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An unlikely uncertainty in Amherst race 2-week count expected for highway chief post

Of all the Amherst races that were expected to be close, no one predicted that it would be the one for highway superintendent.

But with the unofficial count showing a mere 356-vote difference between incumbent Robert N. Anderson and challenger Kathy R. Kaminski, it may be two weeks before a clear winner is determined.

"I can't say I can concede right now," Kaminski said.

Heading into Election Day, Anderson was considered the clear favorite, carrying the endorsements of the Republican, Independence, Conservative and Working Families parties, as well as those from a half-dozen unions.

Kaminski, a town Highway Department crew chief, carried only the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the Women's TAP Fund.

In addition, Kaminski managed to raise only about $4,500 for her campaign, compared with Anderson's $26,000, according to campaign financial-disclosure records.

But as the results began rolling in, it seemed that the two candidates were frequently within 100 votes of each other. Anderson's gap didn't begin to widen until very late in the evening.

As of Wednesday, with all precincts reporting, Anderson had 15,091 votes, or 51 percent, and Kaminski had 14,735, or 49 percent.

That number does not include provisional paper ballots and more than 1,280 absentee ballots still to be counted.

Anderson expressed surprise and disappointment at Tuesday night's outcome.

"I don't know what happened," he said.

Ralph M. Mohr, Republican elections commissioner for Erie County, said that the Amherst voting machines should all be returned to the Board of Elections warehouse by late today and that the ballot counts will be double-checked and verified next week.

Then Board of Elections staff will count provisional paper and absentee ballots, which will take an additional week, he said.

Regardless of the outcome, Kaminski said, she is happy to have made such a strong first run for office.

"I was really ecstatic," she said. "I anticipated an uphill battle. I never really wanted to be in politics, so this was all new to me."

Anderson said he focused on building a positive campaign, touting the accomplishments of the Highway Department since he became superintendent in 2003. But he said Kaminski used negative campaign tactics and mischaracterizations to draw votes.

"That was her whole campaign," he said.

Kaminski, meanwhile, asserted that town residents were unsatisfied by Anderson's handling of the October 2006 snowstorm and what she described as his ongoing retaliatory behavior toward her after she declared her intention to run against him.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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