Last-minute attacks. Scurrilous rumors about sexual orientation. Dark, if misleading, talk about FBI probes. And, most of all, a shower of negative, negative, negative slingers.
Welcome to the final leg of Tuesday's primary in the high stakes, if decidely low road, political races in Erie County's suburbs.
"The truth is a killer sometimes," an unapologetic Frank C. Max said about the attack-dog tactics his splinter group of rebel Democrats is using in trying to dislodge Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak. "It's not negative. It's the truth."
Cheektowaga and Lackawanna are this primary season's two hottest suburban races, with Gabryszak fighting for his political survival against Councilman William P. Rogowski and Lackawanna Mayor Kathleen M. Staniszewski fending off John J. Kuryak, a former appointee.
Voters also will cast ballots in several lower-key suburban primaries Tuesday, among them town supervisor battles in West Seneca, Aurora and Elma, a primary for Amherst's first elected comptroller and contests for town justice in Amherst and Clarence.
By far, the most closely watched primary this season is in Cheektowaga -- home to the largest concentration of Democrats outside Buffalo and the scene of a vicious power struggle between party traditionalists backing Gabryszak and the renegade Progressive Democratics behind Rogowski.
The dissent does not bode well for the county Democratic Committee. Privately, insiders are worried the infighting will slice into the vote for County Executive Gorski in his tight re-election race against Joel A. Giambra, a Republican, in November.
Certainly, the primary is as dirty as Cheektowaga has seen for many years.
Although each candidate says he now is stressing positives, the negative stuff just keeps on coming.
A mailer last week claimed that Gabryszak's definition of the supervisor's duties involves "hanging out" with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, "hobnobing" with other celebrities and going on junkets to New York City, where he takes in Broadway shows instead of working.
"Town Board sessions? Nah. Too busy," the piece says. "Pays his property taxes? Sorry, I forgot."
Gabryszak says he, indeed, is friends with Kelly, but he sees nothing wrong with that, and that greeting celebrities like President Clinton when he's in town is part of the job.
He dismisses the mailer and its accusations as more "gutter" politics.
Still, the Gabryszak camp couldn't help but smile, privately at least, when Cheektowaga police publicly confirmed Friday they were investigating allegations that Max, a crew chief in the town's Sanitation-Recycling Department, strong-armed town employees into distributing literature for his candidates on town time.
"Nonsense," Max said of the allegations. "This comes right out of the Dennis' office. We expect this prior to an election."
The Rogowski camp, meanwhile, is whispering about an FBI probe involving a social service agency that, until recently, was linked to Cheektowaga town government.
Ellen Fischer, former director of the Community Action Partnership, confirms that an FBI probe is under way -- but says it involves a consultant who worked with the partnership, not the agency itself or the town.
She said her agency discovered what it believed were irregularities involving the consulting firm and asked for the FBI to investigate.
"It's just the (political) season," she said.
Lackawanna politicking hasn't been pretty, either.
Kuryak, who was city engineer until resigning to challenge his boss, has been accusing Ms. Staniszewski of ignoring the spirit of the city's new two-term limit by running for a third term.
He also says she has raised taxes 18 percent during her tenure, increased her own salary by $12,000 to more than $50,000 and is worsening the city's declining tax base.
"Kathy 'Double-Standard'zewski" he calls the mayor in a recent campaign piece.
Ms. Staniszewski contends Kuryak, 29, is a puppet for an "old boys network" that she says ran city government until she took the reins. Kuryak is promising them city jobs, she said.
"This isn't about good government," she said. "This is about jobs."
Still, what is being said on the quiet in this race is what's causing the most uproar.
Ms. Staniszewski says she has been dogged by rumors about her sexual orientation, which aside from being "nobody's business," she said, are also "unequivocably untrue.
"I'm 56 and the mother of four," she noted.
Kuryak says he has no knowledge of such rumors. Both say they are running clean campaigns but accuse the other of personal attacks which they defend themselves against in their literature.
A Staniszewski flier out this weekend braces voters for the other side's literature. "The slingers are coming . . . the slingers are coming!!" her mailer says. "Do not be influenced by the wild statements concerning my character and background."
Other races this Tuesday include:
For Cheektowaga Town Board, where incumbents James J. Jankowiak, Thomas M. Johnson Jr. and Jeffrey F. Swiatek are being challenged by Frank W. Orlikowski, James J. Makowski and Edward Kosmoski Jr. Lackawanna voters also decide a primary for City Council president, with Edward D. Tokarz, the incumbent, denied his party's endorsement, challenging Norman L. Polanski, the man chosen to replace him.
In Amherst, Town Justice Sam Maislin, a Democrat, and Geoffrey K. Klein will square off in Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence Party primaries.
In the race for the town's first elected comptroller, Michael A. Corsanti, a Democrat, and Lawrence Southwick Jr., a Republican, are seeking the Conservative Party's line.
In Aurora, Councilman Thomas E. Cotton and Robert E. Kell Jr. are vying for the Republican nomination in the race to succeed William J. Green, another Republican, who is retiring as supervisor.
In Clarence, Robert G. Sillars, the incumbent, and Samuel G. Puelo are battling over the Republican and Democratic nominations for town justice.
In Elma, Audrey B. Murdock, a Republican, and Robert M. Kuebler, a Democrat, are seeking the Independence Party nomination in the race for supervisor.
In West Seneca, Adrian R. Para, the endorsed Republican candidate, faces challenger William P. Malczewski for the party's nomination to run against Supervisor Paul Clark, a two-term Democrat, in November.