petitions, said he has no intention to stop campaigning and he has not decided on a replacement for Martin.

Since 2006, Mascia also has been an elected tenant representative on the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s board of commissioners. The board last week passed a resolution demanding that he resign his BMHA seat. Mascia reiterated Saturday that he will not step down from the board until he has a chance to hear from his tenant constituents.