The Reform Party comes to life in Erie County; local campaigns feature serious contests

In 1996 presidential candidate Ross Perot ran for president on the Reform Party line. He lost and the party disappeared.

Rob Astorino ran as the Stop Common Core Party candidate in last year’s gubernatorial election. The party barely made it over the 50,000 vote threshold, but they earned the right to exist as a party in New York State for four years. Earlier this year Astorino allies changed the name of the party to Reform. Evidently they thought that “Reform” is a more generic name. What the party is trying to reform is anyone’s guess.

Reform will occupy the seventh line on your election ballot this year, so it is not like it is highlighted. But it adds to the identification of a candidate, sort of like the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts getting merit badges. For example, John Smith (R,C,I,REF).

As I wrote on July 17th, a new party in the first year of its existence can nominate candidates without petitions or primaries. The process is called Certificates of Nomination. Since there are no county committees for the Reform party, the certificates need to be issued by whatever exists of a state structure of the party, which is probably located in some office in Westchester County where Astorino loyalists hold forth.

The Erie County Board of Elections has a page on its website listing candidates for office this year who have received Certificates of Nomination. There are 82 all together, all filed on the same date in late August. The Board’s website has this disclaimer attached to the top of the list of candidates:

The documents listed on this page are for reference only. Filing of a document with the Erie County Board of Elections does not guarantee acceptable format for candidacy.

As a result the official list of candidates will be available after any objection and/or court proceedings have concluded. All candidate names are listed as they appear on Certificate of Nomination.

If I didn’t know better I would assume that Justice Dennis Ward snuck back into his old office at the BOE to write that.

The BOE lists 82 candidates as having Certificates of Nomination for the Reform party.  By coincidence, each of those candidates also appears to be the Republican candidate for the offices they are seeking. It makes you wonder, did they all have to travel to Westchester to be interviewed by the Astorino-ites; or did they just fill out some kind of questionnaire? Were they asked if they supported the views of the Reform Party? And while I’m raising questions, what happened to the other 100 or so local Republican candidates who did not receive a Certificate of Nomination? Were they in favor of common core or some other issue that is contrary to the principles of the Reform Party?

Going into the November elections, assuming the local Reform candidates survive “any objection and/or court proceedings,” those candidates will have the support of the people enrolled in the Reform Party. As of September 1, 2015, the number of voters in Erie County affiliated with the Reform party totals: 0.

So go forth yea Reform Party candidates, and begin the reform of Erie County, Alden, Amherst, Clarence, Tonawanda and so on.

It should be noted that the other minor party created last year by Governor Cuomo’s campaign, the Women’s Equality Party, has not yet issued any Certificates of Nomination for 2015. They have until September 15th. At that point we will probably know if the party will be created or if it has passed out of existence.

Local campaigns heat up

It is impossible to avoid it. The presidential election is 438 days away but by the way the newspapers and TV are covering things you would think that we will be voting next week. In the 1960 election John F. Kennedy announced his candidacy in January 1960!

Odd-numbered years are “off years.” Fewer people pay attention to the local contests. Fewer people will vote. Next month’s primary election in Erie County will be lucky to draw out 10 to 15 percentage of the party faithful. The way things are going, November won’t be a whole lot better.

There are 210 separate elections in Erie County this year, from County Executive to receiver of taxes. Many of the elections have one candidate, and in others there may be more than one name on the ballot but everyone knows who is going to win. Multiply the Erie County elections by the hundreds more throughout Western New York and the entire state and you really have democracy in action.

There is a tradition of devotion to local interests over national interests that has carried on since the founding of the Republic.  In at least some of the localities in Western New York, control of those local interests is fierce.

Maybe nowhere else in WNY are local elections a form of blood sport than in the Town of Cheektowaga. The Democratic voters who go to the polls on September 10th will select their candidate for town supervisor, three council seats and the highway superintendent. The winners of those primaries will likely go on to win election in November given Cheektowaga’s heavy Democratic bend. And the men or women elected will run Cheektowaga for the next four years.

In keeping with the great tradition of the Town, the Democrats are generally aligned into factions, one being presently aligned with Town Chair (and Highway Superintendent) Mark Wegner. The other faction is led by former Chair Frank Max.

The Wegner team is supporting Diane Benczkowski for supervisor, so of course the other team is for Alice Magierski. The Wegner team is supporting Stanley Kaznowski, Linda Hammer and Richard Zydel for town council, so the Max team is supporting incumbents Christine Adamczyk and Gerald Kaminski, along with Steven Specyal. A seventh candidate, Kenneth Young, appears to be on his own. Wegner is challenged for highway superintendent by Jerzy Galazka. Regardless of how low the overall turnout will be in the countywide primary for Family Court (the only countywide primary), Cheektowagans will turn out in large numbers.

There is a three-way Democratic primary in Amherst for two council seats. Former board member and Town Clerk Debbi Bucki, who has already demonstrated her competency for public office, is one of the endorsed candidates, along with Fran Spoth. The third candidate is Hadar Borden.

In Buffalo there are two Democratic primaries for City Council, one in the Fillmore District and the other in Masten. Look for Dave Francyzk to win easily over Sam Herbert and Joseph Mascia. The Masten District, however, is a little more interesting.

There are three candidates in Masten, Ulysees Wingo Sr., Buffalo School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, and Lamone Gibson. Wingo has the support of Grassroots.

In Niagara County there are primaries for mayor in Niagara Falls and Lockport. Mayor Paul Dyster has done an effective job of running the City of Niagara Falls and is seeking his second term.

Roger Sherrie, the endorsed Democratic candidate in Lockport, is a good fellow who I worked with in the 2002 McCall for Governor campaign. Roger joined alderman-at-large candidate Joe O’Shaughnessy and treasurer candidate Sue Mawhiney at a well-attended event last Saturday.

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