Right about now a lot of attention is focused on Congressional maps, on Assembly and Senate redistricting, on the yet to be determined final final petition and primary calendar for 2012. But against this backdrop, things are already stirring out in Cheektowaga for what promises to be a high energy political season come 2013, when voters will go to the polls to elect three Town Board members.
Rick Zydel this week will announce that he will be a candidate for one of the three available Town Board seats next year. He has planned a “Friend Raiser” campaign event on Thursday, March 29 from 5:30-7:30 PM at the Donovan Post on Genesee St in Cheektowaga. Zydel was the hard luck loser in the 2011 elections, where a bad ballot position placed his name against the lone Green Party candidate. He works as a Contract Officer for the Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, and locally is very involved and popular with the Town’s veterans and firemen organizations. “I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, and despite the disappointment of that election, I have always had a strong calling for public service and government, and know that I can continue to be an effective member of the Cheektowaga Town Board,” said Zydel. “I am beyond gratified that so many friends and supporters have reached out to me and encouraged me to make a comeback. This time we will do things differently. This will be a campaign of ideas, of listening, of responding to the wants and needs of our constituents and voters.”
Zydel is just one of the names being mentioned. Two of the incumbents, Jim Rogowski and Stan Kaznowski, are both expected to seek re-elections to new terms. The third incumbent, Patricia Jaworowicz, has not formally announced her plans, but many expect her to retire after a long and successful tenure on the Town Board. She was a pioneer of sorts, elected as the first woman ever to the Cheektowaga Council back in 1981.
Diane Benczkowski, who ran unsuccessfully twice for town office, has also announced plans to run. She is planning her own kick off fund raising event on March 22, and her potential candidacy is garnering more than a bit of attention. Benczkowski works as a real estate associate in the private sector, and is also an elected member of the Depew School Board. Tim Meyers, a Supervisor with the NFTA, has announced that he is interested in running. The Meyers name is well known since his father, Ken Meyers, served as Town Supervisor and Town Democratic Chair. Meyer’s wife Valerie works at Town Hall as confidential secretary to the Council. Meyers held a campaign workers party back in December, an intimate gathering of 50 or so family members and friends, where he set his plans into motion.
Then there is former Town Justice Tom Kolbert. After over two decades on the bench, Kolbert lost his re-election in his 2011 attempt, and in recent weeks has shared with friends his desire to run for the Council.
So count ’em… six candidates on the ballot as of now. And the ’13 Primary is still 15 months or so away.
The Cheektowaga Democratic organization is reeling after a multi year string of losses and setbacks. In 2007, the organization backed Paul Clark for Erie County Executive. Clark flamed out in the primary to Jim Keane, setting the stage for a Chris Collins victory. In 2008, the committee’s colorful Chairman, Frank Max, announced his plans to oppose Len Lenihan for Erie County Democratic Chair. Lenihan responded by organizing committee fights in 70 of the Town’s 111 election districts. Max lost his own committee seat, hung on to retain the Town Chair, but the costly and bruising battle left the town committee in tatters. In 2009, Cheektowagans united behind their favorite son John Glascott for his run for Erie County Sheriff. Despite well publicized incidents of mismanagement at the jail and the troubled tenure of incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard, Glascott’s run amazingly fell short. Then in 2010, the Cheekdems leadership backed highly unpopular 30 year incumbent Bill Stachowski for re-election to another term on the State Senate. Challenger Tim Kennedy, aided by the quiet support of many rank and file committee people, demolished Stachowski in the primary. Kennnedy went on to win the Senate seat in November.
They have not fared much better locally. The Cheekdems lost both Town Justice seats. In 2010 incumbent Judge Jim Vallone lost his seat to Dennis Delano. The following year, Tom Kolbert lost all five primaries, and thus the election, to challenger Paul Piotrowski. And, for only the second time in a generation, a Republican won a seat on the Council. Incumbent Supervisor Mary Holtz hung on for dear life to narrowly win re-election as Supervisor. All this, happening in a town where enrolled Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 32,000 to 14,000.
The last time there was a Primary in Cheektowaga for any Town Board seats was way back in 2001. “Maybe a good old fashioned knock out drag out Primary is something we absolutely could use,” says one Zone Leader who represents a section of southeast Cheektowaga. “When the party bosses cherry pick the slate sometimes you get bad candidates. Look what happened we lost a town board seat that was unthinkable back in the day. I say the more that run the better. We Democrats will nominate the best we have amongst our group, candidates who will effectively compete against whatever the Republicans throw at us.”