Republicans took back control of the Erie County Legislature on Tuesday after picking up an open seat in a stormy race for a district that spans Alden and Lancaster.
The win marked the first time in more than three decades that Republican-backed candidates won control of the Legislature through election, Republican Party Chairman Nicholas Langworthy said.
“Personally, I spent a ton of time focusing on the Legislature,” Langworthy said. “When we set our goals for the year, one was to retain the sheriff, retain the comptroller and capture this majority.”
The Legislature’s Republican caucus won six seats, including a victory by Depew Republican candidate Ted B. Morton in the 8th District.
“I’ve worked as hard as I could the last six or seven months,” Morton said prior to the polls closing.
Morton defeated Democrat Wynnie L. Fisher, of Alden, in a race that Democrats called among the nastiest they had seen locally.
“It’s one of the first times that on a local front you see this real nasty, dirty mudslinging to the nth degree,” County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. “And truthfully, I felt they would say anything and do anything just to win that seat.”
Fisher, prior to the polls closing, called the negative campaign “unfortunate.”
“I’m proud of my record,” Fisher said before the outcome was known. “I’m proud of my involvement in the community.”
Morton said he, too, was disappointed that the race turned negative in the final weeks.
“Up until a couple weeks ago, 100 percent of the information was strictly on the issues,” Morton said. “Then they started the negativity, so we responded. I wish it hadn’t been that way.”
With eight incumbents returning to office, control of the Legislature came down to the seat won by Morton.
But a hotly contested race in Amherst for the 5th District between incumbent Legislator Thomas A. Loughran, a Democrat, and challenger Robert N. Anderson, a Republican, also drew sparks. Loughran held on to his seat despite what he called misleading campaign literature distributed by his opponent.
Loughran criticized Anderson’s supporters for sending out campaign literature he said incorrectly accused him of raising taxes. Loughran broke ranks with his Democratic colleagues in the Legislature last year to eliminate a tax increase proposed by Poloncarz.
“I am so honored to be a representative of the 5th District,” Loughran said after his victory Tuesday night. “It’s just an honor to be their representative. This was a tough campaign, and I’m just so proud to be their representative.”
“I think he ran a very negative campaign,” Loughran said ahead of the election results. “There’s no doubt about that, and I ran on my record.”
Here’s a district-by-district look at the winners:
• 1st District: Barbara Miller-Williams, a Buffalo Democrat, will return to the Legislature after winning back a seat from fellow Democrat Timothy R. Hogues. Miller-Williams, a retired Buffalo police officer and former Buffalo Common Council member, was a polarizing figure in the Legislature during her last term in office, when she struck a deal with county Republicans to serve as county chairwoman.
The 1st district represents downtown Buffalo, the Old First Ward and portions of the East Side.
• 2nd District: Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, a Buffalo Democrat, ran unopposed. The district covers portions of the East and West sides and the Elmwood Village.
• 3rd District: Lynn M. Marinelli, a Town of Tonawanda Democrat and the longest-serving legislator, retained her seat after defeating Republican challenger Jennifer P. Stergion, a Buffalo lawyer. The district covers sections of North Buffalo and portions of the Town of Tonawanda.
• 4th District: Legislator Kevin R. Hardwick, a City of Tonawanda Republican and a political science professor at Canisius College, fended off a challenge by Kenmore West High School economics teacher William C. Conrad III, a Democrat. The district covers portions of the City of Tonawanda, Town of Tonawanda and Grand Island.
• 5th District: The heated race over the 5th District in Amherst was a contest between two long-term public officials in the community. Loughran, owner of Loughran’s bar and restaurant in Snyder and a former Amherst councilman, held on to his seat.
• 6th District: Edward A. Rath III, an East Amherst Republican, will return to the Legislature for a fourth term after easily holding on to his seat, which represents portions of Amherst, Clarence and Newstead. Rath faced a challenge from Democrat Alan K. Getter, a Clarence resident and certified public accountant.
• 7th District: Patrick B. Burke, a South Buffalo Democrat, overwhelmingly won a Legislature seat in the heavily Democratic district, which covers areas of Cheektowaga, South Buffalo and the city’s Kaisertown section.
Burke defeated Elias A. Farah, a financial adviser, after pulling out a surprise primary victory.
The seat is currently held by Legislature Majority Leader Thomas J. Mazur, a Cheektowaga Democrat who did not seek re-election.
• 8th District: Morton will serve in a district left open after freshman Legislator Terrence D. McCracken, a Lancaster Democrat, chose not to seek re-election. The district represents Lancaster, Alden and the eastern end of Cheektowaga.
• 9th District: Lynne M. Dixon, an Independence Party member who aligns with Legislature Republicans, defeated Democratic challenger Michael R. Schraft.
The 9th District represents portions of South Buffalo, Lackawanna and Hamburg.
• 10th District: Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo, a West Seneca Conservative, will return to the Legislature for a second term after defeating Democratic challenger Lauren M. Gray. Gray, of West Seneca, is a recent University at Buffalo Law School graduate.
Lorigo, a West Seneca lawyer, votes with the Republican caucus in the Legislature. The 10th District represents West Seneca, Aurora, Elma, Marilla, Wales, Colden and Holland.
• 11th District: Legislature Minority Leader John J. Mills, an Orchard Park Republican, ran unopposed for the 11th District, which runs from Orchard Park to Collins in southern Erie County.