Tim Whalen Drops Out of Contest for South District Council Seat
by Geoff Kelly - posted 3:20 pm, April 12, 2012
Tim Whalen, the former Erie County legislator, is dropping out of the contest to succeed Mickey Kearns as the South District representative on Buffalo’s Common Council.
Whalen was one of the top three contenders in the race to fill the vacancy left by Kearns, who won a special election in April for the Assembly seat vacated by Mark Schroeder, the Buffalo’s new comptroller. The other two are Matt Fisher, who has been a neighborhood liaison for Kearns, working especially on housing issues; and Bryan Bollman, a legislative aide to Council President Rich Fontana of Lovejoy.
The eight sitting members of the Council will choose a temporary councilman from a list of candidates who have submitted resumes; they’ll interview the candidates Monday morning. The South District Democratic Party committee of meets on Saturday to recommend a candidate to the Council. Though most often the Council, consisting entirely of Democrats, has followed the recommendation of the district committee, that precedent was ignored in 2010 when a majority that included Kearns filled a vacancy in the Ellicott District office with Curtis Haynes, despite Darius Pridgen having won the recommendation of the Ellicott District Democratic committee.
Whalen says he’s withdrawing because he feels the time the job demands might be too more than he’s prepared to commit to; he also acknowledged that the councilmembers with whom he’d met seemed less indisposed to support him. He earned the enmity of some while serving as a county legislator (he filled the vacancy left by Tim Kennedy when Kennedy went to the State Senate) by joining with Republicans to re-elect Barbara Miller-Williams, an ally of Mayor Byron Brown, as chair of the Legislature; he earned the enmity of others by abandoning that coalition during last summer’s reapportionment process, a move that ultimately ended Miller-Williams’s tenure on the Legislature.
Whalen has been affiliated with the South Buffalo political faction headed by Congressman Brian Higgins, a camp consistently at odds with Kearns. (Kearns beat Higgins’s aide, Chris Fahey, in the special election.) Fisher is quite popular in the district, but the members of the South Buffalo Democratic committee lean toward Higgins.
So Whalen’s withdrawal creates an interesting scenario: Will the committee members choose Bollman, who most will assume to be aligned with the majority that elected Fontana president, a majority supportive of a mayor they don’t really love? Or will they choose Fisher, a largely popular neighborhood figure whose principal shortcoming in the eyes of some committee member is his affiliation with Kearns?
There are five members in the current majority; with Kearns gone, the minority comprises three, all of whom are likely to support Fisher. If the South District committee goes with Fisher, how will Pridgen vote? To vote against the South District committee’s choice would seem a contradiction to the things he and especially his supporters said in reaction to the Council’s rejection in 2010.
Whalen is a South District committee member with a lot of weighted votes; so are many of his friends and extended family members. He believes that if Fisher makes a strong effortover the next two days, he can win the committee recommendation on Saturday, despite the rift between the Higgins and Kearns camps. “Maybe this neighborhood is ready for a healing,” he said this afternoon.