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A two-candidate race in Ellicott?

While a dozen candidates have applied for Brian Davis' vacant seat on the Common Council, the competition is shaping up as a race between Curtis Haynes Jr., an associate professor of economics and finance at Buffalo State College, and the Rev. Darius Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church.

Why these two?

Well, Pridgen has a name, a constituency and a track record. Whether he has at least the tacit approval of Mayor Byron Brown depends on who you talk to.

And Haynes?

For starters, a set of credentials sorely lacking on the Council, as detailed by the Answer Lady.

Imagine having the Council member who represents downtown and the waterfront actually knowing something about economics?

Actually, imagine having anyone on the Council knowing anything about economics?

Actually, imagine having anyone in city government knowing anything about economics?

But let's not get too carried away by credentials. I mean, since when does competency matter in this town's political culture?

Nope, the reason I think Haynes has a real shot is because my sources tell me he is being backed by Arthur O. Eve Jr. and, by extension, Democratic Party headquarters.

Eve and Grassroots, the mayor's political organization, control most of the Democratic committee seats in the Ellicott district. Committeemen will recommend a successor to the Council, probably later this month, and usually their recommendation gets rubber-stamped.

The Council, however, intends on conducting its own interviews and making a decision  by the end of this month or early next. Whether it goes along with the recommendation of committeemen may very well depend on who is put forward. My sense is that Haynes, if he stands up to scrutiny, is more likely than Pridgen to gain approval, at least without much of a fight.

Keep in mind that five of the eight Council members who will choose a successor are not on friendly terms with Brown, and some of them are very hesitant about Pridgen because they believe, or strongly suspect, that he is in cahoots with Brown.

I don't know if they are or not. But I do know the mayor does neither himself, nor Pridgen, any favors in the credibility department when he says he is staying out of the race, and that if he does jump in later, it will be to exercise his rights as a citizen.

Please. This is a mayor who, for four year, has been politicking 24/7. Governing seems like an afterthought much of the time. All of a sudden, he is above the fray?

My gut tells me that Brown probably would prefer someone he could control, but may be supporting Pridgen in the belief he would be easier to deal with than the alternatives.

Pridgen could prove to be a double-edged sword. If he gets the job and forms an alliance with the mayor, he certainly would help hizzoner. But if he chose an independent course, he could be a real player in his own right, perhaps even a rival in time.

Let's face it, there's not much bench strength in the black political circles within city government. The two remaining black Council members, Damone Smith and Bonnie Russell, are smurfs, and that's saying a lot, given the make up of this Council.

Pridgen has the potential to alter that landscape, if he were to operate as his own man.

Haynes has that potential, as well, but for different reasons.

If he's half as smart as his credentials suggest, it shouldn't take him long to shine on the Council, which is a pretty lackluster group.

Moreover, if he gets in, the majority who selected him is going to be mindful of keeping him in the fold. That means he'll probably see some things swing his way more easily.

Haynes could also help alter the political landscape within the black community.

Until recently, Grassroots has pretty much held a stranglehold on elected offices, not just on the Council, but the county and state legislature, as well.

County Legislator Betty Jean Grant is no longer a happy camper, but she's the only one among Sen. Antoine Thompson, Assembly Member Crystal Peoples, County Legislature Chairperson In Waiting Barbara Miller-Williams and the aforementioned Smith and Russell who isn't still drinking the Kool Aid.

The black community is not a monolith, however, and there are folks - a lot of folks, actually - who would like to see a diffusion of power. The appointment of Haynes would be a step in that direction.

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City Hall | Politics
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