Political pundits in Hamburg chuckle a little when you ask them about this year's local elections.
Control of the Town Board is up for grabs, with four seats up for election in November. A highway superintendent and town justice also will be elected.
"From past history, I would think it would be a free for all," said Raymond F. Gallagher, a former state senator and head of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority who is chairman of the Hamburg Conservative Party.
There have been colorful campaigns in Hamburg, like the time a former supervisor put a gas mask on at a candidate's forum and read his opponent's unflattering literature about him. Charges of intimidation, unpaid taxes and a "family tree" diagram with family connections to Town Hall come to mind. And there's always charges of stolen campaign signs and last-minute fliers delivered the weekend before the election.
Residents will choose a supervisor and three council seats as the Town Board increases from three to five members. After six years of operating with two councilmen and the supervisor, the Town Board will upsize Jan. 1. The open seats seem to be drawing attention from a lot of potential candidates
"I've had a lot of people come forward. They're not happy with the way Democrats are running the town," Republican town committee chairwoman Barbara Lipka said.
Democratic chairman Terry MacKinnon said he's heard from 28 people who want to be considered for supervisor, councilman and highway superintendent. He said the nominating committee will start interviews next week, and probably will interview about 15 people for the Town Board seats.
He said four Democrats have said they are interested in running for supervisor: former town Democratic chairman and current Councilman Michael P. Quinn Jr., Dennis Gaughan, who has run for supervisor in the past, John Gilmour and James Shaw, who serves as Blasdell village attorney. All four are attorneys.
"We're going to look for someone who is a strong leader who will lead with progressive values and do what's best for the Town of Hamburg," MacKinnon said.
One big question is whether Republican Supervisor Steven J. Walters will seek a fourth term. He has been quiet so far. Walters knocked off a three-term incumbent 12 years ago to win the supervisor's post. He won re-election in 2013 by just under 150 votes, and the Conservative and Independence minor party lines were vital in his win.
There are about 1,600 registered Conservatives in the town, but the line garnered more than 3,000 votes for local candidates last year.
"Our support is important. We can double our line," said Gallagher, the Conservative chairman. "In the past we've been very successful."
He said the Conservatives would wait to see what the two major parties do on endorsements, then interview candidates and choose candidates.
Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr., a Conservative, has said he plans to run for re-election.
"I do have a strong list of people for all of the races," GOP chairwoman Lipka said, but she declined to say who they are or when endorsements would be made. "If anybody would like to put their name out there, we're always open to candidates."
MacKinnon said Democrats would make their endorsements in April or May. Candidates can start collecting signatures on nominating petitions June 7.