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What Betty Jean Means

By the time you’ve picked up this paper, it’s likely that the Erie County Board of Elections will have begun counting the absentee and provisional ballots that will determine the victor in the Democratic primary between incumbent State Senator Tim Kennedy and Erie County Legislature Chair Betty Jean Grant.

At press time, Grant trailed Kennedy by 91 votes. The geographical distribution of the valid provisional votes—ballots cast by eligible voters whose names, for whatever reason, don’t appear the voter rolls at their polling places—suggested that they would narrow Kennedy’s lead further: There were more valid provisional ballots cast on Buffalo’s East Side, Grant’s base, than anywhere else in the 63rd District.

Absentee ballots were more evenly distributed geographically between the East Side and South Buffalo, Kennedy’s base; there were about 800 total from City of Buffalo residents, and another 400 from residents of Cheektowaga and Lackawanna. The count will begin midday Thursday, and there’s a good chance that there will be court actions subsequent to that count, whatever the result.

If Grant manages to win, and perhaps even if she does not, her showing represents another episode in a less-than-stellar year for the South Buffalo political machine of which Kennedy is a part. That machine could not win the Assembly seat vacated by one of its own, Mark Schroeder, with Chris Fahey, a long-time aide to Congressman Brian Higgins. Nor could that machine control the appointment to succeed the man who beat Fahey, former South District Councilman Mickey Kearns. That appointment went to Chris Scanlon, son of longtome Jimmy Griffin operative John “Scanoots” Scanlon, who worked very hard to procure his son the seat, even calling in a favor from his friend Carl Paladino. Scanlon won his four-way primary last week, and it is lucky for Kennedy that there was a primary for that seat. Without that contest to draw out South Buffalo voters, he most certainly would have lost to Grant. As it was, a Board of Elections source tells us that 246 of the roughly 3,100 voters who took part in the South District primary declined to cast a vote in the State Senate race.

Even if Kennedy wins, the writing is on the wall: South Buffalo is weak, at least in relation to this candidate. Candidates will be lining up to take him on in 2014.

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