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Searching For Sergio
by Alan Bedenko
Nothing will quite so starkly upset the Buffalo Republican establishment as Sergio Rodriguez’s announcement of his run for mayor of Buffalo, which took place at 1pm in Niagara Square. For Western New York Republicans, Buffalo is a tool used to depress the Democratic turnout for countywide candidates; Sergio Rodriguez, for instance, is Stefan Mychajliw’s worst nightmare. Our new county comptroller—who press-releases a new crisis nearly every day—won last November by a narrow enough margin that the outcome wasn’t formalized until weeks after Election Day. With a proper big-ticket race on the marquee, Mychajliw’s path to a full term becomes hypothetically more difficult. The hypothesis is contingent, of course, on Democrats coming up with a competitive candidate to challenge Mychajliw.
Whether Rodriguez’s run will gain much traction is an open question. He ran for a seat on the Common Council before, and he is very active with veterans’ causes. He is a nice guy—too nice for politics, at first glance—but he’s also a Marine, so it would be foolish to put some real toughness past him. The big problems Rodriguez faces are his city-toxic party affiliation and his utter lack of money in the face of Byron Brown’s tsunami of cash. They are possibly insurmountable, unless Rodriguez can get creative with a bespoke party line (the likelihood of the Conservative Party or Independence Party jettisoning Brown is remote) and can raise some serious money, fast. Since he won’t be running in a primary, he’s got until September to get the money situation together in earnest.
What is good for the city and region is that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown will have a challenger in November for the first time since 2005—a challenger who is not a mere placeholder. But Rodriguez will have to build his own army from scratch, as it’s doubtful that establishment Republicans will help him canvass, raise money, or collect petition signatures. None of those activities can happen quietly, and the risks of reprisal are real. Rodriguez might conceivably find support among the grassroots/Tea-Party-type Republicans, but they’re few, far-between, not based in the city, and too preoccupied with Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama taking their guns by force.
The issues and problems that the city faces are tough and they are plenty, and the city has cursed itself with a mayor who doesn’t really want the job, whose concern for politics far outweighs his concern for policy, whose City Hall is corrupt and dirty, and who has no vision or overriding agenda for any of the social, economic, or development issues facing the city. Take any serious controversy that has come up in the city in the last few years, and you’ll be extraordinarily hard-pressed to remember what the mayor had to say or think about it.
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