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Record $120,000 spent on Buffalo Common Council race

As perhaps befits a district with some of Buffalo’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the Delaware District can now claim the first Common Council race to break the six-figure money mark.

Republican Peter A. Rouff spent $92,462 in his failed bid to become the lone Republican in city government. His Democratic opponent, Joel P. Feroleto, spent $33,702, according to final campaign spending reports. Feroleto won, 71 to 29 percent.

Rouff’s spending is by far the most of any Buffalo council candidate to date.

The combined price tag of the Feroleto-Rouff matchup - $126,164 - is also the highest of any Buffalo council race to date. The combined spending broke what was believed to be the record high set in 2007, even when adjusted for inflation. That race - also in the Delaware District – cost $97,000 or, when adjusted for inflation, about $111,300 in 2015 dollars.

In the end, Feroleto, an attorney, spent $10 per vote cast for him while Rouff, an orthodonist, spent $65 for each vote he received.

Feroleto said the outcome was a testament to his door-to-door campaigning, but concedes the Democratic enrollment edge in the district “certainly helped.”

Rouff says the election results are a testament to the strength of the Democratic Party in Buffalo. Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 8 to 1 citywide, and 4 to 1 in the Delaware District.

“If it was going to happen, it was going to happen in this district,” Rouff said of a Republican victory in Delaware. “We gave this the most professional campaign.”

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Rouff. “We are a Democratic Party city. The allegiance is unbreakable.”

And that’s apparently true regardless of how much money a candidate is willing to spend.

In this case, the race was not just expensive, but a personal expense to Rouff.

Rouff’s campaign raised about $14,500. The rest of his political fund came from Rouff himself. The candidate loaned his campaign about $78,000. Rouff says his campaign continues receiving money pledged during the campaign season. He anticipates his final out-of-pocket cost will be about $55,000.

He says he has no regrets about having run.

“I had to stand up for what I thought was right,” he said. “In hindsight, I would have made the same decision. I can’t sit back when I see anything like that happening.”

He was referring to the way Democratic Party leaders selected Feroleto to run for a council seat after Feroleto’s cousin, former Delaware District Councilman Michael J. LoCurto, dropped out of the race when it was too late for voters to select a Democratic Party candidate in a primary. With no other candidate in the race at the time, Feroleto was set to win a four-year seat with no opposition.

But that doesn’t mean Rouff is ready to throw himself into another council race.

“I will not be running in four years for that position. The City Council is firmly in Democratic hands,” he said.

But Rouff said he enjoyed campaigning and might consider running for another office at some point. He didn’t say when or which one.

“I’m not closing the door on running for political office,” he said. “I loved every part of the process. The canvassing, the knocking on doors. I relished this more than I ever thought I would. The door is not shut for a different political office. I have no plans, but I’m not shutting the door.”

Council seats pay about $50,000 annually, and candidates typically spend about $10,000 or less on a race, although it’s not unusual to see a candidate spend $30,000 or so when faced with a serious challenge. And in a few instances, there have been some with bigger price tags, most notably in 2007. That was the year LoCurto spent almost $60,000, most of that in a Democratic Party primary battle with Jessica Maglietto, a candidate backed by Mayor Byron W. Brown. Maglietto spent $37,000. LoCurto won. The total price tag of the race was $97,000 - the high-spending mark before this year’s Delaware race.

Also in 2007, in an open seat for the Niagara District, David A. Rivera spent $52,250, most of it in his primary battle to beat Peter J. Savage III, another Brown-backed candidate, who spent $41,500. Republican Sergio Rodriguez also ran that year, spending less than $2,000. Total price tag was about $95,750.

The majority of the $126,164 in campaign spending in the Feroleto-Rouff race went to campaign literature.

Rouff’s campaign paid $78,104 to one Kansas City, Mo., company for his campaign mailings. Political consultant Christopher Grant, once a top aide to Rep. Chris Collins, designed Rouff’s campaign literature. Grant, who is now a campaign consultant, works with the Kansas-based company, Rouff said. The same firm also received $2,284 from Rouff’s campaign for political phone calls made on the campaign’s behalf.

Of Feroleto’s $33,700 in spending, $24,353 went to campaign literature and mailings. He used several local companies.

While Rouff’s campaign was largely self funded, Feroleto’s campaign reports show he received financial support from a variety of donors, including unions – police, fire and building trades; the legal community, and the North Buffalo neighborhoods. His biggest financial supporters included Mayor Brown, who gave Feroleto’s campaign $1,000. Feroleto also received $500 from his cousin, Michael LoCurto, and $500 from former GOP County Executive Joel A. Giambra.