Women Coun­cil can­di­dates claim ‘sex­ist pol­i­tics’ spurs pe­ti­tion chal­lenges

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Robert J. McCarthy

Five women can­di­dates look­ing to break the all-male hold on the Com­mon Coun­cil charged Tues­day that chal­lenges to their des­ig­nat­ing pe­ti­tions stem from “the Erie County po­lit­i­cal ma­chine” prac­tic­ing “sex­ist pol­i­tics at its worst.”

The five Coun­cil can­di­dates – Ber­nice Ra­dle, Kathryn Franco, An­toinette Craig, Tina San­ders and Me­lanie McMa­han – have been run­ning as a slate as they gath­ered sig­na­tures and sub­mit­ted pe­ti­tions over the past few weeks.

But their pe­ti­tions are un­der­go­ing scru­tiny at the Board of Elec­tions af­ter com­mit­tee mem­bers in the var­i­ous Coun­cil dis­tricts cited flaws and filed ob­jec­tions.

While chal­lenges to pe­ti­tions re­main a stan­dard part of the bal­lot qual­i­fi­ca­tion process, the fe­male can­di­dates say more is in­volved.

“A se­ries of friv­o­lous and un­war­ranted pe­ti­tion chal­lenges have been filed against our cam­paigns in what will amount to a failed at­tempt to knock us off the June pri­mary bal­lot,” the five women said. “This is an ef­fort to block five women from run­ning for Com­mon Coun­cil so that their five male op­po­nents may sail smoothly to vic­tory, un­chal­lenged and unchecked.”

Diana Ci­hak, founder and board pres­i­dent of a group called WomenElect that seeks more fe­male of­fice-hold­ers, said Tues­day her group has worked hard this elec­tion sea­son to re­cruit and train fe­male can­di­dates – es­pe­cially for the all-male Coun­cil. They were as­sisted by the Baker Project, an off­shoot of the Demo­cratic-linked Eleanor’s Legacy – for con­sult­ing and cir­cu­lat­ing pe­ti­tions.

She said Democrats choos­ing can­di­dates in the five Coun­cil dis­tricts would not con­sider fe­male can­di­dates.

“The fact of the mat­ter is that the Demo­cratic Party, which only has the abil­ity to elect peo­ple to the Com­mon Coun­cil, en­dorsed only male can­di­dates,” she said, in­clud­ing two open seats.

While most Demo­cratic lead­ers em­pha­size their sup­port for women can­di­dates, Ci­hak ques­tioned that com­mit­ment on a lo­cal level.

“We would like to think that but there is not much ev­i­dence of that in Buf­falo,” she said.

Erie County Demo­cratic Chair­man Jeremy J. Zell­ner, who is also Demo­cratic elec­tions com­mis­sioner, said he will match his record for pro­mot­ing fe­male can­di­dates against any­one.

But he also said it ap­peared some of the pe­ti­tions sub­mit­ted by the women were “not valid on their face” be­cause they did not fol­low the law.

Now he said a process in­clud­ing pub­lic hearings and pos­si­ble court ac­tion must play out, but hinted the group is aligned with fac­tions that con­tinue to op­pose party head­quar­ters.

“These can­di­dates go out and work hard and pay con­sul­tants for bad advice, and that’s a shame,” Zell­ner said.

NASA photo

Owen Gar­riott on the Sky­lab space sta­tion in 1973.

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