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Tomorrow: University District Primary

Bonnie Russell

In last Thursday’s paper, we wrote that University District Councilwoman Bonnie Russell enjoyed a tremendous advantage in tomorrow’s Democratic primary: Her husband, Judge Robert Russell, is also on the ballot tomorrow. Judge Russell was the lead vote-getter among city court judges when he ran in 2001, pulling 13,432 votes citywide, including 2,416 votes in the University District. The last time Bonnie Russell faced a primary, in 2003, she needed just 1,814 votes to beat Betty Jean Grant. (Russell had no primary in 2007.) Assuming the judge remains popular, and that most University District residents who vote for him will vote for his wife, too, Russell should be fine.

Still, peculiar things can happen in three-way Democratic primaries when turnout is light, as most folks expect it will be tomorrow. One of Russell’s opponents is Pamela Cahill, who resigned her seat on Buffalo’s school board in April to protest its dysfunction—and, perhaps, to prepare to challenge Russell.

Pamela Cahill

Cahill is well known and well regarded in the African-American community (she has the endorsement of Erie County legislator Betty Jean Grant) and has political experience, though winning a couple school board races with 700-odd votes is a much smaller lift than winning a council seat. Still, she has the support of Democratic Party headquarters, while Russell has been largely obedient to Mayor Byron Brown.

If Judge Russell’s coattails are shorter than one might expect, and if Russell and Cahill divide the

African-American vote, and if turnout is quite light, then the third challenger, 19-year-old Rochelle Ricchiazzi, might surprise the field. Ricchiazzi has no relevant experience but there are some seasoned political operatives helping her campaign.

Rochelle Ricchiazzi

The platforms of the three candidates are not especially distinctive: Russell says she has helped block clubs, and defends her relationship with the mayor by claiming that it has helped her gain support for her district; Cahill argues that the district has not benefited from that relationship and that Russell has had her chance to make a difference in the community; Ricchiazzi echoes Cahill’s argument, says she will make reducing crime her first priority, and thinks hydrofracking should be a crime. None of the candidates would fully reject any of the the others’ positions. The differences between them are political. (Like the Russells? Like Byron Brown? Vote for Bonnie. Don’t like Byron Brown? Vote for Pam. Don’t like either? Vote for Ricchiazzi.) Russell has the edge granted by incumbency—hers and her husband’s—but stranger things have happened.

  • Lancey Howard

    I voted for Judge Russell before and will do so again tomorrow but I can’t vote for Bonnie another time. She’s O.K. but O.K.’s not good enough when Steve Casey is running the City into the ground. The Common Council has to move away from the damage the Mayor’s Office is doing by letting a know-nothing run the place.

  • Calvin McBride

    Out with Old and In with the New – I’m voting for Ricchiazzi. I don’t care if the other two are old enough to be her grandmother – their time to do something has come and gone. I went to High School and College with Rochelle – she’s got my vote!

  • not exactly correct

    Dear Artvoice – please have peter reese stop writing your editorial commentary. a vote for richiazzi is a vote for wing nut libertarianism ala that idiot ostrowski who is endorsing her and filing lawsuits on her behalf.

  • chester

    I’m not a voter in the the University District, so maybe I’ve missed something, but the thought has crossed my mind that Rochelle Ricchiazzi may not be a legitimate candidate. From what I’ve read in the press, she skipped the debate (after a mass email was sent under her name talking about what she was going to do in said debate) and then she declined (or ignored) the opportunity to meet with the News Editorial Board.

    So the only thing I’ve seen from Ms. Ricchiazzi are a few e-mail messages that could have been written by anyone, and that are sometimes followed almost immediately by messages sent under her brother’s name.

  • Peter A Reese

    @not exactly correct: Get off my back. I write much better stuff than this Kelly pablum.

  • geoff kelly
  • Peter A Reese

    @Geoff: Give me a break. I’m old, it’s been a long day, and I’ve already apologized.

  • While it is true that Bonnie Russell beat me by so many votes, she scared half of the people on the west side of Main Sreet in the University District by inferring that I was anti white or did not return phone calls when ‘certain’ people called my office. That was a pure, old outright lie and I have never forgiven her for that. As RaChaCha and others can attest, I treat all people with the same amount of dignity and respect.This is the main reasons that I could never support her for re election. I think that either Pam or Rochelle would do a better job.

  • Oops! typo: One of the main reasons is what I meant to say.