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Leaders question Wozniak’s political future after affair with staffer

Angela M. Wozniak faces a rocky political road as Conservative and Republican allies questioned her future in the State Legislature and Democratic leaders suggested the Conservative assemblywoman should resign over an admitted affair with a staff member.

Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo, who had previously taken pride in Wozniak’s status as the highest elected Conservative in the state, declined to offer any immediate support. After reading the Ethics Committee’s “very disturbing” opinion, he said he is not optimistic about her future in the Assembly.

“My personal feeling is not positive for her carrying that endorsement,” he said. “This has affected her ability to effectively deal with her constituents. That’s the issue.

“I personally find that to be difficult with this set of circumstances,” he added.

Wozniak, who turned 29 on Friday, apologized to her family – she is married with a child – and her constituents late Thursday in a video distributed by her attorney.

“I showed very poor judgment in having a relationship with a staffer, and for that I would like to apologize to my family and to my constituents,” she said.

But she also attempted to put the best face on the committee opinion by noting she was not found to have engaged in sexual harassment.

“I am pleased to have been cleared of the charges for sexual harassment, ‘sexual quid pro quo’ or causing a sexually hostile work environment,” she said. “I am not permitted to respond to findings that I made a false statement to an individual that reflected poorly on my staffer’s job performance.”

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy also avoided encouragement for Wozniak, who organized with Republicans and was the first non-Democrat elected to represent the heavily Democratic Cheektowaga/Lancaster district since 1972.

“My advice to her is that she should go out in her district and determine whether she can still do an effective job as an assemblywoman,” he said. “She has to determine if her candidacy is viable in the eyes of her constituents.

“I am incredibly disappointed in the entire situation,” he added.

Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner on Friday pointed to a Buffalo News editorial calling on Wozniak to immediately end her first term after the Assembly’s bipartisan ethics committee found her guilty of “incredibly poor judgment” by having an affair with a staffer and retaliating against him after he broke it off.

“Two years ago I called for Dennis Gabryszak (Wozniak’s predecessor, also accused of sexual harassment), a member of my own party, to step down following a ruling by the state ethics commission,” Zellner said. “In light of today’s Buffalo News editorial and the facts that have emerged regarding Angela Wozniak’s conduct, I believe Republican and Conservative party leaders should consider doing the same.”

Wozniak, in her video statement, defended her actions after the affair ended.

“I did take steps to physically distance myself from my accuser at the direction of counsel,” she said. “How the ethics committee could consider that to be retaliatory is perhaps for them to explain.”

Wozniak stunned the local political world in 2014 by winning in the heavily Democratic district, but only after condemning her predecessor for sexually harassing his staff. A disgraced Gabryszak had resigned his post in early 2014.

Wozniak harshly criticized Gabryszak’s behavior at the time and cruised to victory over Democrats fractured by a divisive primary.

Democrats this year are already looking to reclaim the seat, with two strong candidates – Cheektowaga Councilman James P. Rogowski and University at Buffalo Law School Professor Monica P. Wallace – waging primary campaigns.