Does school board experience help a McCarthy council race?

School board member Jason McCarthy.

Political operatives disagree whether Jason McCarthy’s two terms on the Buffalo Board of Education will help or hurt his chances of being elected to the Common Council this year. He is widely expected to seek the Delaware district seat.

McCarthy’s supporters argue that he is a well known member of the “majority bloc” of aggressive reformers who are pushing hard for charter school expansion, a new teachers’ contract, and management reforms in the district. They cite his work on school lunch nutrition improvements among his achievements.

Delaware district families are thought to be among the most pro-charter school constituents in the city. The district is among the most affluent in the city, which includes portions of the Elmwood Village, Parkside, Starin-Central, North Park, and Hertal. McCarthy was elected twice to the school board district that most resembles the Delaware district seat on the Common Council.

But McCarthy’s detractors say that his close relationship with Carl Paladino and the majority bloc’s aggressive reform posture puts him at odds with the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation. They throw epithets like “privatization” and “controversy” as if to detract from McCarthy’s school board experience.

Many teachers — who are likely voters following education issues closely — live in the Delaware district. More teachers live in the Delaware district than all of the other Council districts combined. They have been a sometimes powerful constituency that has waned in recent school board election cycles.

Some observers have even suggested that McCarthy may get the tacit backing of teachers, who would prefer to see his school board seat open up. Then, the 4-4 split on the school board would necessitate that a compromise candidate be appointed to fill the vacancy, which could swing the board’s decision making and shake the majority coalition.

The consensus in political circles is that McCarthy will have a far better funded campaign than incumbent Councilman Mike LoCurto, if he decides to run. LoCurto is close to the teachers’ unions, but McCarthy is well connected in the social circles that fund local political races. He has been able to build strong relationships with the city’s elite as a bartender at Hutch’s, an upscale restaurant near Gates Circle.

I recall being told by an influential local businessman several years ago, “If in another life I wanted to become a politician, I would work first as a bartender — at the right bar.” It was vastly better advice than I realized at the time.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply