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Elections 2010: hispanic voters important in ellicott district race

June 13, 2010

Puerto Ricans/Hispanics a decisive vote in Ellicott Council race this year

Although Hispanic leaders argued the community is gerrymander into three districts, causing Hispanics for Fair and Equitable Reapportionment  (H-FERA) to bring a court action in 1991 still the group may well be a decisive factor in the race for the Ellicott District Council seat this year as three African-American candidates gear up for the nominating petition drive that started last week.

As far back as 1975, Benjamin Matta, a Hispanic leader, ran for the Councilman under the GOP opposing the incumbent George K. Arthur, an African-American. Also, Agustin “Pucho” Olivencia was an Ellicott  District committeeman during this period in 1977 and Miguel A. Medina ran for  Ellicott District Council seat in 1979 under the GOP opposing Councilman James W, Pitts, the Democratic candidate for re-election at the time.

Fire fighter Bryon J. McIntyre is collecting signatures  to run for the Ellicott District Council seat  again in a  special election after disgraced former Council Member Brian Davis stepped down amid a scandal dealing with the personal use of his campaign funds last fall.

Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church,  turned in 1,500 signatures in his nominating petition gathered in one day when he announced his candidacy   for Ellicott District Council Member at the Town Garden Plaza  Thursday.

Dr. Curtis Haynes, an economics professor at Buffalo State College who Arthur O.  “Champ” Eve, Jr. Deputy Commissioner, Board of Elections and  a vice-chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party supported received the appointment in a field of ten candidates vying for the seat last fall.

The Buffalo Common Council settled for Haynes in what some political leaders in the African-American community viewed as political foul play when the Council eschewed from appointing the nominee of the Democratic committee favoring Pridgen.

Yet it may prove to be challenging to remove an incumbent who in a short span of time picked up the support of a diversity of the community, appearing to approve of the work he described as  “securing money for housing development on the Lower West Side, funding for street improvements, passage of Buffalo’s first domestic partnership registry and his push for a Community Benefits Agreement for the Canal Side project.”

Columnist Rod Watson called the appointment of Dr. Haynes on January 14,  “a  power play by a white and Hispanic majority that ignores the wishes of a heavily African-American district will set race relations back …the notion of whites or Hispanics— in politics, business or the media— “anointing” black leaders and telling the black populace who’s best for it has never sat well with African-Americans. This won’t, either, especially if the goal is to stifle a black mayor. It’s the very definition of what many blacks deride as “politricks.”

The Latin Journal challenged the assumption of Hispanics as a  majority bloc on the Council engaged in the political power play he described except Council Member David Rivera threw his support for Haynes with the majority white Council Members.

Champ Eve still runs the Unity Coalition,  Mayor Byron W.  Brown aligned with Grassroots while McIntyre has solid support as well, the winner in the end may very well show the Ellicott District is a diverse one Haynes drawing upon the approval of  this electorate.

Yet,  anyone  of these candidates circulating the nominating petitions after getting on the ballot can win in the Ellicott District though Rev. Pridgen’s army of volunteers submitting 1500 signatures in one day certainly makes him a formidable opponent for the incumbent Dr. Curtis Haynes.

But the Ellicott district includes most of the Allentown neighborhood that is home to a large segment of Buffalo’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (glbt) residents and gay owned businesses  a constituent concerned about the views of Rev. Pridgen as reported in Outcome the Buffalo gay newspaper.

Hispanics still may be the decisive vote in this year’s Council race in the Ellicott District.

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