Apparently forgiving their town supervisor for forgetting to pay his taxes, Cheektowaga Democrats handed Dennis H. Gabryszak an easy primary win Tuesday over challenger William P. Rogowski, who will be back in November as the Republican candidate.
Rogowski did not take defeat graciously, scolding Democrats for a voter turnout under 24 percent and promising to show in a bare-knuckles fall campaign that Gabryszak "is not the goody two-shoes everyone seems to think he is."
Unofficial results from the town's 108 election districts gave Gabryszak 59 percent of the vote -- 4,506 votes to 3,133 for Rogowski.
The incumbent, looking for a second four-year term at the helm of the county's second-largest town, led a clean sweep by the town's Democratic organization. Also winning their party's nod in November were incumbent Council Members Jeff Swiatek, 4,739; Thomas M. Johnson Jr., 3,702; and James J. Jankowiak, 3,591, according to unofficial results.
The Town Board incumbents defeated challengers Ed Kosmoski, 3,087; Francis W. Orlikowski, 2,313; and James J. Makowski, 2,267.
Like Rogowski, Kosmoski and Orlikowski accepted the GOP endorsement and will be on the ballot in November. However, Democrats outnumber Republicans in Cheektowaga by more than two to one.
Last winter, Gabryszak had to pay more than $4,000 in back taxes and penalties to avert bank foreclosure on his $175,000 home. He brushed it off as "an honest oversight," but some political leaders worried it could cost him the election against a seasoned 20-year Town Board veteran like Rogowski.
"This was probably the toughest year of my life," Gabryszak said Tuesday night, looking back on his tax problems as well as other campaign charges launched by the Rogowski camp. A claim that his father, a retired judge, menaced a rival campaign worker with his car particularly upset Gabryszak in the last days of the primary campaign.
"I wanted to win this one, more than any other, for my dad," Gabryszak said.
"I think they crossed the line, and I'm thankful that the people of Cheektowaga saw through it. As far as I'm concerned, I want this campaign from now until November to take the high road," Gabryszak said.
But at a somber gathering of his followers at Fontana's Banquet Center Tuesday night, Rogowski said Gabryszak's campaign was anything but "positive" and predicted plenty of fireworks in the November campaign.
Rogowski said a last-minute Gabryszak campaign piece about 10 Rogowski relatives on the town payroll was especially unfair.
"They couldn't find any dirt to dig up about me so they fabricated that crap about my relatives on the payroll. He's got relatives on the payroll, too. I voted for his and he voted for mine. And I'd like to know what that has to do with managing the Town of Cheektowaga," Rogowski fumed.
"Now, we're really going to let people know what this guy's like. We held back on some things, but then they came out with that nepotism garbage at the end, so now I guess I'll have to fire all the bullets in the gun. This guy (Gabryszak) is not the goody two-shoes everyone seems to think he is," Rogowski declared.
The challenger also chided the many Democrats who stayed away from the polls.
"It's amazing with all the publicity this campaign had that more people didn't come out," Rogowski said. "People just don't seem to think the primary means anything, but they're wrong, it means a lot."
Swiatek, the night's high vote getter with more than 4,700 votes, congratulated his running mates on the campaign.
"We didn't get into any personal attacks, or negative campaigning. We talked about our record, and I'm very happy and very honored the voters responded the way they did," he said.
Jay Rey of the News Northtowns Bureau contributed to this report.