Carl Paladino entered the Republican primary for New York’s 23rd Congressional District with a history of extreme statements, and the Buffalo real estate developer lived up to that reputation once the race started.
His campaign was marred by headlines about a 2021 WBEN interview in which he praised Adolf Hitler’s leadership, the sharing of a Facebook post associating the May 14 racist mass shooting at Tops with false flag operations, and a Breitbart radio show appearance in which he said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland should be executed for raiding Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Erin Heaney is executive director of Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national organization with a Buffalo chapter that mobilizes white people against racism.
Heaney was part of a broad coalition that successfully fought to get Paladino removed from the Buffalo school board in 2017, following racist comments in which he compared then-First Lady Michelle Obama to a gorilla.
So, for Heaney, watching Paladino get out to an early lead on primary night thanks in large part to the Buffalo suburbs of Erie County was “extremely disappointing.” Paladino’s nearly 32-point win in Erie County was then evaporated via Langworthy winning all six of the district’s Southern Tier counties.
“I think there can be a tendency to blame or look down on rural communities as a place where the most racism exists. It’s just not true,” Heaney said.
Heaney said the fact Erie County leans Democrat doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems with racism. She noted the county consistently elects Republican sheriffs “running on divide and conquer and law and order” despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by over 130,000.
“We like to think of ourselves as a progressive region, but what we’ve seen time and time again is that racism and white supremacy are alive and well in Erie County,” Heaney said. “And I think Carl’s success here is an indication of that.
“So I think those of us in Erie County have some real reckoning to do around racism in this county and a lot of work ahead of us.”