So far, 12 candidates have filed petitions with the Erie County Board of Elections to run for the Buffalo School Board.
Two other would-be candidates – one who would have aligned with the board’s majority bloc and another running as part of a parents’ coalition – ended their bids after realizing they were far short of the required 500 valid signatures.
The petitions had to be turned in or postmarked by Tuesday, meaning that some still might arrive by mail.
The 12 candidates who have filed thus far are competing for the six district seats on the nine-member board in the May 3 elections that could determine the direction of the district and the fate of school reform efforts.
The races are shaping up this way:
• Austin Harig, a senior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, wants to challenge incumbent Carl P. Paladino for the Park District seat. Harig, who collected 638 signatures, said he was motivated to run because of the disharmony among School Board members and the fact that Paladino was running unopposed.
“It seems like a lot of students and teachers are getting screwed by the system … and hurt by all the fighting on the School Board,” Harig said. “And nobody was really challenging Carl. Somebody needs to speak up.”
Paladino filed 1,027 signatures in his bid for a second three-year term.
• A three-way race is developing for the East District seat currently held by Theresa A. Harris-Tigg, who collected 1,309 signatures. Harris-Tigg is being opposed by Colleen E. Russell and Patricia A. Elliott.
Russell – who is backed by Paladino, a member of the board’s current majority bloc – obtained 885 signatures.
Elliott is part of a slate of candidates running on a “Parents Coalition for Students’ Rights” platform. She collected 688 signatures.
• Bryon J. McIntyre, also part of the Parents Coalition, and Paulette Woods, who is supported by Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, will compete for the Central District seat being vacated by Mary Ruth Kapsiak.
McIntyre, who has run for office several times, submitted 1,490 signatures, while Woods turned in 1,299.
• Board President James M. Sampson, also part of the majority bloc, is running against Jennifer L. Mecozzi in the West District. Sampson collected 674 signatures. Mecozzi, who has ties to the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization, filed 1,005 signatures.
• In the North District, Hope R. Jay will try to unseat incumbent Jason M. McCarthy, who collected 937 signatures.
Jay, who has ties to Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, logged 1,011 signatures on her petition.
• Ferry District incumbent Sharon M. Belton-Cottman is running unopposed. Her petition has 1,339 signatures.
While there is no rule of thumb about how many extra signatures that candidates should obtain beyond the required 500, a little extra cushion doesn’t hurt, elections officials said.
Signatures can be eliminated when those opposing a candidate scour his or her petitions looking for signatures that are invalid because, for instance, the signers simply printed rather than signed their name.
Anyone who signs a candidate’s petitions must be a registered voter and registered in the district they are signing for. And a signature is invalid if the person signed another candidate’s petition at an earlier date, Board of Elections officials said.
General objections must be filed within three days of when the petitions are filed, with more specific objections due within six days after that.
Potential candidates Desiree J. Radford, who was running on the Parents Coalition slate, and Dwayne Kelly, a Paladino-supported candidate, did not make it far enough to have their petitions challenged.
Kelly, who had planned to run against McIntyre and Woods in the Central District, said he obtained only about 300 signatures.
Radford, who had been vying for Belton-Cottman’s seat in Ferry, said she had about 350 signatures.
According to Board of Elections officials, any registered voter in New York State can carry petitions for the candidates.