Republican Joel A. Giambra received a major boost from across party lines Tuesday when County Legislator Albert DeBenedetti became the most recognizable Democrat so far to endorse Giambra's bid to replace County Executive Gorski.
DeBenedetti joined Giambra Tuesday to denounce Gorski's handling of the local economy as "abysmal," and to declare that Giambra's plans for cutting taxes and sharing government services will serve as important elements in luring jobs back to Erie County.
"Clearly the most important issue in Erie County is the economy and job creation," DeBenedetti said, "and in my mind, Joel is the best equipped to deal with that situation."
DeBenedetti, who often is at odds with Gorski and the Democratic hierarchy, was challenged in a 1997 primary by allies of Gorski and Democratic headquarters. And though he had made peace with the county executive earlier this year, he said he cannot join the "partisan" way his Democratic colleagues in the County Legislature have approached the 1999 election.
"He's really turned off people by this campaign," he said, referring to Gorski television ads some have termed negative. "And problems aren't being addressed because people are far too partisan."
DeBenedetti also accused Gorski and his administration of being "intoxicated with political power" since the Democratic primary victory of 1995.
"I think (Giambra) is best for the job regardless of party affiliation," he said. "This is about governing, not just politics."
Giambra, fresh off last week's victories in the Republican and Independence primaries, said he will need support like DeBenedetti's in dealing with a Democratic Legislature should he win in November.
"Al's support will give us a chance to be more effective," he said. "I hope more elected officials will be of like mind."
Giambra acknowledged he is unaware of any other upcoming defections to his camp, but noted they have occurred in recent years. DeBenedetti was quick to point out that Gorski in the past supported former Republican County Comptroller Alfreda W. Slominski while Mayor Masiello last year backed Republican Gov. Pataki for re-election.
Though he has flirted with Republicans on previous occasions, he said he will remain a Democrat, even if he disagrees with Democratic leadership.
"The mantra from the Democratic leadership in the Legislature is to circle the partisan wagons," DeBenedetti said. "That's exactly the attitude that leads to not making logical decisions for the county."
Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon said he was not surprised at DeBenedetti's move, calling it a case of "one political opportunist endorsing another political opportunist."
"I would have more respect for him if he did it in the beginning of the year before the polls (showing Gorski trailing) came out," he said. "He has shown his true colors. He probably has a promise."