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Delano running on his own terms Former detective skips campaign debates and forums

Republican State Senate candidate Dennis A. Delano is guaranteed not to lose any debates this election season -- which happens when you refuse to square off against your opponent.

Newspaper endorsements might prove hard to snare, too, since he has declined invitations to appear before at least one editorial board.

Ditto for community forums.

Indeed, the former Buffalo police detective makes it quite clear he will run his campaign his own way.

"That's the way politicians have been doing things for years," he said. "I don't have time to do things traditionally."

Delano will not meet his Democratic opponent, incumbent William T. Stachowski of Lake View, in any debate or public forum this election season because he says he doesn't believe in them.

"Debates are what career politicians do, and I'm not a career politician," Delano said.

He also has not responded to invitations from The Buffalo News to discuss the issues with its Editorial Board in a process that leads to the newspaper's endorsement. He said the endorsement is "not as crucial to me as it is to other people."

"They would make me jump through hoops to make it seem fair and equal," he said. "But I have an instinct for things that says they've made a decision long before I go through the door. I have a plan, and with the response I'm getting, it's working."

Delano's decision to boycott debates and forums has irked Stachowski, who accuses the Republican Party of shielding its candidate from any venue where he must engage the issues.

"Their campaign for him is all about advertising, image and parades," Stachowski said. "He keeps saying he'll go to Albany and find out where the money is, but he won't talk issues."

Albany Democrats assisting the Stachowski campaign also have seized on Delano's no-show policy. They cite six debates or forums, including those sponsored by nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters, which Delano has refused to attend or has not responded to invitations.

"What could Mr. Delano find more important than answering the questions that are on voters' minds?" asked Carly Lindauer, spokeswoman for the New York State Democratic Committee. "Residents in the 58th District want a leader that will stand up for them and face challenges head-on -- not someone like Dennis Delano who's too scared to show up for a debate."

Laura McDade, Southtowns coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara, called Delano's stand a "shame" because events like the Hamburg community forum he declined to attend allow candidates to state their case and answer questions from voters.

And she says the league has sponsored a Hamburg event for more than 50 years because voters want to see their potential representatives in more than ads.

"They want to see them answer questions pertinent to the race and how they think on their feet," McDade said. "People deserve that chance."

She added that candidates rarely refuse or just do not answer the invitation, as has Delano.

"If they don't show up, they're the loser," she said. "It does no good to skip them."

But Delano, of Cheektowaga, says he doesn't care what Stachowski, the Democrats or anyone else thinks. He said local voters resent politicians, and as a result, he will run his campaign his own way.

"This is all Stachowski's schedule, not mine," he said. "I don't jump to his tune, and enough people have been jumping to his tune for too long. The time for talking is over."

Delano, who gained national attention for his role in cracking high-profile cases that overturned convictions for two imprisoned people, has told his story in a series of television ads. He also said he has been a regular on the campaign trail, where he talks with voters.

As a result, he thinks he's connecting in his own way.

"Aren't you getting tired of all the rhetoric and lies?" he asked. "And I don't have to stand there and tell them what the issues are."

Delano acknowledged that he attended many parades throughout the summer campaign season but didn't march in them because he considered that "traditional" also. He said he is not seeking many other endorsements because he figures those were also predetermined.

"I sought my own union's endorsement [received by Stachowski] because I thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "But I was told that historically, Democrats are more favorable to unions. I couldn't argue with that, and haven't sought any more."

Delano has a simple answer for his unorthodox approach that has been pushed as his campaign image.

"I'm the anti-politician," he said. "The politicians have been lying and taking advantage of taxpayers for so long that people aren't going to take it any more."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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