The Buffalo News published today that President Donald Trump is likely to turn to three local Republicans in selecting a nominee to fill the vacant federal judgeship in the Western District of New York. The News claims that the same three individuals will be influential in the selection process of the next United States Attorney, filling the position held by William C. Hochul, Jr.
Among those Republicans always mentioned is Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, which has many voters upset. The others are Congressman Chris Collins and Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy.
Following Paladino’s racist remarks in Artvoice late last December — in which he suggested the former First Lady is transexual and that he hoped she would move to Zimbabwe to live with a gorilla — voters from across the political spectrum have been pushing for his ouster from the Board of Education.
“Paladino is unfit for the school board, he is unfit for public office, and he is most certainly unfit to advise anyone on the selection of federal court judges,” says Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux, the founder of Young Black Democrats of WNY and the region’s leading Black Lives Matter activist. She is an anti-violence advocate who promotes peaceful, non-violent social movements in keeping with the traditions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin-Bordeaux thinks that a Paladino recommendation of any candidate for the bench should be avoided. An endorsement from such a racially controversial figure like Paladino would be disqualifying and deeply damaging to that jurist, she worries.
“How can this deplorable human being select who is to dispense justice? Heaven forbid he puts a White supremacist on the court. It would be a devastating and fear inducing blow to Buffalo’s Black community,” she adds. “Just look at the devastation and destruction of human life at the hands of Sheriff Tim Howard. Imagine what a federal judge can do.”
Howard has been the subject of criticism following his attendance of a Niagara Square rally that activists have described as “Klan-style,” and featured three oversized confederate flags. That rally was attended by the leader of a Niagara County White supremacist organization, Horace Scott Lacy, who was there distributing recruitment literature. Sheriff Howard attended in full uniform, which violates his department’s own ethics rules. Paladino was the organizer of that rally.
If President Trump acts on any recommendation made by Paladino, Martin-Bordeaux worries that it could incite the type of protests that engulfed Ferguson, MO.
Paladino, for his part, encourages the speculation and the stature that he derives from his close friendship with Trump, which he developed after failing to persuade the businessman to run for Governor of New York in 2013.
Political operatives believe that Trump’s relationship with Paladino could be a major new political liability for the president, ripe for the national discourse. If Trump were to act on Paladino’s nominee to the federal bench, it would almost certainly guarantee bipartisan outrage on the national stage, they postulate.
Paladino is credited with encouraging Trump to adopt his brand of Rust Belt, race-baiting, low-brow politics and continues to advise him in an unofficial capacity.
Paladino was elected to his South Buffalo school board seat, largely by using race baiting politics. In 2013 he viciously disparaged former Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown as “incompetent” and a member of “the sisterhood.” Dr. Brown holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and graduate degrees from Harvard University, the University of Southern California, and the University of San Francisco.
Other activists are renewing talk of a boycott of Paladino’s businesses, likely to target current tenants of his Ellicott Development properties. The Niagara Street Tim Hortons on Buffalo’s West Side is a likely first target of that boycott movement.
In recent weeks, Paladino’s behavior has been called “unstable,” “paranoid,” and “half-cocked.” Just last week he filed a lawsuit against the majority bloc of the school board and the Buffalo Federation of Teachers for allegedly conspiring to deprive him of civil rights, which was widely seen as laughable by education activists.
“We have acted properly at all times in pursuing the allegations in the petition to the Commissioner, and believe that Mr. Paladino is leveling his latest round of baseless allegations in an attempt to distract from his misconduct, and the fact that he has submitted no evidence to the Commissioner that justifies his unlawful disclosure of confidential information,” school board President Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold wrote in a widely circulated public statement. “The allegations of a conspiracy among parties who seek Mr. Paladino’s removal are baseless.”
“We look forward to the Commissioner rendering a decision on our petition and resolving Mr. Paladino’s status as a Board member,” she adds.
Paladino was nearly defeated by the 18 year old political upstart Austin Harig, who came within 150 votes of ousting the multi-millionaire and former gubernatorial candidate — on his home turf, deep in South Buffalo. He did so while spending almost nothing and having no monetary support from the teachers’ union.
That situation seemed to leave Paladino particularly bitter.
Harig said that he first decided to run against Paladino because he wasn’t comfortable with someone who seemed “crooked” calling the shots for his peers. Harig was a senior at Hutch Tech while he was running for the office.
“Carl has always treated me like I’m less than human. He never had any respect for me as a candidate or a person, whether it’s his insatiable habit of offering crude remarks in public or ignoring the tradition of debate in our democracy,” Harig explains of his experience with Paladino. Paladino refused to debate the young man, leaving him to answer audience and moderator questions himself.
Harig plans to challenge Paladino again and is confident he will be even more well organized. Now he has a city wide team of supporters and he will have the monied backing of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).
Since running for school board, Harig has been targeted for harassment by two Buffalo police officers who are close to Paladino. He has been wrongly arrested twice and cleared of all charges in both situations. He plans to file a lawsuit against the City of Buffalo for a case of false arrest and malicious prosecution.
“Soon after my run for office the police started harassing me. I was thrown in jail for two weeks for a crime I had nothing to do with,” Harig explains. “At this point I decided to sue because I have suffered severe mental anguish by these police officers, who have accused me of crimes I did not commit and throwing me into a prison cell to rot, despite clear evidence that should have cleared me at the scene.”