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No room at the political inn for Puerto Ricans as executive committee picks the legislators

September 18, 2011

U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny,  a federal judge,  had imposed   11 new Erie County legislative districts last month on August 4.  He created two districts where Puerto Ricans and African-Americans composed a majority of the residents. What he called “minority” districts though it favored African-Americans, splitting the Latino vote in both districts worse than it had been before.
Yet, in districts 1 and 2, African-Americans make up the largest group and the possibility of a Puerto Rican ever elected is not only impossible but inequitable.
While in the former 6th legislative district the opportunity existed  to elect  a Latino  to the Erie County Legislature, it never happened because of  the  political disunity in the Puerto Rican community along with the divide and conquer strategy the incumbent politicians  played who supported Maria Whyte instead of a Latino (Ralph Hernandez opposed Whyte several times) , an outcome favored by former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt.
And recently, the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party hand-picked Erie County Legislators none of them Puerto Ricans.In fact three African-Americans and eight whites make up the list.

Toni Vazquez former candidate for the Amherst Town Board to the 6th legislative seat in Amherst if elected appears to be the first time an African-American women represents a suburban enclave. Toni and hubby prominent local physician Dr. Raul Vazquez founded the popular Urban Family Practice clinic in the lower West Side of Buffalo 15 years ago. And she is the daughter of the highly regarded community activist William Gaiter.

So there is squabbling about the method used to choose these candidates, troubling process that some in the community have questioned. Buffalo News political columnist Bob McCarthy wrote, “why is the party’s Executive Committee, rather than committee members from the legislative districts, choosing candidates?” The former Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party Steve Pigeon asked the question first in a letter.

But whether primary voters selected the group, the Executive Committee or the district committeemen, the two districts that make up the minorities 1 and 2  split the Latino vote so one strategy over the other still doesn’t help to elect a Latino candidate political observers of the situation have speculated.

According to local election lawyer Peter Reese in a Buffalo news comment, he wrote, “Skretky’s redistricting and reapportionment Order (see page 12) requires the party nominations for the county legislature to be made by district committeemen.”
Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams is not on the list accused of caucusing with the Republicans, while schmoozing with Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
She has threatened court action, challenging the Executive Committee hand picked list for the Legislative Districts in what appeared as a violation of Skretky’s redistricting and reapportionment Order.
Interestingly, Timothy Hogues picked to oppose Miller-Williams NOSOTROS the Puerto Rican political group is hosting a fundraiser for him on Thursday, September 29, at the Olivencia Center.
A political blood bath is about to happen as the old factions resurface again, while Chair of the Erie County Democratic Party Len Lenihan  attempt to oust Mayor Byron Brown’s ally Miller-Williams from the legislature, a move certainly to cause the Mayor to sharpen his spurs.

Where is Charlie King, Jr?

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