Tomorrow: Special Election for the 144th Assembly
by Geoff Kelly - posted 10:57 am, September 12, 2011
Tomorrow is Primary Day, which here in Buffalo is tantamount to the general election, so numerous are the city’s Democrats. There are some active primaries for Common Council seats, in descending order of competitiveness and interest: the University District, the Fillmore District, and the North District.
For the 144th Assembly seat, occupied by a member of the Hoyt family for 36 years, tomorrow actually is the general election. Sam Hoyt relinquished the seat to take a job in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, and Cuomo called the special election to fill the vacancy for Primary Day. So if you live in the district, tomorrow is your chance to vote for Hoyt’s successor, no matter your party affiliation.
The favorite is Sean Ryan, the endorsed Democrat, who is a long-time Hoyt advisor and a former chief of staff at the Erie County Legislature. Even if he did not enjoy the benefit of being the preferred candidate of the Hoyt team and Democratic headquarters, Ryan would be a tough act to beat: He is an attorney who has made a career of tenant and child advocacy; his parents are Lackawanna union people, a retired firefighter and public school teacher; he’s been a hands-on participant in efforts to revitalize West Side neighborhoods, most notably with PUSH Buffalo, and so enjoys the support of a young progressive community that promises to become a political force in years to come; and he’s a genuinely nice guy. A fundraiser at the Armory Restaurant on Thursday evening filled the back room with an interesting mix of supporters: community activists, developers, businesspeople, political operatives, district residents. If anything, Ryan has the potential to broaden the base of support that kept Hoyts in that office for so long, and he has none of the baggage, deserved and undeserved, that Sam Hoyt collected in his long tenure.
His Green Party opponent, Greg Horn, is also regarded as a good guy, and has made a career as a contractor, specializing in making homes more energy efficient. (He’s also a well known trumpeter. Those in their 40s will recall as a member of David Watts and the Great Train Robbery; others will recognize him for his playing in the 12/8 Path Band.) Horn’s candidacy represents a promising strategy for the Erie County Green Party: Having earned a ballot line in the last gubernatorial election, local Greens intend to use it as often as they can, especially in city-based elections where they believe they can displace Republicans as the second party of consequence, forcing Democrats toward the Green platform in the short term—green jobs, strong environmental protections, election reform—and perhaps picking up an office or two in the long term.
It’s a good idea that may not work for Horn, not only because Ryan enjoys the advantage of major party support but because Ryan’s positions are no less progressive than Horn’s. If the establishment candidate were a more conservative Democrat, perhaps some of the progressive vote would migrate to the Green Party candidate. I don’t think that will happen this time. Tomorrow will tell.
Without such a progressive migration, the Republican, Sean Kipp, doesn’t stand a chance, despite Bob McCarthy’s column last week, which attempted to make Kipp sound competitive. Grand Island notwithstanding, the 144th is a solidly Democratic, city-based district. (I’ve got the 2006 numbers here on my desktop: 53,110 Democrats, 18,086 Republicans, 2,920 Independents, 1,140 Conservatives, 822 Liberals, 604 Greens, 427 Right to Lifers, 410 Working Families, 18 Libertarians, 8 Marijuana Reformers, 37 in other parties, and 15,398 registered to vote but unaffiliated with a party.) Turnout may be light tomorrow, but probably not light enough to help Kipp. The primary for the North District seat alone should bring out enough Democrats to eclipse his already slender hopes.