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Judge Not, David Manz, Lest Ye Be Unjudged

Apart from the nail-biter in Lackawanna, Tuesday’s primaries yielded but one surprise: An incumbent city court judge, David Manz, lost his bids for the Democratic and Working Families Party lines in November’s general election.

This in a city where incumbency offers better job security than any union contract ever envisioned.

Four incumbent judges seek to retain their seats this year, against three challengers. Manz finished behind Judge Robert Russell, Judge Susan Eagan, attorney Diane Wray, and Judge Joseph Fiorella in the Democratic primary. In the Working Families Party primary, Manz finished behind attorney Gillian Brown, Russell, Eagan, and Fiorella.

Manz will be on the ballot in November as a Republican and a Conservative, but the odds of his retaining a seat are greatly diminished, especially given Wray’s strong performance in the Democratic primary. Wray finished third with 17 percent of the vote, compared to Manz’s 14 percent, which landed him in fifth place in the six-way race. Eagan and Russell both did very well on Tuesday and seem like locks in November.

Brown sought the Democratic nomination, too, but was ousted from the Democratic primary after a successful challenge to the validity of his nominating petition. That challenge was engineered by Manz, who apparently recognized the threat presented by Brown and Wray, and overreacted accordingly: For example, at a South Buffalo Democratic function a couple weeks ago, Manz eschewed the usual campaign trail gladhanding, opting instead to chew out those present who’d signed Brown’s nominating petition—and he did this after Brown had been tossed from the Democratic primary. Manz is unpopular among Buffalo cops, too, which probably didn’t help him on Tuesday.

The Working Families line is a tough place from which to win a general election, even a six-way race in which the top four win. Still, Brown must be experiencing dual satisfaction that he remains on the ballot and that Manz’s prospects may be worse than his. And both Manz and Fiorella, who managed just one percentage point better than Manz on Tuesday, must be wondering how many voters will choose Brown and Wray in November, when their choices aren’t restricted by party affiliation.

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