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Kaczorowski challenges Gabryszak

Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak, a Cheektowaga Democrat, takes on former union leader John J. Kaczorowski, also of Cheektowaga, in a contest the challenger has focused on a need for change.

Gabryszak, 56, the former Cheektowaga supervisor, represents the 143rd Assembly District, which includes the towns of Cheektowaga and Lancaster as well as the villages of Depew, Lancaster and Sloan.

Elected in 2006 to fill a seat vacated by the retirement of Majority Leader Paul D. Tokasz, Gabryszak pulled off something of a coup in fending off the state Berger Commission's recommendation to close St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga.

The Catholic Health System expects to receive $8 million from the state to fold St. Joseph's operations into the Sisters Hospital network.

The upshot: Although it eventually will operate under a different name, the once-doomed hospital remains open.

Gabryszak, who is running on the Democratic, Independence and Conservative parties' lines, has pushed through legislation to help victims of domestic violence and supported an ethics reform package.

He said he hopes to win approval of an encrypted state tax stamp on cigarette packages to cut down on counterfeit stamps. "When California did it," Gabryszak said, "they generated $175 million in revenue the first year."

Kaczorowski, 66, former president of Local 774, United Auto Workers, said Tokasz's retirement announcement in 2005 left insufficient time for anyone except Gabryszak to mount a credible campaign -- hence, Kaczorowski's campaign slogan this fall: "This Time, Let's Make the Right Change."

In September's Democratic primary, Kaczorowski, who also had served as president of the Buffalo AFL-CIO Council for nine years, received 28 percent of the vote to Gabryszak's 72 percent, but he stayed alive on the Republican and Working Families parties' lines of the ballot.

Retired after a 35-year career at the General Motors Powertrain Division in the Town of Tonawanda, Kaczorowski has campaigned on a promise to vote against any Assembly pay raises and to donate $20,000 of the $79,000 salary to student scholarships for college-bound high school seniors in the 143rd District.

Kaczorowski listed his top legislative priorities as lowering taxes, attracting high-paying jobs to the area and taking on the state's Medicaid fraud problems. He also wants to sponsor legislation lengthening prison sentences for pedophiles.

Kaczorowski vowed to be accessible by holding frequent town meetings with constituents -- something he accuses his opponent of not doing.

Gabryszak disagreed.

"We're out all the time," he said, citing as an example an upcoming energy forum from 1 to 3 p.m. next Friday in Post 7275, Veterans of Foreign War, at 3471 Walden Ave. in Lancaster to help constituents struggling with heating bills.

e-mail: iliguori@buffnews.com

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