A total of 15 people running for public office were invited to appear before a community group Thursday night in Cheektowaga.
Members of the Dick-Urban Community Association, the hosts, noted who was there. And who was not.
Invitations were extended to the two candidates for Erie County comptroller; the three each running for the Erie County Legislature’s 7th and 8th Districts – both of which fall within the town; and the seven running for Cheektowaga Town Board.
Incumbent Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, a Republican, was there; Democratic challenger Kevin Gaughan arrived late.
The entire slate of 7th District candidates was absent, although Democrat Patrick Burke did let the organizers know about a prior commitment, while fellow candidates Elias Farah, a Republican, and Richard Zydel, running on the Conservative and Working Family lines were no-shows.
Democrat Wynnie Fisher and Republican Ted Morton were there representing the 8th District race, but Wesley Moore, who will appear on the Working Families line, was absent.
The Cheektowaga Town Board has three seats up for election – one of which is vacant. Present Thursday night were Democrat Diane Benczkowski; Nicole Gawel and the Rev. Rick Maisano, who will appear on the Republican line, among others; and incumbent Stanley J. Kaznowski III, who will appear on the Conservative and Working Families lines.
Absent were Republican Roger McGill Jr.; and Democrats Tim Meyers and Jim Rogowski, also an incumbent.
The absence of Meyers and Rogowski, in particular, were noted in Maisano’s response to a query about whether the candidates felt there is a “friends and family situation” when it comes to elective office or jobs in the town.
Meyers is the son of a former town supervisor, while Rogowski’s father served on the Town Board and was also the mayor of Sloan.
“I think it speaks for itself,” said Maisano, a retired employee of General Motors who was unsuccessful in his first run for Town Board in 2007. “Why aren’t they here tonight?”
Kaznowski, who joined the board in 2008, said he’s never recommended friends or family for town jobs. “Cheektowaga is made up of probably four or five main families that keep getting elected,” said the general manager of Griffco Valve in Amherst.
Benczkowski and Gawel, both seeking town office for the first time, said the friends and family situation is among their reasons for running.
“One of the reasons I ran, I don’t have any friends or family that work in the Town Hall,” said Benczkowski, a broker for M.J. Peterson Real Estate.
“I’m sick and tired of the same families, the same faces,” said Gawel, a development assistant at Friends of Night People in Buffalo.
The candidates for Erie County Legislature were asked if they had friends or family in office or intended to bring them in.
“No,” replied Fisher, a longtime educator from Alden seeking office for the first time.
Morton, a financial planner from Cheektowaga, said he has no family in office but does count some office-holders among his friends.
Mychajliw wasn’t asked that question. But when asked to identify his “victories” in office he ticked off several.
One was working with the county executive to resolve demands that Erie County repay more than $40 million in federal grants related to the response and cleanup after the October 2006 snowstorm.
That amount subsequently was reduced to approximately $705,000 after an independent audit requested by county and federal representatives.