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TOWN GOP PUTS PARTY STRIFE TO ONE SIDE

Papering over their differences for the time being, Amherst Republicans last week gathered to endorse a political newcomer, Guy Marlette, and incumbent Council members Jane S. Woodward and Shelly Schratz for the Sept. 13 primary election.

Some party regulars were upbeat following the Thursday evening meeting, saying a strong slate will help them maintain a majority on the Town Board.

But others say wounds remain from last fall's bruising leadership fight, which ousted former Amherst Republican Chairman Robert J. Gilmour and replaced him with Marshall Wood Jr.

"I think on the surface it was a nice lovefest . . . There was no evidence that people were going after each other," said Woodward, a Gilmour supporter.

That said, "There is still some discomfort in the party since last fall. These things take a long time to heal," she added.

Following Gilmour's defeat, most of the party's big contributors, including a number of influential developers, joined to form the Amherst Republican Civic Club. The club meets monthly at local restaurants, offering speakers and discussions on local political issues.

The group's Web site also states that it intends to endorse and raise funds for "qualified Republican candidates." That means the civic club will not overtly oppose the party's candidates, but its members intend to be selective about who they support, according to Robert Gromer, a civic club supporter.

"They're not going to fight. If they get into a turf war, the Democrats win," Gromer said. "ARCC is going to support candidates it favors and it will not support others."

Nevertheless, the group remains estranged from the new party leadership.

"I don't know what ARCC's intentions are. They aren't particularly clear," Wood said Friday.

Wood also said he hopes to meet again before the end of the month with the 214-member Town Committee to choose a candidate to run against Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick, a Democrat.

He also praised the party's slate, calling Marlette a "fresh face," and saying Schratz and Woodward "have done a good job" on the Town Board.

Marlette, who is vice president of Alternative Information Systems, a local computer firm, said he expects to stress his experience as a small businessman in dealing with Amherst's budget problems.

"I know there's a big uproar about taxes and assessments over the past few years," he said. "People have to understand that if we don't control the spending in the town, taxes will go up."

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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