Political operatives close to Maurice Garner, the former President of Grassroots Inc. who is widely thought to control Mayor Byron Brown, say that he “is deeply worried” about County Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s campaign for Mayor. Operatives say that Garner is already designing a smear campaign against Grant that will aim to neutralize her candidacy.
Garner is credited with orchestrating a similar smear campaign against former City Human Resources Commissioner Karla Thomas, after Thomas insisted on following civil service procedures in the awarding of city jobs.
It’s not the first time that Grassroots Inc. has been paid to attack Grant, either.
In 2013, Grassroots President Mike Darby, was paid nearly $30,000 in ‘consulting fees’ from the political action committee controlled by G. Steven Pigeon, Kristy Mazurek, and David Pfaff, who have all since been indicted for illegal campaign coordination.
Darby was that fundraising vehicle’s highest paid consultant.
But by mid-2014, Darby had fallen out with Grassroots. He left to manage the Assembly campaign of Antoine Thompson, who was challenging the incumbent Grassroots candidate Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
Following his presidency of Grassroots, Garner became a successful political operative and founded a consulting company with Pigeon and his partner, Gary Parenti, shortly before the state police raided the home of Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and Chris Grant, Chief of Staff to Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence).
At the time, Garner and Darby had been hired to help the former Republican County Executive undermine the Democratic Legislature Majority led by Grant, who had been unanimously elected Chairwoman.
Grant is widely respected for her candid honesty and high level of personal integrity.
At the close of her term as Chairwoman, she earned the praise of County Legislators on both sides of the aisle. Even Legislator Kevin Hardwick (R-Tonawanda) lauded her “fair and impartial” leadership of the body.
Grant is exceptionally popular among the city’s social justice movement and has mobilized a citywide network of activists around a lack of minority hiring on government funded construction projects and the need for economic inclusion of the African American community in the region’s broader economic development.
She is credited with reorienting the Governor’s spending priorities, as evidenced in Buffalo Billion II, which makes the East Side central in its funding allocations.
Many operatives think that any attack that Mayor Brown launches against Grant — whether through Grassroots or another ostensibly third-party acting on behalf of the Mayor — that it will backfire, as did those now scandalous 2013 campaign mailers.