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Grumbling aside, Max is leader of Democrats again

Frank C. Max is ebullient these days.

The chairman of the Cheektowaga Democratic Committee overwhelmed his opposition last week to win a second term as chairman.

There were some scrimmages on the floor at the Hearthstone Manor when the opposition tried to prevent him from running because he lost his race for town committeeman last month, but his forces won those, too.

"We wanted to make sure there was a fair process, and there was," Max said.

His challengers might disagree.

James J. Speyer, a longtime committeeman who ran against Max, said he thinks many were intimidated when the procedural votes took place publicly on the floor instead of by secret ballot.

"The voters didn't want him, they turned him down, and Cheektowaga politics put him back in there," Speyer said.

Max challenged the old guard in the Cheektowaga Democratic Party for several years, inching forward with more support each year, until he won the chairmanship two years ago. Over the summer, he challenged Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, then withdrew shortly before Lenihan was re-elected.

Lenihan called the Cheektowaga reorganization meeting to order Tuesday night. There was an immediate challenge to Max's name, contending that the town party rules require the chairman to be a committeeman. Lenihan ruled that Max could not be nominated. Then town committee Vice Chairman Andrew A. Kulyk moved to overrule Lenihan.

An open vote was allowed, and 110 of the 173 members attending favored having Max run for chairman against Speyer.

"I thought if there would have been a secret ballot, he wouldn't have made it," Speyer said. "Obviously, people are scared of him."

Max won 65 percent of the weighted vote.

Speyer said he's not complaining and doesn't feel bad. He and several others have started a new political club, the Real Democrats of Cheektowaga, for those who want an alternative.

The person who could feel the loss most of all is Supervisor Mary F. Holtz, who supported and publicly nominated Speyer. Max said all other members of the Town Board supported him.

"Mary Holtz is not high on my priority list. She can do what she wants," Max said. "We're trying to support the whole Democratic Party."

Lenihan said Holtz is a good supervisor. He also said it's time for all Democrats to work together to elect the entire Democratic slate in November.

"There is a time for fighting, and there is a time for working together," Lenihan said. "The time for fighting is over."

Max said, "We're going to work together; we're Democrats. A little tussle here and there won't hurt anybody."


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