Don’t tell Sergio R. Rodriguez that Tuesday’s Democratic primary signaled the end of the mayor’s race.
Rodriguez, a Republican, isn’t fazed by the fact that city voters haven’t elected someone from the GOP to lead the city in the last half-century.
“We’re just getting started,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, now is the real fight.”
Rodriguez’s opponent, Mayor Byron W. Brown, won easily against Bernard A. Tolbert, former special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI, with 68 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. Brown has won endorsements from the city’s political heavyweights, and has the advantages of incumbency, with resources to spare. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has nominal support from city Republicans, and none from the county GOP, and is fighting for votes in a city where there are seven Democrats for every Republican.
“It’s a very uphill race,” said Bob Davis, former Erie County Republican chairman who owns an advertising firm.
Rodriguez might be working hard and making noise, but Brown, with his bully pulpit and his campaign commercials, will be able to control the message, Davis said.
In his first and only challenge to Brown so far, as a write-in candidate in a Conservative primary, Rodriguez is six votes behind, but there are absentee ballots still to count, and the results won’t be official until next week, Rodriguez said.
The former Marine and Medaille College administrator announced his campaign in February, with no known Republicans by his side. Since then, his list of endorsements from established politicians hasn’t grown.
He has little in the way of campaign funds, and though he has been going door-to-door since his announcement and participated in pre-primary debates, he remains unknown to nearly two out of five voters, according to a poll earlier this month.
He says he brings to the race a sense of urgency, energy and passion, and that an opportunity to provide competition shouldn’t be squandered in a democracy.
To that end, his campaign has issued statements or held news conferences every day since the primary, from challenging Brown to debates, to being critical of City Hall following a startling audit from Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder on the finances of Erie Basin Marina and the Hatch Restaurant.
It doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is watching.
Saturday, Rodriguez held a very sparsely attended news conference – just one reporter showed up – explaining his support for mayoral control of the city school district at East High School. He also quickly rattled off the issues he is planning to focus on in the coming weeks, including the plights of cab drivers and tow truck drivers and the need for a public advocate and a veterans’ office in City Hall.
The lack of media attention doesn’t seem to bother him. He believes the race will be won through his activities on the ground, and in personal contacts with voters, he said. He is beginning a 30-day tour of Buffalo neighborhoods, and voters will be able to follow along online. His online activity and use of social networking has been a hallmark of his campaign.