Republican Joel A. Giambra scored a double victory Tuesday in the Republican and Independence primaries in an early test of his candidacy against County Executive Gorski, while Democratic contests in Buffalo will mean six new faces on the Common Council in producing a strong win for Common Council President James W. Pitts and a narrow victory for State Sen. Anthony R. Nanula in the three-way race for the nomination for comptroller
At the end of a light turnout day, Democratic voters in Lackawanna selected John J. Kuryak, denying Mayor Kathleen M. Staniszewski the party's nomination for a third term, while in another hotly contested race, Cheektowaga Democrats lined up strongly behind incumbent Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak.
But the big story of the night was Giambra's smashing victories in both the GOP and Independence contests, providing the onetime Democrat with instant credibility and new momentum against a powerful three-term incumbent. With all but a handful of districts reporting, Giambra rolled over Republican opponent Jeffrey L. Baran, 19,759 to 9,636, majority of a 67 percent to 33 percent.
In the Independence Party primary, Giambra won big -- 955 to 536 or 64 percent to 36 percent -- in his first head-to-head match against Gorski. While only a handful of the party's 7,900 voters went to the polls, the victory not only provided Giambra with the No. 3 line on the November ballot, but also forces even his skeptics to view him as a potential threat to Gorski's 12-year reign in the Rath Building.
"It was a stunning victory," Giambra said. "It was a referendum on hope. It was a referendum on opportunity. Voters from both the Republican and Independence parties stood up and said we're not going to accept the status quo anymore."
"It's huge," Robert E. Davis, chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, added of the Independence results.
"We said from the outset that if we won it would be a major upset," Davis said. "But to win by a landslide proportion means the Giambra message is working."
In Buffalo, Pitts withstood a strong and well-financed campaign by Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, holding his own in white districts like Delaware while piling up the votes in his African-American base. The Council president, first elected to the Council in 1977, another watershed year, trounced Franczyk 21,312 to 13,484, or 61 percent to 39 percent.
In what may have ranked as the most closely followed race in Buffalo this primary victory this fall, Pitts said he won by connecting with voters.
"I think it was a message we strived to give, a positive message," he said. "I've always been positive, and people in Buffalo want a positive message."
Pitts' victory spells the end of Franczyk's political career, at least for now. The Fillmore representative, who also lost a congressional bid against Rep. Jack F. Quinn Jr. in 1994, had to give up his current seat to run against Pitts.
At-large Council: Plenty of other changes are also in store for the Council Chambers on the 13th floor of City Hall. In the hotly contested at-large races, incumbents Rosemarie LoTempio and Beverly Gray won primary victories, while newcomer Charley H. Fisher III apparently has captured a seat with his primary victory.
Ms. Gray tallied the most votes, 14,508 or 19 percent, followed by Mrs. LoTempio with 13,610, or 18 percent, and Fisher with 12,053, or 16 percent.
Robert Quintana, who gave up his seat in the Niagara District to run at-large, led the also-rans with 15 percent. He was followed by Kevin D. Horrigan with 14 percent, Jeremy C. Toth with 14 percent and Ronald H. Fleming with 5 percent.
District Council seats: Major changes also were recorded at the district level, including the forced retirement of two incumbents. In the North District, newcomer Joseph Golombek Jr. beat Dale L. Zuchlewski, 1,788 to 1,640, or 52 percent to 48 percent.
In the South District , challenger Mary M. Martino unseated freshman Dennis T. Manley, 2,548 to 1,954, or 57 percent to 43 percent.
A new face also emerged in the Niagara District, where Dominic J. Bonifacio, the endorsed candidate, topped five others to win the seat vacated by Quintana. He got 867 votes or 28 percent, while his nearest competitor -- Susan A. McCartney -- tallied 715 or 23 percent. Lourdes T. Iglesias scored 16 percent, Donna Mohan-Grace had 15 percent, Mario Torres Pratts had 12 percent, and Anthony D. Draffin, 7 percent.
In the Fillmore District, Karen R. Ellington defeated Andrew D. Golebiowski and Stephen J. Godzisz. She scored a strong 46 percent, compared with 38 percent for Golebiowski and 17 percent for Godzisz.
And in the University District, Betty Jean Grant was the winner with 40 percent, edging Bonnie E. Russell and her 37 percent to win the seat being vacated by Kevin J. Helfer as he runs for comptroller. Martha Niland Lamparelli got 24 percent.
Likely returning incumbents include Byron W. Brown in the Masten District, who got 65 percent of the vote to defeat Kenny Williams with 29 percent and Charlie Thomas Jr. with 6 percent. Richard A. Fontana rolled over Richard M. Gattone in the Lovejoy District, 81 percent to 19 percent.
And Barbara Miller-Williams was victorious election in the Ellicott District with 61 percent, compared with 31 percent for Vera M. Martin and 8 percent for Valerie E. Ruff.
In heavily Democratic Buffalo, primary victories are tantamount to winning the general election.
County Legislature: In the lone Democratic contest for the County Legislature, incumbent Judith P. Fisher handily beat Leon J. Colucci in the 4th District, 73 to 27 percent.
Winners of the Independence Party legislative contests were tentative in some cases, with some districts yet to report.
Winners early this morning were Kenneth A. Pokorski over Gregory B. Olma in the 5th district; Gary J. Smith Jr. over Jeanne Z. Chase in the 12th district; Marilyn J. Calhoun over Frederick J. Marshall in the 13th District; and Kathy Konst over Dale W. Larson in the 17th district.
In Lackawanna, Kuryak defeated Mayor Staniszewski, 2,046 to 1,917, or 52 percent to 48 percent.
And in Cheektowaga, Gabryszak easily won, 4,472 to 3,115, or 59 percent to 41 percent.