Carmen Palma — one of the most politically influential community leaders in the city — is giving former Senator Antoine Thompson a big boost in a part of the 141st Assembly district where the incumbent Assemblywoman is deeply unpopular.
Palma, who chairs the Italian Festival, has endorsed Mr. Thompson and is currently rallying support for the likably imperfect former Senator, whose energy and passion have long been his hallmark.
Thompson enjoys nearly universal name recognition across North Buffalo, which he represented in the State Senate for four years. Urban legend has it that Palma is able to deliver North Buffalo’s Italian vote with little more than an afternoon of phone calls.
Senator Thompson had long been a friend to Mr. Palma while in office, and delivered state funding for his annual Italian festival each year. That funding started to dry up when Mark Grisanti was elected, forcing Mr. Palma to change the dates of the festival.
And in Niagara Falls, deep resentment still lingers from two years ago, when Grisanti began refusing to fund that city’s Italian Festival — which now happens only once every two years as a result. Grisanti later said that he cut the earmark for political reasons.
Mr. Palma remembers how loyal a friend that Mr. Thompson was to all of his district’s neighborhoods, including North Buffalo.
Peoples-Stokes is doing very poorly in those same North Buffalo election districts that, in a close race, could determine who wins the Democratic primary. The 141st district is mainly on the Eastside, but includes areas West of Main Street, including Parkside, Central Park, and North Park.
The Assemblywoman has been unable to deliver state funding to neighborhoods on both the East and West sides of Main. It’s rumored that Palma, who always puts his neighborhood first and who sees enormous opportunities for the Hertel Avenue business district, has been concerned with Peoples-Stokes’ underperformance for years.
Mr. Thompson is also fielding an aggressive ground game in North Buffalo, and enjoys the support of two of the neighborhood’s most prominent activists: Anna Marie Sinatra and Jim Martina. He also opened his second field office on Hertel Avenue.