Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux is running for the Erie County Legislature’s first district, but that understates the influence that she has cultivated as an outsider unabashedly willing to hold party headquarters accountable and never afraid to call out machine style of politics when it threatens the wellbeing of ordinary Buffalonians.
In recent years many have likened her political activism to that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes. After Governor Andrew Cuomo excluded Buffalo’s Eastside from the first round of his Buffalo Billion spending program, Martin-Bordeaux lambasted the administration until they committed more than $50 million for a new Northland Corridor economic development campus, and for millions in improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
In many ways, her recruitment of candidates, training of activists, and unabashedly critical posture of the party’s biases and exclusion of the Black community from its patronage largess have catalyzed a renaissance of activism on the East Side in recent years — after decades of dormancy.
Needless to say, Erie County Chairman Jeremy Zellner is planning to aggressively field a candidate against her, because many party committeemen and operatives are already predicting that her election to the County Legislature will swing control to an opposition faction of Democrats. Such a bellwether would foreshadow Zellner’s long-sought ouster by opposition factions in the party.
“When someone can accumulate the kind of power that Martin-Bordeaux has without the smoke and mirrors of an officer’s title or organizational hierarchy, then you know that person is someone of real power — because power and leadership are not vested in titles. Power is derived from a capacity to influence with ideas, arguments, and collective aspirations,” explains an Allentown resident and longtime observer of Buffalo politics.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of a political candidacy that unites the community. Too often, the powers that be try to divide and conquer in politics — especially when it comes to Buffalo’s East Side,” he explains. “It’s so refreshing to have someone on the ballot who can unite Grassroots and Unity in such a sweeping and holistic way.”
Martin-Bordeaux has long transcended the two political factions that have dominated East Side politics and often led initiatives of Unity Coalition, a political network founded by former Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve.
In recent weeks, Martin-Bordeaux has taken the helm of the East Side’s political power structure, known as Grassroots. That organization has weathered great turbulence in recent years, with the prosecution of its founder G. Steven Pigeon, and the investigation of leaders like Maurice Gardner and Steve Casey. Her ascendency is seen by many as a godsend able to reassert the trajectory of the political faction — and able to do so in the absence of Pigeon.