Democratic county executive hopeful Paul T. Clark has opened a commanding lead in the early stages of the race -- at least in raising campaign funds.
Clark, the West Seneca supervisor and a certified public accountant, reported $452,000 to the state Board of Elections this week, with almost half of that coming from his own pocket.
That figure far outweighs the combined totals reported by all other candidates.
He said the mix of his own funds with donations from a "vast, vast range of support" shows the seriousness of his effort.
"People are willing to invest in my campaign and in the future of Erie County," he said. "And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is. If I feel strongly about a cause, I'm willing to send that signal."
On the Republican side, Amherst Council Member William A. O'Loughlin also made a big fundraising splash, committing $100,000 of his own money to a $135,000 total. He has sponsored no fundraisers yet after officially announcing his candidacy Dec. 10.
He called his personal contribution a "big hit for me" but said it demonstrates his commitment to the race.
"I wouldn't think of asking a contributor -- small or large -- to make a donation unless I did that," said O'Loughlin, a veteran financial adviser. "It was important for me to signal an investment of my own money in what I believe will be a winning campaign."
Former Deputy County Executive James P. Keane reported $101,000, while Amherst Council Member Daniel J. Ward reported $640. Both are Democrats.
No other potential candidate submitted a financial report to the board.
Keane noted his report shows only a handful of four-figure donors, indicating that his support stems from the grass-roots level.
"I don't have $200,000 to give myself," he said. "This shows the kind of grass-roots support I have. There's not a lot of money from developers and contractors in there."
Keane also noted he has reached the $100,000 mark without an official announcement of his candidacy, which is scheduled for Jan. 26.
His donor base shows contributions from several well-known Democrats, including former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski, former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, former Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, former Rep. John J. LaFalce and Rep. Brian Higgins, along with several members of the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown.
Clark also showed an extensive donor base. He has historically shown no reticence about committing his personal resources to big races. He spent about $150,000 of his own money in an unsuccessful primary bid for Congress in 2004, losing to Higgins.