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For the Democrats, chalk it up as a good but not great year. For the Republicans, let the record show they preserved the status quo after narrowly averting disaster.

And the Conservative Party just missed pulling off one of the huge upsets in modern political history.

But the big political news of 1990 was the disaffection among voters. They stayed home by the hundreds of thousands as participation in the Sept. 11 primary and Nov. 6 general elections hit record lows in Erie County and the rest of the state.

It was a year in which Democratic Gov. Cuomo captured a third term in a not-too-impressive showing. And it was a year in which a divided Republican Party managed to retain a majority in the State Senate and its major-party status.

The latter was narrowly accomplished as Pierre A. Rinfret, the GOP candidate, outpolled Herbert London, the Conservative Party nominee, 22 percent to 21 percent in the election for governor. Had London finished ahead of Rinfret, the GOP would have lost Row B on the ballot and reverted to minor-party status for the next four years.

Cuomo's victory was blunted by the modest 53 percent share of the vote he received, a 12 percent plunge from the record 65 percent in his '86 second-term victory.

The state's fiscal problems hurt Cuomo. State taxes and fees were raised by $1.8 billion in the spring and Cuomo and the Legislature were forced this month to cut spending by $1 billion to cope with a new budget gap that threatens to grow even wider in 1991.

Cuomo's national standing as a prospective presidential candidate in 1992 wasn't enhanced by his re-election victory. Nor was it seriously damaged. Almost two years before the next presidential election, Cuomo is high on the list of prospective Democratic contenders, but still ambiguous about his intentions.

Locally, 1990 started with attention riveted on the FBI investigation of corruption in Buffalo Mayor Griffin's Parks Department. As the year ends, the probe is nearing completion and two top officials of the department are reported to be cooperating with a federal grand jury that is expected to return indictments.

Another major problem for the Griffin administration as the year ends is a crime wave in Buffalo that has made many residents, especially those on the East Side, afraid to leave their homes.

One of the significant local developments was the resignation of Victor N. Farley as Erie County Republican chairman and the election of Assemblyman Thomas M. Reynolds of Springville as his successor. Reynolds faces the daunting task of finding a viable candidate to run against County Executive Gorski, a Democrat who is expected to run for re-election this year.

Gorski is almost certain to be attacked during the campaign for not reducing the 8 percent sales tax and for raising real property taxes in his first two budgets. But he will argue that retention of the 1 percent sales tax increase, voted in 1985 before he became county executive, was necessary to cope with the financial mess he inherited from the Republican administration.

For 1991, a year in which he will be running, Gorski has pushed through a budget that carries an average real property tax rate cut of 4.8 percent.

One of Gorski's major accomplishments in 1990 was the out-front, activist role he played in saving the area's public transportation system.

While officials in Buffalo -- the local political subdivision most dependent on public transportation -- dragged their feet until almost the last moment, Gorski led the effort that put in place a dedicated source of revenue for the cash-starved Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. It was a politically risky but courageous display of leadership.

Vincent J. Sorrentino, the Erie County Democratic chairman, consolidated his power in 1990 by winning a second term.

But Joseph F. Kelly, who was re-elected chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party, is engulfed in a legal challenge that threatens his continued tenure.

An anti-Kelly faction led by George A. Vossler, a former chairman, and William Delmont, a Lackawanna weekly newspaper publisher, has gone to court in an effort to void Kelly's re-election.
David Pfaff, executive director of the Erie County Democratic Committee, and Cindy Slisz are engaged to be married. She's the daughter of County Personnel Commissioner and Mrs. Richard Slisz.
Janice Kowalski Kelly has been elected leader of the Cheektowaga Republican Town Committee, succeeding Valerie A. Leuthe, who had held the job more than eight years. Mrs. Leuthe did not seek re-election.

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