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Activists take action: many vie for positions on the ballot ahead of June primaries in New York

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 18:40:55-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The heavy protest activity over the summer hasn’t died down.

In fact, some of the most prominent voices are using that momentum to attempt to make change on the other side of things.

Activist Myles Carter had a viral interaction with police over the summer that made him a household name in Buffalo.

“I was giving an interview to another news agency and I was tackled from behind by, I believe it was 6 buffalo police officers mixed in with state troopers,” he said. “I assert my civil rights were violated that night.”

But, long before that night, Carter said he was well known in the community he served in Buffalo.

He tells 7 Eyewitness News he is active in at his children’ school, helped secure funding for a playground in an underserved neighborhood, and even helped establish a domestic violence shelter for women in Buffalo.

Now, Carter is running on the democratic ticket for Erie County Sheriff.

He said he’s worked with police on some of his past initiatives — much like his contemporary Dominique Calhoun who is also running for and Erie County office.

She was pushed to run because she said many of the events over the past year hit close to home.

“Such as my fiancee, young men I’ve helped raise over the past 7 years in the community— their interactions with police. As well as the Quentin SUttles incident,” she said.

Calhoun is hoping to get on the ballot for the 1st legislative district of the Erie County Legislature.

“It’s time for new blood in office so we can get some of these changes done,” said Calhoun. “We need people who aren’t afraid to speak out and speak up. To hold people accountable. To allocate the needed funds to add value back to our community.”

Both Carter and Calhoun have declared their intentions to run for these county-wide offices, but that doesn’t mean their names will just appear on the ballot.

The petition process to get onto the ballot will start next month, and some changes to that process have made it more accessible, said Jeremy Zellner the Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman.

“You used to have to be able to get 5% of the voters (to sign a petition), you have to now get 1.5%”

Carter said that will be the easy part for him.

“For the sheriff of Erie County it requires 600 signatures. I’ve got more friends than that that like my page on Facebook.”

Going door-to-door for petitions may not be possible this election cycle with concerns over the coronavirus still prevalent throughout the community.

Zellner also said it is going to be a tough year for Democrats to run for office.

“You know, one of the issues is, frankly, the republican party has suppressed the vote here for decades by not running anyone in the City of Buffalo for any office,” said Zellner. “You know, they won't have a mayoral candidate this year. They won't have county legislator candidates in the city running this year at all. And so there'll be no races for people to come out and have a choice in the fall.”

Carter is running on a platform that includes accountability for deputies and correctional officers in the jails. He wants to bring the principal of Cariol’s Law to the jail system.

“We’re going to give sheriff’s deputies and the corrections officers the ability to speak out against the crimes and violations that are going on against the inmates within the Erie County Holding Center,” said Carter.

“With that… process, we’ll get a lot of traction in making sure we’re able to clean up the culture that exists and allow people to express themselves and do their job better for sure.”

Calhoun wants to see police reform as well, but said her ideas center around housing and homeownership as well as equal education.

She thinks people will come out to vote because the events of the past year have helped people understand how much local offices impact day to day lives for Western New York residents.

“It’s not just about voting in an national election,” said Calhoun. “We want to make sure we’re coming out voting in the local elections, ‘cause it’s really what affects your everyday life — the sheriff’s race, the legislator’s race, the city court judges… those are going to be the people that decide our everyday fates.”

The ECDC has not endorsed any candidates at this point, although some candidate are vying for its endorsement.