Watkins says he’s living in 1st Ward
Admits to owning house in HamburgBy Jay Tokasz
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
September 15, 2011:
Lackawanna mayoral primary unofficially separated by one vote
Updated: September 15, 2011, 7:57 AM
Lackawanna mayoral hopeful Dion J. Watkins acknowledged Wednesday that he owns a home in the Town of Hamburg, but he maintained that since April he has resided full time in a church-owned house in the city’s 1st Ward.
Watkins’ stunning showing in the Democratic primary Tuesday —when he finished the night a single vote behind Geoffrey M. Szymanski, with 148 absentee ballots outstanding — brought the simmering residency issue to the forefront.
The city’s charter requires only that city employees become residents of Lackawanna within six months of the date of initial service and maintain residency for the duration of city employment.
But current Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr., who endorsed Szymanski as his successor, called it a “a definite shortcoming of the code” and suggested Wednesday it was not ethical for Watkins to run for office without having been a full-time resident of the city for at least the past two years.
Watkins shrugged off the criticism, saying it was an attempt to distract voters from real problems facing the city.
“It’s not an issue for me. Obviously, if you run for mayor, you’ve got to live in Lackawanna,” Watkins said.
In 2005, Watkins purchased a house with Latisha N. Dixon on Meadow Run in Hamburg, according to real estate transaction records tracked by The Buffalo News. Listing a Washington Street address, he has been registered to vote continuously in Lackawanna at least since 2002, according to Erie County Board of Elections records.
Watkins also works as a teacher in the Lackawanna School District and is pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church on Wasson Avenue.
“I’m always at Wasson, I’m always in Lackawanna,” he said. “Everything I do is in Lackawanna.”
When he announced his run for mayor, Watkins said he decided to make the church house his domicile.
“It was never a secret that I own property in Hamburg,” he said. “I can do that. It’s my right to.”
Szymanski leads Watkins by 1,468 to 1,467 votes in the four-man race for the Democratic line on the November ballot. Chuck Jaworski finished third with 776 votes and Patrick A. McCusker fourth with 179 votes, according to unofficial results from the Board of Elections.
Absentee and military ballots
won’t be tallied until seven to 10 days after the primary, respectively, according to state election law. Currently, the Board of Elections has 148 absentee ballots, but others may arrive in the mail within the next several days and still be valid.
“I’m just excited,” said Watkins, who was expected to be a long-shot candidate against City Council veterans Szymanski and Jaworski. “We were able to run with the machines. And it wasn’t just me. People are ready for change. The people spoke yesterday.”
If Watkins loses the primary, though, his chances to seize the mayor’s seat will fade dramatically because he does not have another party line to fall back on in the general election.
Meanwhile, Szymanski will still be able to use the Conservative Party line—and he plans to do so if the Democratic primary votes don’t fall his way.
“I still believe I’m going to be the next mayor of Lackawanna,” said Szymanski. “I love this city too much to just forfeit to someone with no political experience who doesn’t live in the city.”“
[McCusker, who won the Republican primary, also will be on the November ballot. He said he will wait to see the final results of the primary before determining how active his general election campaign will be.
McCusker expressed less concern about where Watkins lives and owns property.
“It’s not troublesome if he’s going to do a positive job,” McCusker said. “He has ties to the City of Lackawanna. He has experience with you in the city.”
Longtime resident and former city employee Walter M. Seres has pledged to run on the Time for Change line.
Read that large line and it sounds like we have another Arrogant ASS in the house. All this coming from the residency experts of the city LOL. Would the Buffalo NEWS ask Norm and Geoff why the Commish of Public Works and The City attorney don't live in Lackawanna. What about your former Empire Zone Director BILLY EAGAN for god sakes he was the Director of the Empire Zone in Lackawanna and THE SUPERVISOR OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON AT THE SAME TIME!!!! You guys are a JOKE!!!!!BTW look at your ward Geoff and tell me what YOUR political expierence has done to it!!! Maybe you should do something worthwhile before you open your mouth.