Buffalo in the ’90s: ‘Race for the White House ’92’ hits Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo was the epicenter of presidential politics for one weekend in 1992.

Each of the men remaining in the race for the Democratic nod to challenge President George H.W. Bush in the November election had agreed to come to Buffalo for a question-and-answer forum at Shea’s Buffalo.

During the weeks leading up to the March 1992 event, former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, former California Gov. (and now again the governor) Jerry Brown, and the front-runner, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, all agreed to attend the event.

Only days before the panel was set to convene, Tsongas dropped out of the race, leaving Clinton and Brown as the big names coming to Western New York and planning stops other than just the Shea’s event.

With story lines that might strike a chord with followers of the 2016 campaign, Clinton landed in Buffalo and was swept away to a $300-per-plate fundraiser hosted by Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Vince Sorrentino (far left), and Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski (far right), welcome Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton to Buffalo. (Buffalo News archives)

Meanwhile, Brown, the populist candidate who wouldn’t accept donations of more than $100, held his largest campaign event at the Broadway Market.

Presidential hopeful Jerry Brown speaks with Buffalo radio reporters Susan Rose of WBEN and George Richert of WWKB outside of the Broadway Market in 1992. (Buffalo News archives)

Clinton was also scheduled to make a stop at the Broadway Market that never materialized. But in the days long before instant access to information, my father decided it was a once-in-lifetime opportunity for him and me — as a high school freshman with a love of politics– to go see two men running for president on one day at one of Buffalo’s great venues.

Having been at the Brown event as a 14-year-old, it was exciting to see that I not only brushed arms with the man who is now governor of California, but also with people like Susan Rose and George Richert, both of whom I met the following year at WBEN.

While doing the research for this piece, I was surprised and excited to see a photo of those two — but words can’t explain my delight in finding a photo of my late father standing next to Brown inside the vestibule at the market. I’m sure I was standing next to my dad — it’s probably best for everyone that the photographer’s lens didn’t manage to capture my teenage awkwardness there.

The author’s father, Steve Cichon (dark glasses & mustache), about to shake hands with Jerry Brown at the Broadway Market in 1992. (Buffalo News archives)

“See, your ol’ man does all right,” I can imagine my dad saying, had he the chance to see this photo — a part of the history of Buffalo, the Broadway Market, presidential politics and my family.

Then-Syracuse Post-Standard reporter Patrick Lakamp (trench coat) on assignment covering presidential hopeful Jerry Brown crossing New York State. Lakamp has worked for The News since 1997 and is now the paper’s enterprise editor.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. The operator of Buffalo Stories Tours writes about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo special at blog.buffalostories.com and daily at buffalonews.com/history. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor and produced PBS documentaries. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.