The Mayor’s Race Officially Begins Today
by Geoff Kelly - posted 1:38 pm, June 9, 2009
Today the operatives hit the streets bearing petitions. In 2005, Byron Brown pulled down an impressive 17,465 signatures (more than the number of votes he received in the subsequent primary, which he won). Brown ought to improve on that number this year, given the machine at his disposal. Challenger Mickey Kearns has fewer resources, but probably hopes to jump-start his candidacy with a quick, impressive petition drive. He can count on having his signatures challenged, whether he brings in 2,000 or 10,000; petition challenges are a Grassroots specialty.
Meanwhile, Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan tells Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News that the party won’t endorse anyone, allowing Brown, Kearns, and long-shot Sam Herbert to fight it out in the primary. There’s no surprise there: Lenihan and his ally, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, have been at odds with Brown and his political apparatus for years. Will the party help Kearns behind the scenes? Maybe, maybe not. In McCarthy’s piece, Casey seems to have hoped a deal with Lenihan might have been achieved for the party endorsement:
Casey said the mayor also gestured toward headquarters last week by allowing his organization — in conjunction with votes controlled by North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr.—to support County Legislator Maria R. Whyte for re-election. Lenihan has enthusiastically supported Whyte in the past.
“We thought it was a strong signal,” Casey said of the desire for a repaired relationship between the mayor and the chairman.
I’m told that a couple weeks ago, Casey, Golombek, and veteran North Buffalo political hand Bill Buyers approached school board member Ralph Hernandez to challenge Whyte, offering him all the manpower and money he would need to mount a race. That offer quickly disappeared, even before Hernandez could accept or decline.
Was a deal made to scuttle Hernandez’s primary challenge to Whyte? (The Buffalo Ruse certainly thinks so.) If so, what could the terms have been? If the payoff was not the endorsement, could it have been simply that Lenihan and Hoyt would stay at home this election season, or even discourage their supporters from working and paying for Kearns’s campaign?
And whatever the deal, who got the better end?
A primary challenge to Whyte by Hernandez might drive a lot of West Side voters to the polls. Voters who turned out to vote for Whyte or Hernandez would likely vote against Brown. Voter suppression on the West Side works for Brown; roiling West Side supporters of Whyte (especially Hoyt people, who have no love for the mayor) and Hernandez (especially the Latino community, also disposed to vote against the mayor) benefits Kearns.
So if the Brown/Casey faction offered up Hernandez as a challenger to Whyte, and then yanked their putative support for him in the service of some deal with the Hoyt/Lenihan faction, who benefits most? The mayor first, if he cuts out potential support for Kearns and keeps at home West Side voters likely to oppose Brown, and Whyte a close second. Unless, of course, folks are out there today circulating petitions for Hernandez anyway—and I’m pretty certain that they are—in which case Whyte benefits not at all.
UPDATE: Petitions are circulating now (as of 3:30pm) to get Ralph Hernandez on the ballot against Maria Whyte. Also, an afterthought: If the Brown/Casey faction has not made a deal with the Hoyt/Lenihan faction—and I’ve been told emphatically that it has not and also that it has, so who the hell knows—then the rumor of such a deal is pretty effectively promoting chaos and distrust.