Updates on the politics of 2017:
• Ever since he began exploring a mayoral candidacy more than a year ago, Mark Schroeder has struggled to outline any clear path to the big office on City Hall’s second floor.
Not that the Buffalo comptroller recognizes a problem. He insists that emphasizing neighborhoods over downtown will lead to a Democratic primary victory against incumbent Byron Brown come September.
But the seasoned pols who handicap such matters harbor big-time doubts. They see an entrenched mayor buoyed by lots of campaign dollars, strengthened by the power of incumbency, and emboldened by optimism pervading the city.
A few days ago, however, Schroeder may have seen his first glimmer of hope. Veteran County Legislator Betty Jean Grant announced her own candidacy, and suddenly the race features two blacks and a white in a town where ethnic voting patterns prevail. That could mean a split in the African-American vote and a boost for Schroeder.
Just don’t mention anything like that to Grant.
“Mark Schroeder has his race. I have my race,” she said. “I’m not in this to help anybody.
“That’s an insult to say Mark can’t get votes in the black community, or that Mayor Brown can’t get votes in the white community,” she added.
Still, Schroeder cannot help but feel better about things. He realizes that in a low-turnout primary, anything can happen. If African-American Dems stay home and South Buffalo turns out en masse, maybe he has a shot. If Schroeder’s message takes hold – bolstered by resentment over choosing downtown instead of the East Side for a new rail station – who knows?
Grant, meanwhile, says she’s in it to win it. She quickly points to her narrow Senate loss to Tim Kennedy in the 2012 Democratic primary. Kennedy spent about $400,000 on his campaign; Grant about $20,000. And, she argues, maybe she’ll siphon anti-incumbent votes, too.
Schroeder still must like what he sees. Now, he can finally identify some semblance of a pathway to potential donors; something he lacked 10 days ago. He’ll need many more breaks, but his new best friend Betty Jean may have started something.
• Grant’s mayoral candidacy – at this point, at least – means her decadelong run in the County Legislature will end on Dec. 31, since that office is also on the ballot this year and she cannot run for both. Two names already mentioned include Charley H. Fisher III, a former Council member at large, and Duncan Kirkwood, Western New York advocacy manager for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
Grant insists she will leave County Hall this year, but observers will closely watch to see if she circulates two sets of petitions – one for mayor and one for Legislature.
• In the preliminaries before Steve Pigeon’s arraignment in State Supreme Court a few days ago, prosecution and defense attorneys battled it out over key points in the separate bribery and extortion case facing the former Erie County Democratic chairman.
It revolves around defense attorney Paul Cambria’s efforts to invalidate evidence seized during raids on Pigeon’s home almost two years ago. Though he lost an earlier round, Cambria now contends that new Court of Appeals rulings should cause Justice Donald F. Cerio to reconsider his earlier decision upholding the validity of warrants authorizing the search.
But Assistant Attorneys General Sue Sadinsky and Diane LaVallee fought back at every turn. If the Pigeon case proceeds to trial on Sept. 5 as scheduled, then watch for a titanic legal showdown between top-notch attorneys. For now, Cerio’s search warrant decision looms as key.
• The recent court proceedings also revolve around longtime Pigeonista Kristy Mazurek. The former Assembly candidate’s home was spared during the search warrant raids of May 2015. And The Buffalo News reported soon after that she was cooperating with investigators.
But now Mazurek faces charges, and questions naturally rise as to just how cooperative she has been.