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Fisher Joins Scanlon

It seemed that Matt Fisher had a leg up in this fall’s race for the South District seat on the Common Council. As an aide to Mickey Kearns, who vacated the seat to join the New York State Assembly, he’d established a positive profile iin the community. He’d been endorsed by the South Buffalo Democratic Party committee to fill the seat vacated by Kearns. Better yet, he’d been spurned by the Common Council’s majority coalition, some of whose members were eager to win a sixth vote and some of whom were determined not to give the seat to anyone affiliated with Kearns. Instead, the majority seated Chris Scanlon, the scion of a politically influential SoutH Buffalo family.

The spurning made Fisher a martyr to the machinations of a majority friendly to Mayor Byron Brown, who is not well loved in South Buffalo, despite his penchant for commissioners with Irish surnames. And it stained Scanlon.

But this week, a surprise: Fisher has agreed to take a job in Scanlon’s office and end his candidacy. Why? Because Carl Paladino, who is a friend to the Scanlon family, reportedly prevailed on Kearns, who owes his loyalty Paladino, to convince Fisher to help Scanlon run the South District office rather than run against him. The message was clear: If Fisher turned down the job and chose to run for the office, he’d do so on his own.

Complicating matters, Fisher is a father of six whose health insurance was about to expire. The offered job pays well; the Council majority created a new job with a higher salary than other legislative assistants get, starting July 1, specifically to make a sweeter deal for Fisher.

Fisher chose to take the job. That’s good news for Scanlon, and probably it’s good news for the district: Fisher’s resume is long on experience in areas where Scanlon’s is short. The office will run better with Fisher than without him. It’s a bit tough on Fisher, however, as he is being pilloried in some quarters for bowing to pressure and breaking his promise to run for the seat.

It’s great news for the other declared candidates in the September primary. So far there are two: Patrick Burke and Kevin Lafferty. Scanlon, fairly or not, will continue to wear stains from the political meat-grinding operation that undid Fisher’s candidacy and landed him in the seat. With Fisher out of the way, Burke and Lafferty will compete to position themselves as the grassroots candidate bucking the political machines—a popular narrative in South Buffalo, as illustrated by Kearns and Jimmy Griffin, the man for whom Scanlon’s father ran patronage.

And who knows? If one of them beats Scanlon, maybe he’ll hire Fisher to help run the office. Any South District councilman could do worse.

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