With less than a week before the election, the campaign of State Sen. William T. Stachowski is continuing its push to close the gap with his popular Republican opponent, Buffalo Police Detective Dennis Delano.
Stachowski's campaign accused Delano of possibly violating the federal Hatch Act by remaining on the Buffalo Police Department payroll while running for office, a charge that Delano's campaign called unfounded and "desperate."
A poll earlier this month showed Delano leading the incumbent Democrat in a race that will help decide which party controls the State Senate.
Stachowski campaign manager Cathy Calhoun contended that the federal aid directed to the Police Department might make Delano subject to the Hatch Act. The law bars from politics state and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs.
Delano has been suspended from the Police Department since February pending a disciplinary hearing -- which he has said he expects to win. He has been receiving pay for all but the first month of the suspension.
Calhoun could not cite Delano's specific connection to federal funds, but said that he should be called on to demonstrate that he is not in violation.
Delano's campaign hotly rejected that idea.
"Delano's position is not federally funded," the campaign's statement said. "Over the years we have seen many police officers run for office."
In 2005, Buffalo Police Officer Robert Quintana ran for the 6th District seat on the Erie County Legislature.
Delano consulted attorneys and police union officials before deciding to run, his campaign said.
According to Larry H. James, general counsel for the National Fraternal Order of Police, police in departments that receive federal aid are not necessarily subject to the Hatch Act.
The test, he said, is whether an individual officer performs duties that are connected with federally funded programs.
"It gets really sticky -- it's a big gray area," James said. Cases are decided individually by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
James said that a complaint with the enforcement body would need to be filed to start a case under the Hatch Act. Police aren't required to demonstrate that they're not subject to the law before engaging in politics, he said.
A Hatch Act violation would not invalidate the result of an election, James said.
Stachowski also has launched automated calls with the familiar voice of former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Democrat, urging voters in the district to rally behind the longtime incumbent.