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Five Questions With: Matthew Ricchiazzi, Independent Mayoral Candidate

Last Friday, Ricchiazzi filed nominating petitions totaling more than 2,100 signatures with the Erie County Board of Elections, officially entering the race for mayor of Buffalo as an independent. Ricchiazzi is 23 and a registered Republican, running for mayor in a city whose voters are overwhelmingly old, prudish, and Democratic. But he brings to the race a keen mind—he’s a graduate of Cornell, where he’s working on his MBA—and some sharp ideas. You can read his platform at

Why on earth do you want to be mayor of Buffalo? I grew up on Connecticut Street, so from a very young age I’d always been fascinated with how we went from the eighth largest city in the country to where we are now. My grandfather would tell me stories about the city in its heyday—about the people, the neighborhood, the experiences, the aspirations. He instilled in me a deep love of Buffalo, and a passion to rebuild it. And frankly, my generation is mad as hell. For too long, Buffalo Niagara’s leadership has squandered my generation’s future in this city.

Name three things you’d do in office. First, we need a much more aggressive—and frankly, far more professional—approach to economic development and job creation. The city’s current approach has been, essentially, to wait for firms to approach us. Second, we need to establish a robust intergovernmental affairs operation with permanent offices in both Albany and Washington, staffed with full-time lobbyists. We need to be constantly pushing for changes in state law that will allow us to build a more responsive, more flexible, more catalytic government. Third, we need to transform our regional systems of governance into a restructured model that offers greater flexibility, greater responsiveness, with a far more regional perspective.

If you don’t win, what’s next for you? Long term, I’d like to start businesses.

You sought the Republican nomination, but the party would not acknowledge your existence, and they’re not fielding a candidate at all. I was told, by a number of individuals involved with the city’s executive committee, that there was a closed-door agreement between the chairman of the city Republican Party and Mayor Byron Brown that in exchange for not running a serious candidate the chairman would be able to select two individuals for patronage positions working for the city. After I began circulating emails harshly critical of Mayor Brown, they became uninterested. They were never looking for a serious candidate. They were looking for a complacent candidate who wouldn’t challenge the Mayor.

Over the course of the last several months, I was very disheartened to learn that the people who control our city’s democracy are, perhaps, the grimiest group of individuals I’d ever met. I did—and I’m still—seriously considering leaving the Republican Party. I’m socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and anti-status quo. The party’s old guard has made it very difficult for young people to affiliate themselves with the party.

Do you have a campaign slogan? “We want change!” Although, going door to door, most people have suggested, “Anyone but Brown.”

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