Esther Smothers, former Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant‘s principal legislative staffer, is vying for the Buffalo Common Council seat representing Lovejoy. Also running is Brian Bollman, the outgoing Lovejoy Councilman Rich Fontana‘s principal legislative staffer.
Both figures are attractive, outgoing, youthful personalities who have long been seen in their respective political circles as up-and-coming stars of Erie County’s Democratic party. They are also seen as inflection points — breaks from the politics of ‘Old Buffalo’ so often typified by incumbents concerned more about self-preservation than helping to fix struggling neighborhoods and downtrodden constituencies.
Smothers and Bollman have had the benefit of working for the two Buffalo politicians seen across the political spectrum as being honest, constitituent-oriented, and willing to risk their offices to stand up for their neighborhoods. That’s far more rare in Buffalo politics than it should be — which makes this race a difficult one, because most voters want to see both candidates elected.
Because of the Council’s longstanding gerrymandering, and former Council President David Franzyak‘s shameless redrawing of district lines to hold onto his hollowed-out Fillmore district, the City’s councilmanic districts are often manifestations of the racial and ethnic anxieties of yesteryears.
The Lovejoy District encompasses the Lovejoy and Kaisertown neighborhoods south of Broadway Avenue, which are largely ethnic Polish and German residents. The Lovejoy District also encompasses the mostly African American neighborhoods of Schiller Park, South Kenfield, and parts of Genesee Moselle.
The matchup is expected to be the most competitive contest in this year’s Common Council elections — which are generally very low turnout affairs, often with few or no serious challengers.