BUFFALO, N.Y. - When he ran for governor in 2010, Buffalo Developer Carl Paladino drew big cheers when he promised to use his baseball bat to clean up Albany. Three years later, his new target is Buffalo's Board of Education, which he wants to join as an elected member.
Paladino's latest foray into politics is shaping up to be one the biggest political stories of the year in the region, with many wondering what Paladino will do and say during the campaign as well as what the board will be like if he is elected to it.
Political Strategist Michael Caputo, a Channel 2 contributor who previously ran Paladino's campaign for governor, expects Paladino to shake things up as a board member.
REPORTER: How likely is it that Carl is actually going to win this race?
CAPUTO: I think it's a metaphysical certitude. I think if Carl Paladino wants this seat on the school board, it's his for the taking.
Paladino has previously tried to shake up the board as a private citizen. Last summer, he sued the board to stop the hiring of its new Superintendent. And this week he was kicked out of their meeting for criticizing school officials by name.
Two days later, Paladino is now calling on Board Member Ralph Hernandez to resign, in part because of his ties to the teachers' union. Hernandez told 2 On Your Side by phone that Paladino had left him a "disturbing" voice message Friday, and that the attorney for the school board, after listening to the message, advised Hernandez not to say anything publicly about Paladino.
Paladino, who would not speak to us for this story, has promised to turn his attention to other board members in the coming days.
Board Member John Licata, who expects Paladino to be elected by a wide margin, said Paladino could be a great asset to the board, especially given his passion for helping city children.
REPORTER: Do you think you and the other board members are going to be work constructively with him if he is elected?
LICTATA: Absolutely. Carl Paladino is one vote out of nine. And the way that the school board dynamic is is that everybody has a voice. Everybody has a vote. It's not weighted votes. It's not like the electoral college. You have one vote, and if you're going to get anything done constructively, you have to work together.
The head of the Buffalo teachers' union says Paladino is unfit for the job, pointing to the racist and sexually inappropriate emails Paladino forwarded to friends shortly before he ran for governor.
"The thought of having a man who sent out emails with a horse sexually attacking a woman, with gender-on-gender sex, full frontal nudity, African Americans being attacked by a plane, is repulsive," said Buffalo Federated Teachers President Phil Rumore. "And I would hope that the people in his district would say: 'No, this is not the kind of person that we want on a school board where our children look up to him.'"
Caputo expects Paladino to take on the teachers' union.
REPORTER: Do you think he's going to be the type of board member that brings a flame thrower to the place, or is he going to use his stature and power to move the board in certain directions?
CAPUTO: I think you'll see a little of both. I think you'll see a little flame thrower. I think you'll see a lot of finesse. I mean, Carl is not averse to using the flame thrower when he wants to. And you've seen it already in his dealings with the school board, as recently as this week.