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Perspective on the primary

My take-away from the primary last week:

1) Byron Brown is potentially -- potentially -- vulnerable as he faces re-election next year.

2) Tom Golisano can be an effective player if he keeps his nose clean.

First, the mayor.

His key people running for Democratic Party committee seats lost left and right. Peter Cutler, his spokesman. Janet Penksa, his budget director. Alisa Lukasiewicz, the city's top attorney. Brian Reilly, his economic development chief.

Probably the most noteworthy loser was Steve Casey, who not only serves as deputy mayor, but vice chairman of the party.

Question: What does it say when the vice chairman can't even win his committee seat?

Answer: He's alienated a lot of people, even his neighbors. (No word on how his wife voted).

The losses didn't end there.

Grassroots, his political base, lost committee seats on the East Side. As it's been explained to me, there is a growing division in the black community and anti-Grassroots forces, or, at least the non-Grassroots folks, now hold a slight edge in committee seats.

As a result of losses on Tuesday, Brown supporters now hold about one-third of the weighted voting power of committee seats in the city. (Seats are weighted, based on results of 2006 gubernatorial election).

Countywide, Brown forces hold about 10 percent of the weighted vote. Doesn't sound like a lot of clout, does it?

Mind you, Brown has some things going for him as the incumbent.

He's raised a lot of money and has the ability to raise more. His alliance with Steve Pigeon holds the promise of yet more cash through Golisano.

Brown's got an effective PR machine, thanks in part to his exploitation of the city's government public access channel.

And he'll be able to deploy a good portion of the City Hall workforce to campaign on his behalf, unless the Common Council passes a proposed reform bill that is currently one short vote of passage and two of overriding a veto.

Brown_and_higginsIn addition, he and Congressman Brian Higgins, pictured at left, still seem to be tight. Higgins has the ability to help deliver South Buffalo, and thus blunt an opposition candidate.

In March I covered the St. Patrick's Day appearance here of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, where Brown made a cameo at the event sponsored by the Valley Community Association. Brown, when introduced, drew a bigger cheer than anyone on the dais, save Adams himself.

Who would have thunk that, in South Buffalo? Granted, much of the crowd was well into their cups by then, but still.

On the debit side, Brown and Casey have been sniping at Democratic Party HQ since shortly after winning the mayor's race. They've taken on Len Lenihan and Company, and if the committee races are any indication, have failed miserably.

Here's a link to the results.

Moreover, most of the city's progressive community has soured on Brown, not that the activists were keen on him to begin with. The business community has mixed emotions. Support has slipped in the black community and is "broad but shallow," according to one operative I spoke with.

The best thing Brown may have going for him is the absence of a major opponent at this juncture.

Mickey Kearns, who represents South Buffalo on the Council, has made noises about running. But he's a first-termer and not part of the Higgins crowd.

Some folks have mentioned Henry J. Nowak , the City Housing Court judge and son of the retired Congressman. He's played to good reviews and certainly has the political pedigree, but that's not to say he wants to be mayor. I've heard conflicting reports about his interest.

My sense is that Brown will win a second term without too much difficulty if he and Higgins remain a pair and the mayor avoids making any major missteps between now and next summer. But if he slips up, and a credible opponent emerges, well, it could get interesting.

Certainly, primary results last week show Brown's base is shrinking, not growing. Kind of surprising for a first-termer. For the mayor, the election can't come soon enough.

On to Golisano.

He went one for two in the local races he invested in heavily. Won with Baby Joe Mesi, lost, in more ways than one, in trying to unseat Sam Hoyt.

The lessons: Pigeon's dirty politics don't play well, no matter how much of Golisano's dough he spends. But when he keeps it clean, at least mostly clean, Golisano's money can make a difference.

Take away the Ward Family Feud and the TV ad blitz the final week of the campaign and Michele Iannello, rather than Baby Joe, could have come away with the victory.

Clearly, Golisano's money helped.

What do you glean from last week's returns? Any potential mayoral candidates come to mind?


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