With former state Assemblyman Michael "Mickey" Kearns now serving as Erie County Clerk, voters will choose a replacement for the balance of his term in a special election Tuesday that pits school teacher Erik Bohen against County Legislator Patrick Burke.
While both Bohen and Burke are Democrats and would caucus with them in Albany if elected, Bohen is running as the candidate picked by Erie County Republicans and has their support.
The district encompasses all of Orchard Park and West Seneca, and also includes portions of Lackawanna and most of South Buffalo. Polls open Tuesday at 6 am and close at 9 pm. The winner would hold the seat until 2019.
While Bohen has emphasized education issues as his priority, and Burke speaks of water quality as the defining issue in the race, both of them-- and their surrogates- - have sparred over former Buffalo School Board Member Carl Paladino and whether he is a factor in the race.
While Bohen declined WBFO's invitation to join Burke in a joint interview, they each sat down to talk at length about Paladino, their views on state government and each other:
Bohen ran Paladino's most recent school board election and calls him a family friend, despite the racist remarks Paladino made about President and First Lady Obama in early 2017. The uproar around those remarks -- where Paladino wrote of wishing that Michelle Obama return to Africa and live with a gorilla -- sparked calls that eventually led to Paladino's removal from office.
Campaign mailers from a group called New York Forward and NYSUT both tied Bohen to Paladino and made note of his racially-charged remarks.
"What Carl said, I don't condone one bit," Bohen says, but acknowledges his personal relationship with Paladino.
Burke says he disavows the specific accusations in the mailer that call Bohen racist -- but does feel that Bohen's ties to Paladino are a relevant issue.