Nine months after he quit as chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, Victor N. Farley is comfortable in his new role as lawyer-politician.
"No regrets," Farley said of his resignation as GOP county leader March 17.
Farley keeps busy in his new job as vice chairman for legal affairs of the GOP State Committee, as counsel to State Senate Majority Leader Ralph J. Marino, R-Muttontown, and as a private practitioner with a Buffalo law firm.
The year has been one of transitions for Farley, who moved last month from the firm of Moot & Sprague, which he joined in 1965, to Hiscock & Barclay, where he is a partner specializing in business and taxation.
As county Republican chairman for more than a decade, Farley knew the joy of victory and the pain of defeat.
But both the high and low points of Farley's tenure as chairman involved Edward J. Rutkowski, who was twice elected county executive.
Farley says his most satisfying political triumph came in 1979, when Rutkowski was appointed and later elected county executive.
Rutkowski was named interim county executive in 1979, succeeding Edward V. Regan, who resigned to become state comptroller. Later that year, Rutkowski was elected to a full four-year term.
The low point, according to Farley, was in 1987, when Rutkowski was swept out of office by Democrat Dennis T. Gorski.
Farley and other GOP leaders earlier this year tried to recruit Rutkowski to run for the State Senate against William T. Stachowski, D-Buffalo.
But Rutkowski, now a vice president of Integrated Waste Systems, declined to enter the race. Farley said a GOP poll showed Rutkowski would have been favored in a race against Stachowski.
Twelve years ago this month, Farley, in a major upset, was elected county GOP leader. He went on to serve more than 11 years, the longest tenure for an Erie County GOP chairman since the days of the legendary Edwin F. Jaeckle, who held the chairmanship from 1935 to 1948.
When he resigned, Farley was presiding over a divided party and facing major opposition. Nevertheless, he says he could have been re-elected had he chosen to stay and fight.
In a recent interview, Farley discussed Rutkowski, Buffalo Mayor Griffin and other personalities and issues. Among his observations:
Rutkowski was a "good and honorable" county executive, who fell victim to poor staff work.
The staff failed to forecast the county's fiscal problems, which surfaced immediately after Rutkowski was re-elected to a second term in 1983, Farley said.
"They should have seen it coming," Farley said of the budget deficit, the issue that defeated Rutkowski in 1987.
County Comptroller Alfreda W. Slominski is a "destructive force" in the Republican Party.
Mrs. Slominski didn't cooperate with him and other GOP leaders and is unlikely to work with the current chairman, Assemblyman Thomas M. Reynolds, Farley said.
Mrs. Slominski, a Republican and longtime Farley critic, endorsed Gorski in 1987. She was re-elected comptroller last year on the Democratic ticket.
He has no regrets about the GOP endorsements he delivered in 1981, 1985 and 1989 to Griffin, a Democrat.
The GOP's endorsement of Griffin "made a lot of sense" because of the political realities, Farley said. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city by better than 4-to-1.
In addition, Farley said, Griffin has performed well as mayor and his reign at City Hall has helped the GOP by keeping the Democratic Party divided.
Rutkowski, a close friend of Griffin, was instrumental in persuading GOP leaders to endorse the mayor in 1981.
At Farley's request, Jack F. Kemp, then a Buffalo-area congressman, recruited Rutkowski as a candidate for county executive in 1979. Kemp, now U.S. housing secretary, intervened after Rutkowski had twice declined Farley's invitation to run for the office.
Farley recruited heavily in the Italian-American and Polish-American communities. Rutkowski was the first Polish-American to be Erie County executive.
At Farley's urging, Richard J. Arcara ran on the GOP line in 1981 and became the first Italian-American elected Erie County district attorney.
That same year, Joseph S. Mattina was elected county surrogate on the Republican line.
Arcara, who resigned as U.S. attorney to run for district attorney, was succeeded as federal prosecutor by Salvatore Martoche, who was recommended by Farley.
Subsequently, Dennis Vacco was named U.S. attorney to replace Martoche, who resigned to work in the U.S. Labor and Treasury departments in Washington. Vacco's appointment was made on Farley's recommendation.
Later, at the urging of Farley, first Arcara and then William Skretny were appointed U.S. district judges.
Skretny, the unsuccessful GOP candidate for district attorney in 1989, is the first Polish-American named to the federal bench in Western New York.
When Farley became GOP chairman near the end of 1978, he inherited a party debt of $628,000. It had been reduced to less than $300,000 when he left as chairman.
Farley claims Mrs. Slominski never has forgiven him for bypassing her for county executive in 1979.
"Hell hath no fury like Alfreda scorned," Farley said of Mrs. Slominski, who was defeated by Rutkowski in the 1979 GOP and Conservative primaries for county executive.
Farley said he was on a GOP search committee that recommended Mrs. Slominski for the GOP endorsement for comptroller in 1974.
According to Farley, Mrs. Slominski was given the GOP nod after she had promised to stop sniping at County Executive Regan.
Farley said Mrs. Slominski resumed her attacks on Regan about a month after she was elected comptroller.