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Erie County Clerk David J. Swarts said Tuesday that he is a candidate for re-election.

County Legislature Minority Leader Mary Lou Rath, who opposed Swarts in 1986 in an expensive and hard-fought campaign, said she would not be a candidate for county clerk this year.

"I'm very happy where I am," Mrs. Rath said. But the Williamsville Republican did not rule out a bid for the office of Amherst town clerk if it becomes vacant.

Political sources say John R. Shearer, who is in his 23rd year as town clerk, may retire later this year. If he does, the Republican-controlled Amherst Town Board would appoint an interim clerk.

Shearer, a Republican, was re-elected in 1987 to a four-year term that runs through 1991. He said Tuesday that he is building a retirement home in Florida but has not decided whether to step down this year or complete his term.

Mrs. Rath also is regarded as a possible candidate for county executive in 1991.

Swarts, 42, an Elma Democrat, is to formally announce for re-election at 7 p.m. Monday at Monsignor Nash Council, Knights of Columbus, 261 South Legion Drive.

Swarts said he has sent letters to Erie County Democratic Chairman Vincent J. Sorrentino, zone and town leaders and members of the county party's executive committee asking for their support in his bid for a second four-year term.

Swarts said he chose South Buffalo for the formal campaign announcement because "that's where I was born and raised."

Swarts was elected county clerk four years ago when he defeated Mrs. Rath, 56 percent to 44 percent. He succeeded Genevieve M. Starosciak, a Democrat, who did not seek re-election. Mrs. Starosciak is now a member of the State Thruway Authority.

"A countywide race in a gubernatorial election year is very difficult, particularly against an incumbent," Mrs. Rath said. Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, is expected to run for a third term this year.

As for fielding a GOP candidate to oppose Swarts, "We have a number of prospects, none of whom I want to name at this time," said Victor N. Farley, Erie County Republican chairman.

A former teacher, Swarts has long been involved in political and civic affairs. He served as clerk of the County Legislature and secretary of the Democratic County Committee and ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 1983 and for Congress in 1988.

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