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AS NATION VOTES, SO VOTES COUNTY
CITY VOTERS CAST THEIR BALLOTS FOR KERRY, WHILE SUBURBAN, RURAL AREAS WENT TO BUSH

Everybody knew that Erie County -- like New York State overall -- would end up in John F. Kerry's column on Election Day.

And that's just what happened.

But a closer look at the towns, villages and neighborhoods across the county reveals a more complicated picture.

Turns out that the people who picked Kerry for president over George W. Bush live in the county's more densely packed population centers, mostly cities and older first-ring suburbs.

Bush backers? They live in the middle- and upper-class suburbs and the rural areas.

But there were some exceptions out there, too -- in some villages, a major suburb and a few outlying areas.

A detailed breakdown of local voting in the presidential election this week -- using the red and blue colors that have become de rigeur in post-election analysis -- shows that Erie County mirrors the nation when it comes to major voting patterns.

"It looks like the national map," Kevin R. Hardwick, associate professor of political science at Canisius College, said of the Erie County map.

That means that most wealthier areas in Erie County -- such as Clarence -- favored Bush.

Poorer ones -- like the cities of Lackawanna, Buffalo and the City of Tonawanda -- voted for Kerry.

Dense urban blocks uniformly went for Kerry. Wide open farmland went for Bush.

And a few quirks were thrown in for good measure.

For example, the tiny Village of Farnham -- home to slightly more than 300 souls -- voted for a second term for Bush, even though the surrounding Town of Brant went into Kerry's column.

Farnham has sent four young men -- a lot, considering its size -- off to war in Iraq.

But Brant and nearby Evans are something of an anomaly in themselves. These lakeshore towns are the only rural towns in Erie County that chose Kerry over Bush.

The rest of rural Erie County, like the outlying counties in Western New York, voted strong support for the president, a trend that matches the national picture.

"The rural areas, the less populated areas, certainly went toward the Republican Party this year," said Joseph F. Crangle, a local political analyst and former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party.

"They're more independent -- not politically, but economically," said Crangle. "A great deal of them are farmers, they're self-sustaining. They don't have the problems of welfare in their midst."

That pro-Bush majority included voters like Sunny Andes, who voted at the Aurora Town Hall.

"I think the situation in our country right now is too much up in the air. I have more faith in George Bush as far as terrorism," she said. "I don't think he's done a bad job."

In the City of Buffalo, every single election district voted for Kerry.

Issues that mattered most in these neighborhoods seemed to be local, not global. People voting in South Buffalo and the East Side said this week that they cared most about schools, drugs, crime, health care and jobs -- not as much about terrorism.

"My father's retired and he's supposedly going to get an extra $60 a month in his check. But $40 of that is now going to Medicaid," said Bill Finnegan, 35, in South Buffalo. "Kerry would be better for him than Bush."

April Chapman, a police officer for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, said she supported Kerry.

"I'm not so much concerned about what's going on in Iraq as what's going on in our own country," said Chapman, who voted at Prince of Peace Church on Kensington Avenue.

That voting pattern held up in the more densely populated areas of the county -- and even extended to some villages, such as Orchard Park, East Aurora and Hamburg, where parts of the villages chose Kerry over Bush despite their suburban locations.

"I feel it's time for us to have a new leader," said Fran Fritz, who voted for Kerry in East Aurora.

In Cheektowaga and the Town of Tonawanda, two older suburbs, almost all districts chose Kerry.

"We were pretty well decided -- a straight Democratic line," said Genevieve Vicario, who voted at the Sloan Fire Hall with her husband, Frank. "We're just not really happy with Bush. The Democrats are the lesser of two evils."

There were just a few pro-Bush districts in these communities, including one in the Village of Kenmore.

"I'm against the war and pretty much everything Bush believes in," said Amy Viola, 21, a college student who was voting at Benjamin Franklin School in the Town of Tonawanda. "We need a new leader who can lead us into a stronger America."

In Amherst, the town divided into two when it came to the presidential contest.

In older, more populated parts of the town, including Eggertsville and Williamsville, there was a definite preference for Kerry.

But in the more recently settled parts of the town -- such as East Amherst, where big, wealthy subdivisions have gobbled up farmland over the past few decades -- there was a decided preference for Bush.

"I'm really happy with him," said Sharon Rickman, 44, leaving her polling place in East Amherst. "I think he should be in for four more years."

The same sort of pattern played out in Hamburg, where voters in the parts of the town closest to Lackawanna and West Seneca chose Kerry, while voters in the more rural areas near Eden voted for Bush.

In Lancaster, a place with more unaffiliated voters than the rest of Erie County, voters in the town -- which has been farmland for generations, but is now becoming a landscape of subdivisions -- chose Bush.

But election districts in the older villages of Lancaster and Depew ended up in Kerry's column.

Buffalo News Researcher Andrew Bailey and Staff Reporters Barbara O'Brien and John F. Bonfatti contributed to this report.

e-mail: cvogel@buffnews.com

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