About 300 residents showed up Monday for a League of Women Voters forum in Clarence Town Hall that featured a dozen candidates running for federal, state and county offices.
But roughly half the audience got up and left after Erie County Legislator Michael H. Razenhofer and former boxer Joe Mesi, the candidates for 61st District State Senate seat, finished their mini-debate.
Although the faceoff was not intended as a popularity contest, Mesi, a Town of Tonawanda Democrat, clearly received the loudest ovation from many of those in the audience, prompting an admonition from the moderator to hold applause "until the very, very end."
Before Mesi's brief go-round with Razenhofer, an Amherst Republican, Alice Kryzan and Chris Lee reiterated their platforms in their race for the 26th District seat in the House of Representatives being vacated by Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, a Clarence Republican.
Kryzan, a Democratic environmental lawyer from Amherst, promised to seek "a wholesale reform" of the nation's health care system, while Lee, a Republican businessman from Clarence, called for tax credits to offset high health insurance premiums instead of what he described as "a one-size-fits-all government-sponsored program."
Lee also said he supported offshore drilling to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, while Kryzan backed alternative energy sources.
The candidates for the 61st State Senate seat, being vacated by Mary Lou Rath, a Williamsville Republican, differed sharply on how to deal with a defict that Gov. David A. Paterson indicated Monday could reach $1.5 billion in the current fiscal year and $12.8 billion next year.
Razenhofer said he favors a 15 percent across-the-board cut in spending that would not include aid to school districts. Mesi favors targeted cuts and an end to unfunded state mandates imposed on local municipalities.
Mesi said he would seek to abolish Thruway tolls, while Razenhofer called for dissolving the Thruway Authority entirely.
Each candidate was allowed a two-minute opening and a two-minute closing speech, plus one minute for each of four questions posed by the League of Women Voters panel.
And after the State Senate candidates, Jane L. Corwin, the Clarence Republican seeking the 142nd District Assembly seat now held by Michael Cole, an Alden Republican, got two minutes to outline her platform. Her opponent -- Jeffrey A. Bono III of the Working Families Party -- did not appear at the forum.
Corwin was followed by Frank A. Sedita III, the Democratic candidate for Erie County district attorney, and Diane M. LaVallee, the Republican candidate.