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Rouff spurs record spending for 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, incumbent 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 Council candidate to date.

The combined price tag of the Feroleto-Rouff matchup – $126,164 – is also the highest of any 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 orthodontist, spent $65 for each vote he received.

Feroleto, 33, said that the outcome was a testament to his door-to-door campaigning but acknowledged that 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 by 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 Republican prospects in Delaware, compared with elsewhere in the city. “We gave this the most professional campaign.

“The numbers don’t lie. 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 lent his campaign about $78,000. Rouff says his campaign continues receiving money pledged during the campaign season. He anticipates that his final out-of-pocket cost will be about $55,000.

However, Rouff 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 leaders selected Feroleto to run for a Council seat after Feroleto’s cousin, former Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, dropped out of the race when it was too late for voters to select a Democratic candidate in a primary. With no other candidate in the race at the time, Feroleto was set to win a four-year term 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 Common Council is firmly in Democratic hands,” he said.

But Rouff, 41, said he enjoyed campaigning and might consider running for another office at some point, but 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 primary battle with Jessica Maglietto, a candidate backed by Mayor Byron W. Brown. Maglietto spent $37,000.

LoCurto won, and the total price tag in that Democratic primary was $97,000 – the high-spending mark before this year’s Delaware race in the general election.

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 defeat Peter J. Savage III, another Brown-backed candidate, who spent $41,500. Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez also ran that year, spending less than $2,000. The total price tag was about $95,750.

The majority of the $126,164 in campaign spending in the Feroleto-Rouff race went for printed materials.

Rouff’s campaign paid $78,104 to one Kansas City, Mo., company for his mailings. Political consultant Christopher M. Grant, once a top aide to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, designed the printed items for Rouff’s campaign. Grant, who is now a campaign consultant, works with the Kansas City 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 campaign spending, $24,353 went for printed materials and mailings. He used several local companies.

While Rouff’s campaign was largely self-funded, Feroleto’s campaign financial-disclosure reports show that he received 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 the mayor, who gave Feroleto’s campaign $1,000. Feroleto also received $500 from his cousin, LoCurto, and $500 from former GOP County Executive Joel A. Giambra.