Incumbent David A. Franczyk withstood a bruising three-way primary battle for a Common Council seat Thursday, easily beating two challengers in a Democratic race in the Fillmore District marked by racial politics, a racist rant and little discussion of the issues.
With 85 percent of the vote in, Franczyk had 53 percent of the vote, while challengers Samuel A. Herbert had 33 percent, and Joseph A. Mascia had 14 percent.
The election marked the third loss to Franczyk by Herbert, who had hoped this third time would be a charm, particularly since he was the only African-American in the three-way race in a district that has slightly more minorities than whites.
The results also seemed to be a major rebuke of Mascia, whose racist rant was secretly taped and released early in the campaign.
“It looks pretty good,” Franczyk said when declaring victory. “I’m humbled,” said the councilman, who was first elected as Fillmore councilman in 1986. “I hope I can do some good.”
In the Masten District, Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. appeared to have won a three-way race, beating School Board member Sharon M. Belton-Cottman and political newcomer Lamone A. Gibson.
With 94 percent of the vote in, Wingo had 48 percent, while Belton-Cottman had 41 percent. Gibson had 11 percent.
The Masten and Fillmore races were the only primary contests for the nine-member Council. Turnout was light in both, with about 10 percent of 11,115 registered Democrats voting in the Fillmore race and about 13 percent of 15,135 registered Democrats in Masten.
In both cases, the primary winners are likely to face minority party candidates in the November general election, but given the overwhelming majority of Democrats in both Masten and Fillmore, Thursday’s victories are tantamount to general election victories, as well.
Given that, the primary results represent status quo for the Council; neither the racial nor gender makeup will change.
The Council will continue to be all male, with one Hispanic, three blacks and five whites. The political leanings of the Council are also expected to remain the same, with a majority of the Council supportive of Mayor Byron W. Brown.
Wingo was endorsed by the Erie County Democrats, and was also Brown’s pick in that race. He would be taking over the seat previously held by Demone A. Smith, who was closely aligned with Brown.
As a result of his apparent primary victory, Wingo will likely be appointed Friday to fill the remainder of Smith’s term on the Council. The Masten seat has been vacant since Smith left at the end of June to head the Buffalo Employment and Training Center.
The Masten race was viewed by many as competitive, with three strong candidates focusing on issues.
The Fillmore race, on the other hand, was unusually contentious, focusing more on personalities than issues.
The district, with about 28,000 residents, represents some of the city’s richest and poorest neighborhoods – Broadway-Fillmore on the East Side and parts of the Lower West Side, as well as Allentown, the Old First Ward, and part of the waterfront.
The district overall is among the poorest in the city. In 2013, according to the census, the median annual income was $20,340, compared with $30,392 for the city as a whole. East Side residents worry about crime and housing.
The Fillmore campaign, however, focused more on the candidates’ personal issues than district concerns, particularly after a tape recording of Mascia using the N-word when referring to the city’s African-American leaders was released to the media. Mascia apologized for his comments, saying he should be viewed by his actions, not words of frustration secretly tape-recorded by someone he viewed as a friend. But the focus of the race rarely veered far from Mascia’s racist rant or his personal debt, which is substantial. And when the focus did move away from Mascia’s personal problems, it was usually when Franczyk attacked Herbert for being against gay marriage or brought up Herbert’s past financial issues. At other times, Herbert and Mascia attacked Franczyk’s long tenure and blamed the incumbent for the Fillmore District’s problems. Franczyk first joined the Council in 1986 and has been on the Council all but two years since then.
Franczyk spent about $12,000 on his campaign as of the end of August, while neither Mascia nor Herbert filed their most recent campaign spending reports with the county or state Board of Elections by the Aug. 31 deadline as required by law.
Wingo spent about $5,900 and Belton-Cottman $4,300 as of the end of August. Gibson did not file a campaign spending report.