Several Hamburg Democrats have started a new club, mounting a challenge to the town Democratic Committee.
Hamburg First Democrats is putting up a slate of candidates in a bid to take over the town Democratic Committee in September.
"The purpose is to bring back sensible, good government to the Town of Hamburg," said Dennis F. Chapman. "They haven't won an election in a long time."
"We want to change the Hamburg Democratic Party," added David Grasso, another member of the group challenging the current leadership. The political action committee was formed in January.
Chapman is a former Democratic zone leader from Buffalo who moved to Hamburg six years ago. He is retired from the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and city Water Department. Also on the executive committee are Grasso, who was a Blasdell village trustee from 1982 to 1989, and Dennis Gaughan, an attorney and unsuccessful candidate for town supervisor and Erie County legislator in the last three years.
Gaughan and Chapman are Democratic committeemen, elected two years ago.
Town Democratic Chairman James F. Connolly said he met with Chapman and welcomed him into the town party, offering him the opportunity to work within the party structure.
"We are all elected as committee people. The role of that person is to support our party's ideals," Connolly said. "The role is to help promote and select candidates and get them elected."
He said the town Democratic Committee was successful in getting a Democratic majority elected for 20 years.
But the Town Board has had a Republican majority since 2008, despite about 5,900 more Democrats than Republicans in town. Connolly was elected town chairman in 2010.
He said Democrats would have been more successful if they all pulled together behind the endorsed candidates. He said the leaders of the new faction do not have a history of being successful in the public arena and seem to show more self-interest than community interest in that they have circulated petitions for themselves for committeeman but not for the endorsed party candidates in other races.
Connolly noted that Gaughan lost the Democratic primary for supervisor three years ago and then ran on a minor party line and lost. He also ran on a minor party line for Erie County Legislature.
"I find it disturbing that someone wants to become in charge of the Democratic Committee when he has a record of running against the Democratic Committee," Connolly said.
Chapman said Hamburg First Democrats is looking at challenging about 40 committee seats. He seems to be taking a page out of the Frank Max guide to change a town committee, a comparison he did not discourage.
Max, the Cheektowaga Democratic chairman, started the Progressive Democrats of Cheektowaga club and worked for a decade making inroads in the Cheektowaga party before winning enough seats to be named chairman in 2006.
What happens in Hamburg could come into play in Erie County politics. Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard Lenihan has not announced if he will seek re-election as chairman. Max is still considered a potential contender.
Hamburg First Democrats' website said the organization is looking at the three-member board but has not taken a formal position on it yet.
"Is it the three-member board that is the problem, or is it the three members?" Chapman said.
The two factions do agree on the state of the board.
"We're not getting anything we deserve," Chapman said. "Until those three people act like adults, nothing is going to happen."
"I think the current board members have demonstrated an inability to work together," Connolly said. "I think all of what occurred at the board level is very disturbing to the community."
Voting takes place Sept. 13 for 112 committeemen – two in each of the 56 election districts.