BUFFALO, N.Y. - Political observers say they've never seen anything like it for an election that draws about seven percent of city voters.
Suddenly, the Buffalo School Board election, which happens next week, has turned into a barrage of negative ads and mailers involving one of the region's best known and more controversial figures: Carl Paladino.
"This race is like none that I've ever seen before," Former Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan said. "This is definitely a unique situation."
Paladino, who promised to take a baseball bat to Albany when he ran for governor three years ago, is now running for Buffalo school board to take on the teacher's union, and it's likely he'll be elected. But it's the other races that are getting nasty.
"To stoop so low -- you would see this in a governor's race or a presidential race or a something of that magnitude. But for a school board race?" said incumbent candidate Jay McCarthy.
Someone is trying to tie McCarthy and several other candidates to Paladino using negative mailers. The mailers refer to the candidates as Paladino's "cronies" and remind voters of the racist and pornographic emails Paladino forwarded to friends before he ran for governor.
The mailers do not indicate who sent them.
REPORTER: Who do you think is sending them?
McCARTHY: Well, as I've stated before - let's not be fools. It's the union. They're afraid of losing their status quo. They're afraid we could possibly and definitely make changes in this district if we get the right people on this board. . . I'm a guy who is concerned about the greater good of my city. I have nothing to do with what Carl wants, or what Carl is, or what Carl has done in the past. It has nothing to do with me.
Former Democratic Chair Len Lenihan said whoever is sending the mailers believes they're working.
REPORTER: Could this -- will this end up backfiring?
LENIHAN: You know, I don't know because, again, it's a turnout factor. . . It may stimulate turnout on one side or the other. But it could backfire. On the other hand, if nobody votes except six or seven percent, which is sort of like the norm in school city election, it may not backfire.
The head of the Buffalo Teachers Federation has publicly said the union did not send the mailers or pay for them, but that he knew they were coming. NYSUT, which is the union for public school teachers in New York, did not return our phone call Friday. According to the Buffalo News, NYSUT would not say whether it was involved in the mailers.
The Buffalo School Board election is this Tuesday.