Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it when you got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose.
“Mrs. Robinson” – Simon and Garfunkel
After the mayoral debate on September 9th that tune may seem apropos for some Buffalonians. The debate informed or swayed few among the even fewer who even saw or heard it. The main event, India Walton v. Byron Brown, was just a series of talking point re-runs by the candidates. The other two men on the stage added nothing of any substance.
The courts – federal and state – have spoken. The idea that a candidate can choose which Election Law deadlines to observe was absurd right from the beginning of the cases. The aftershocks from keeping Byron Brown off the official ballot don’t mean a whole lot. It’s pretty easy to write in a candidate on the paper ballots we all use. For the Brown campaign it’s back to “Write Down Byron Brown.”
The next six weeks will be fierce. Complications and stress will come on election night and in the days and weeks after. We will at first know how many people voted for Walton and how many voted by write-in, but we will not know who the write-in voters favored. Which write-in ballots might be disqualified will take at least most of November to sort out and, depending on the counts, the courts will once again enter the picture.
There were 23,439 votes cast for mayor in the Democratic primary. It is likely that 40,000 to 50,000 total votes will be cast in the general election (about a quarter to a third of all registered voters). One half or more of the ballots could have a name written in for mayor. It is unlikely that many of those votes will be for Ben Carlisle, Jaz Miles or someone else whose name we do not know now.
The campaigns are shifting into high gear. Brown started with a boring feel good TV ad but has quickly followed up with a much stronger ad about Walton’s proposals concerning the police department; the ad contains misleading information. The Walton campaign says their commercials will start in early October. Mailings will fly. Door bells and telephones will be ringing.
The next campaign filings are due at the state Board of Elections on October 1. That will give us an indication of where the candidates stand financially. Legal charges for the court cases (or the in-kind donation of legal services) will be revealed. Walton folks will rail against all the developer and other business money flowing into Brown’s treasury. Brown supporters will object to big money coming into a Buffalo campaign from New York City, California and elsewhere.
Because it is so unlikely that Brown will sway any Walton voters or that Walton will sway Brown voters, a certain number of votes somewhat close to the primary results are locked in for each of them. That leaves about 83,000 other Democrats plus 50,000 non-affiliated, Republican, Working Families Party, and Conservative Party registered voters to decide whether they will get out to vote or to just sit on their sofas. The majority of registered voters in Buffalo may conclude that “every way you look at it you lose” and decide to stay on their sofas.
The general election will be decided by three things: turn-out, turn-out, and turn-out. The election will settle the question of whether Walton’s and Brown’s primary election vote totals were closer to the floor or ceiling of their potential number of votes.
Both campaigns have large groups of volunteers for all that door bell and phone ringing. Be prepared for multiple contacts right up to and including November 2nd.
Up until now issues have only been touched on superficially. The potential arguments about management of the Police Department and what role, management and financial, the city should play in the Buffalo Public School System have emerged recently. What the next mayor proposes to do would be valuable information for city residents. Add to that agenda how the city’s financial hole will be filled; what Walton’s new programs will cost; and the city’s role in housing.
The debate did bring out a discussion about the possibility of a property tax increase with Walton in favor of a small increase. An increase of three percent was on the table. Brown cited his record of cutting taxes. He misrepresented the implications of a three percent increase in taxes, suggesting that it would amount to an extra $300 per year for property taxpayers. A home assessed at $100,000 pays $998.50 in combined Buffalo city and school district taxes. A three percent increase in taxes would equal $29.96. The Buffalo News in an editorial used the same faulty math that Brown used. The News has not corrected the error.
Investigative Post is publishing a series of articles right through October (https://www.investigativepost.org/ ) that update campaign developments and will also explore major issues in detail. It’s important stuff. Take a look.
It would be nice to think that the candidates and their surrogates are focusing on what’s important in this election. It seems likely, however, that more and more time will be spent on nasty ads and verbal attacks over the next six weeks. Not good.
Honoring Robin Schimminger
The City of Tonawanda Democratic Committee last week held a testimonial honoring recently retired State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Among the guests participating in the program were County Chairman Jeremy Zellner, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, State Senator Sean Ryan, Assemblyman Bill Conrad and former Republican Assemblyman (and current candidate for State Supreme Court) Ray Walter, who occasionally played the role of driver for Schimminger’s travels between Buffalo and Albany.
My friendship with Robin stretches back to freshman year at Canisius College; Robin was a year ahead of me. When he finished law school and was considering his career options I helped convince him in 1973 to take a shot at politics by running against the Republican Leader of the County Legislature, John V. Clark.
Clark was a well-known political figure in the Tonawandas. His lawn signs that year played up his inclusion on a strong Republican slate that included Senator Jim McFarland for DA and Alfreda Slominski for Comptroller. Robin, in addition to his Democratic and Liberal lines, had snatched the Conservative line from Clark in a write-in. So one night at Cole’s, after a beer or two, we came up with an idea for a sign for Robin to counteract the Republican slate. It simply said:
Robin won and followed that up with another 23 victories over the years. Congrats Robin!
Follow me on Twitter @kenkruly