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Newcomer April Baskin wins 2nd District County Legislature seat

Newcomer April N. Baskin beat three other candidates to win the Democratic primary for the heavily contested County Legislature seat being vacated by Betty Jean Grant.

Baskin stands poised to represent a district that stretches across the center of the city like a belt, from the Upper East Side through the Delaware and Elmwood Village neighborhoods and across to SUNY Buffalo State and the West Side.

Baskin enjoyed the Democratic Party leaders' support. Though she faced stiff competition from challenger Duncan E. Kirkwood, she pulled ahead with 34 percent of the vote compared to 30 percent for Kirkwood.

Baskin, a college prep program provider, also faced competition from former Common Council Member Charley H. Fisher III and lawyer David A. Martinez.

Baskin attributed her victory to reaching out to the affluent, refugees and economically challenged residents of the diverse Second District and carrying a message of unity.

“I believe building bridges is something people in the Second Legislative District are really desperate for,” she said.

Poised to gain victory in the general election as the primary winner of the overwhelmingly Democratic district, Baskin said, “My fight will be to eliminate poverty in our county every single day. I will fight for jobs, for economic resurgence. I really am passionate about expanding opportunities for youth and senior programming.”

Baskin, 34, raised more than $27,000 in her first-time election bid, more than any other candidate.

She’s the founder of The College Simulation Experience in 2015, which helps underprivileged youth learn about life skills needed to succeed in college. A master’s degree candidate at SUNY Buffalo State, Baskin listed affordable housing advocacy, expanded youth programming, lead prevention and county services outreach to communities among her main platform issues.

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Baskin has also been endorsed by the Working Families, and Women’s Equality parties, the Women’s TAP Fund and various unions and civic groups. She said her ties with both the East Side and West Side put her in a position to build bridges and unify the district. She was also the only female candidate in the Democratic field.

“I really want to congratulate my opponents on their hard work,” she said. “Despite my victory this evening, it’s very clear to me that my opponents deeply care about our community, and I look forward to working with them to solve the issues in our district.”

She faced a serious challenge by Kirkwood, 32, a Say Yes mentor and veteran with the Army National Guard in Alabama. He gained 31 percent of the vote. He earned a master’s degree from Ashford University. Kirkwood listed his priorities as fighting the opioid epidemic, prioritizing diversity in all county endeavors, improving access to senior services, improving veteran affairs and the Erie County Holding Center.

Kirkwood was endorsed by United Coalition of Churches and Brotherhood, Young Black Democrats of Western New York and other local community and church leaders. He said his education and military background help set him apart and stressed the need to put “people over politics.”

Former Common Council member Fisher, 63, a longtime community advocate who runs a consulting business came in third in the race with 22 percent of the vote. A Canisius College graduate, Fisher has named ground-level, city-focused economic development as a priority, along with increased training center funding and environmental justice. He was endorsed by the Challenger newspaper.

Candidate Martinez, 42, is a private practice lawyer and co-owner of the Elmwood Village gift shop Vania & David. He won 13 percent of the vote. He listed increased support to address the opioid epidemic, greater assistance to elderly and poor homeowners with home repair, and more creative ways to fund and maintain county parks and cultural institutions as his main priorities.

He was endorsed by the Panorama Hispano and La Ultima Hora newspapers, as well as the Puerto Rican Committee for Community Justice.

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