I’m not a career politician. In fact, while I was a prime voter long before this campaign season, I’ve only recently met many of the local leaders of the Democratic Party.
I entered this race because I have the skills and experience to perform the duties of Comptroller well. It was unbelievable to me that a man with no experience or skill could hold this office, so I did something to try to improve this situation. That’s who I am. And I ran as a Democrat because that party best espouses my values.
So you can imagine my surprise when the Buffalo News refused to endorse my candidacy, even while admitting that Stefan had “not been a good comptroller,” and listing his ethics violation and governance issues at length. Their reason for not endorsing me? They believe it is necessary to elect a Republican for the sake of checks and balances, as the Executive is a Democrat. Even if that Republican is an incumbent who has shown himself completely unfit the office in numerous ways.
Only by accepting some deeply flawed logic does the endorsement the Buffalo News made seem rational. But any objective look reveals the absurdity of their conclusion. In their reasoning, the Buffalo News is choosing to ignore not only the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be wasted paying Stefan and his at-will staff for another four years of shoddy work, but it ignores the millions of dollars of county resources that Stefan has wasted and will waste conducting his ridiculous “audits” of compliant agencies while missing or ignoring actual fraud and waste. While he issues press release after press release about bed bugs, for example, nearly a million dollars missing in Verizon overcharges went undiscovered.
Allowing this kind of waste under the guise of checks and balances is obscene, but it also shows a lack of understanding of how local government works. The Buffalo News and its readers should know that the County Legislature is a body of government that serves as a check to the County Executive. The County Comptroller is a check on both of these bodies of government, as they both are an integral part of passing the budget. These are the checks and balances that exist inherently within the system, not the respective parties of the people who hold these offices.
As both a certified public accountant and an attorney, I am bound to follow the ethics rules that have been established for these professions. To suggest that my party affiliation would make me an ineffective Comptroller is an insult to the integrity with which I have run my campaign and everything that I have worked for in my professional life. This accusation adds insult to injury, as it’s clear that Stefan has refused to meaningfully audit Republican strongholds like the sheriff’s office and the Erie County Water Authority.
Let me be clear: The Buffalo News would prefer an unskilled, unethical Comptroller (whose record has shown him to be a laughingstock at best, a willful obstructer of progress at worst) to a CPA and attorney with no prior political entanglements, and a clean record, who happens to be a Democrat. Somehow, though, this concern did not arise when a (white, male) Democrat ran against Stefan in 2013. With fewer qualifications and tax issues on his record, somehow the challenger gained the Buffalo News Endorsement in that race.
Consider this strongly when deciding where to get your news.