The numbers are in. There are bragging rights for both parties. Here are a few observations about the 2017 elections:
- The Republicans held on to what they had, with wins by Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard and Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. They will fill the County Clerk’s Office for the completion of former Republican Clerk Chris Jacobs’ term by electing Mickey Kearns. There will be another race for that office next year for a full four-year term.
- Howard’s margin of victory (51-49) was very small.
- Kearns’ margin was also small (4 percent) while Mychajliw’s margin (10 percent) was the best of the countywide group.
- None on the countywide victors ran anywhere near what was projected in private polling.
- The election turnout was better than expected, but still an anemic 35 percent. The turnout in Buffalo was just 27 percent. If the Buffalo turnout had just matched the suburban and rural turnouts it is likely that both Bernie Tolbert and Steve Cichon would have been elected. It wasn’t too long ago that turnouts of about 60 percent in local elections were common.
- The Democrats won control of the County Legislature with impressive wins by Tom Loughran and John Bruso. Guy Marlette substantially outspent Loughran and used a lot of his campaign funds in a highly negative campaign, but it did not work. Ted Morton also ran an incredibly negative campaign.
- An ugly campaign also occurred in the 10th District when Joseph Lorigo was re-elected by a healthy margin.
- Democrats had some important victories in town elections. Jim Shaw will be the new Supervisor in Hamburg and Brian Kulpa will take over in Amherst Town Hall.
- Republicans won three seats on the Hamburg Board but they lost the highway superintendent race. Amherst will have an entire Democratic Board , with Democrats Jacqui Berger and Shawn Lavin winning seats.
- The Town of Tonawanda, under the Democratic Party leadership of John Crangle, once again elected all Democrats to Town offices.
- Erin Baker raised $88,776 in her losing campaign for the Amherst Town Board. Of that amount, she transferred $30,750 to the Erie County Republican Committee which is chaired by her husband, Nick Langworthy. Transfers of funds to a County Committee from local candidates for things such as mailers and petitions are not unusual, but this is an extraordinary amount of money and obviously was not just for such things. Baker’s Amherst Council Republican running mate Joseph Spino, for example, only transferred $7,550 to the County Committee.
- Oh yeah, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was re-elected to a fourth term.
- And oh yeah, several judges were elected without opposition.
That’s about it. The countywide turnout of 35 percent was better than the 25 percent in 2015 but still was not great. A review of the turnout by parties will show that the Democrats did substantially better than the Republicans in getting their people out. That bodes well for 2018.
Elections, of course, provide bragging rights for political parties as well as candidates. There are two ways of looking at this year’s numbers.
Republicans won all the countywide offices, despite a huge Democratic enrollment edge. So yay for them.
But Democrats can and will claim that the Republicans already held all those offices and will point out the difficulty of removing incumbent non-executive officeholders in County Hall. There has only been one incumbent elected sheriff defeated in Erie County in more than fifty years. The last elected incumbent county comptroller to be defeated was in 1963.
So on to 2018. We could be in for a very competitive year for state offices. We could be in for a year where the Trumpification of the Republican campaigns might spread vitriolic campaigning from Buffalo to Montauk. The defeat of two Republican County Legislature candidates and the closeness of the countywide races may indicate that voters are turned off by the Trump negativity. We’ll see. The Trump-Bannon style was test-marketed here this year, but it came up short. Fasten your seat belts.