Bare knuckles in South Buffalo

Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

Politics has been a blood sport in South Buffalo for, well, probably forever, certainly as far back as my memory goes.

There was Jimmy Griffin, in league with the influential Keane family until hizzoner and Jimmy Keane had a falling out. A Hatfield and McCoy kind of falling out.

Later there was Griffin and Dick Keane protege Brian Higgins, although they managed to maintain a  detente for the most part, even when they later squared off against each other to serve in the Assembly.

Higgins, of course, evolved into not only a South Buffalo political powerhouse, but arguably the most influential elected official in Western New York. His political organization has spawned a cadre of elected officials, including Mark Schroeder, state Assemblyman turned city Comptroller, and state Sen. Tim Kennedy.

Now, Chris Fahey, crackerjack researcher on Higgins’ congressional staff, wants to follow suit by succeeding Schroeder in the state Assembly.

Enter South Buffalo politics.

Mickey Kearns has represented South Buffalo on the Common Council since 2006. He and Higgins have never been mistaken for allies. Sometimes they battle, other times they co-exist. Suffice to say, they don’t share the same float in the St. Paddy’s Day parade.

Higgins helped Fahey secure the Democratic and Conservative endorsements for the upcoming March 20 special election. Kearns also sought party backing. The Democratic endorsement should have sealed the deal for the special election, given the party’s 2 to 1 enrollment advantage in the 145th district, which includes South Buffalo, West Seneca, Orchard Park and a portion of Lackawanna.

But Kearns was having none of it. He went out and scored the endorsement of  the Republican and Independence parties. And now we have a race, which is starting to heat up.

Kearns has taken exception to the Fahey campaign pointing out to voters that the councilman is running as a Republican and, in turn, dismisses the former Higgins aid as a wet-behind-the-ears political flunky.

But it gets better. Consider who is behind each of the candidates.

Fahey has Higgins in his corner while Kearns has Carl Paladino, who, despite the vowel at the end of his name, lives in South Buffalo.

Higgins and Paladino are related through marriage. Used to be tight. Carl used to write the Higgins campaign big checks and they tag teamed on the battle to remove Thruway tolls. But then Paladino took a powder, over Obamacare or his horse porn videos or some such thing. And now Higgins is at the top of Carl’s hit list.

Yeah, this is going to be good.

In the ongoing Battle of the Bands, Paladino has used seven of his companies to contribute $3,500 to the Kearns campaign. Higgins, meanwhile, has donated $4,550 to Fahey. Each has their people kicking in cash, as well.

It would be too simplistic to characterize the campaign as a proxy war between Higgins and Paladino. There’s a lot more to the race than that. But make no mistake, the 2012 edition of “South Buffalo Politics as a Blood Sport” is up for another showing.

The rest of the story? I’ll delve into that in Thursday’s blog post. Y’all come back now, ‘hear?