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Kearns vs. Fahey

This Tuesday, when the debris from St. Patrick’s Day has been swept from the streets and heads have cleared at least a little, there will be an election in the 145th Assembly District to fill the seat left empty by Mark Schroeder, Buffalo’s new comptroller.

The candidates are two Democrats, because no one but a Democrat has a prayer in that district, which—for now, pending redistricting—comprises parts of the city’s Lovejoy and Fillmore districts, all of South Buffalo, parts of Lackawanna, Orchard Park, and West Seneca.

Chris Fahey, an aide to Congressman Brian Higgins, has the Democratic, Working Families, and Conservative lines. South District Councilman Mickey Kearns has the Republican and Independence lines; he has said that, if elected, he will caucus with Democrats in the Assembly.

Fahey has tried hard to pin that Republican label on Kearns, but it’ll be difficult to make that case in South Buffalo, where Kearns is a known entity. Fahey has also made hay of the Kearns’s campaigns acceptance of donations in excess of the state limit from individual donors—a misstep of which Kearns is guilty, though the complaint loses some of its force when one realizes that the person who brought the issue to the fore is Gayle Syposs, a Democratic Party leader whose job at the Erie County Board of Elections is to help candidates comply with campaign finance election law. In other words, Syposs’s first duty might have been to inform the Kearns campaign of its mistake, rather than the courts and the press.

There has been some bandying back and forth about salary increases for public servants—who makes what, who supported what. A lot of that is populist posturing. In a debate streamed by the Buffalo News on Tuesday, little of substance separated the two. Kearns opposes statewide legalization of hydraulic fracturing and gambling; Fahey declines to take a position on the first and says he’s fine with the second so long as it doesn’t contradict the state agreement with the Seneca Nation of Indians. Kearns claims Fahey will be a puppet of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; Fahey says that’s nonsense and his campaign reminds anyone who will listen that Kearns is supported by the divisive developer Carl Paladino, whose Republican candidacy for governor Kearns endorsed last year.

Despite Paladino, Fahey has a lot more money than Kearns: He’s spent more than $225,000 so far, compared to Kearns’s $87,000. And Fahey has the backing of the party machinery, including the endorsement this week of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

But this is a special election, where voter turnout will be slight and name recognition and personal affinities are everything. Kearns has an advantage there. He may also enjoy at least tacit support from the political machine of Mayor Byron Brown, who would love to see Kearns, a frequent antagonist, leave City Hall. And then, of course, there are the rumors that Brown is weighing a run for the Congressional seat currently held by Fahey’s chief political sponsor, Brian Higgins. That possibility diminished somewhat when Kathy Hochul’s office said this week that she would not run against Higgins, should redistricting throw the Democratic friends and allies together; had that happened, Brown would have been a the odds-on favorite in a three-way primary and a shoo-in in the general election.

Still, Brown’s camp is considering a run at it, according to a source close to the mayor. If so, the mayor may do little for Kearns but even less for Fahey.

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