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Democrat Bernard A. Tolbert has told a top potential financier plus three other key sources that he will run for mayor this year, The Buffalo News has learned.

“He told me he is running,” said Hormoz Mansouri, a veteran Democratic activist and fundraiser, referring to a primary challenge to two-term incumbent Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Mansouri and another source, meanwhile, said they expect the former special agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the FBI to soon establish a campaign finance committee with the Erie County Board of Elections – possibly as early as this week. Several other sources, who asked not to be identified, said Monday that Tolbert continues to contact potential backers throughout the community, though no date for an official announcement has been set.

“Is he on board? Yes,” said one source, who asked not to be identified but who is close to the situation.

Tolbert repeated Monday what he has maintained during the last year – that he is interested in running and, as a result, is talking with and listening to potential supporters throughout the city.

“People see me running around town and at meetings, and I have no doubt they would logically say that,” he said of reports that he is running. “My position is that I’m doing that to get the best information I can. I’m spending a lot of time to see if this makes sense.”

Mansouri said Monday he has no real problems with Brown but is excited about the prospects of a Tolbert candidacy.

“I don’t know what chances he has, but I look at him as a qualified person,” said Mansouri, president of a local engineering firm. “But when he asked me if I would support him, I told him I saw no obstacles.”

Tolbert has avoided questions about a possible announcement, even as the calendar has now reached March. While Mansouri acknowledged that significant organizational and fundraising work lies ahead, he believes that Tolbert has plenty of time to mount a serious challenge.

Mansouri, who helped Brown in his first run for mayor in 2005, also acknowledged the mayor’s current $1.1 million campaign treasury.

“Byron definitely has the funding,” Mansouri said. “But that doesn’t mean Bernie can’t catch up in a very, very short period of time.

“I don’t think he needs to raise $1 million, but I don’t see why he can’t.”

In addition to the FBI post in Buffalo, Tolbert also has held top security posts with Coca-Cola in Atlanta and the National Basketball Association in New York.

Mansouri said that he is impressed with Tolbert’s law enforcement background and believes that it will emerge as a major selling point during the campaign.

“I believe a big issue is the safety and security of the public,” he said.

Mansouri also said Tolbert, 64, has established a vast network of contacts over the years – locally and internationally – who are willing to help finance his effort.

Brown, meanwhile, is viewed as a heavy favorite as he seeks a third term. He enters the race with a substantial lead not only in fundraising, but in organization, and will enjoy a host of advantages stemming from his incumbency.

Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey said Monday that no date has yet been selected for Brown’s official announcement but that it is expected soon.

Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez has also declared his candidacy.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com