Unless there is a major surprise when absentee votes are tallied, the Republicans are about to take control of the Hamburg Town Board.
The decision won't be final until an estimated 600 absentee and affidavit ballots are counted, but Kevin Smardz, 31, has the upper hand over former Assemblyman Dick Smith.
After totals from the final six election districts were added to the totals Wednesday, Smardz has a 205-vote lead over Smith, a Democrat, in a race that could swing control of the Town Board to the Republicans for the first time since at least the 1980s.
Former police Capt. Tom Best Sr., a Conservative running with Republican support, easily won one seat.
Totals from the voting machines show Best with 9,462 votes, Smardz with 7,689, Smith with 7,484 and Democrat Vincent Gugliuzza with 5,906.
Smith's campaign manager, R.J. Friedman, said, "We're realistic and we've pretty much conceded the race. We would need more than a 2-1 advantage in the absentee ballots, and that's not going to happen."
Hamburg Democratic Chairman Vincent J. Sorrentino said it is unlikely Smith will pass Smardz in the vote count. Sorrentino said he expects to be replaced as town attorney by the new majority when its members are sworn in come January.
Smith was unavailable to comment Wednesday.
If Smardz's lead holds up, he would join Supervisor Steven Walters and Best to give the Republicans a 3-2 voting bloc.
The other Town Board members are Democrats Tom Quatroche and Joan Kesner. Another Democrat, D. Mark Cavalcoli, did not seek re-election this year after 24 years on the board.
Smith was appointed to the board in April to replace Kathy Hochul, who was named Erie County clerk.
When Smith was first elected -- as a 31-year-old councilman in 1971 -- he helped give Hamburg what was believed to be its first Democratic majority.
The Republicans declared their candidates winners late Tuesday and celebrated into Wednesday morning at their West End Inn election night site.
"There's two new sheriffs in town," Best told the cheering throng. "Believe me when I say we are going to make a change in Hamburg."
Smardz, communications director of the Southtowns Christian Center, said the advantage he and Best had was unity, working together in a way he said their opponents did not.
"Starting Jan. 1, you're going to see a new Hamburg that's going to be a beacon of hope across Western New York," Smardz said.
For Republican Chairman Mark Cuda, the apparent victory comes after seeing Walters engaged in sometimes bitter battles with the Democratic majority for two years.
"You've seen how they've kicked him around Town Hall; they didn't listen to ideas, when he wanted to bring good government," Cuda told the crowd. "But you people made this happen."
One of the key factors in the race was the support of the Hamburg Police Benevolent Association for Best and Smardz, the first time the union has endorsed candidates.