Erie County Democratic Party leaders endorsed a slate of candidates Saturday but put off until Wednesday a decision on who will get the backing in the big countywide race -- comptroller.
That endorsement was on the agenda Saturday when Democratic committee members met in Ellicott Square. But following the session, Chairman Vincent J. Sorrentino said that no decision had been made yet.
"We will hold a special meeting at 5:30 Wednesday to make the endorsement," Sorrentino announced.
Front-runners for the party's backing include County Emergency Services Commissioner James P. Keane and County Legislature Majority Leader Leonard R. Lenihan.
"After the (Wednesday) meeting, there will be a rally," Sorrentino said.
He explained the delay by saying that Democrats have been "looking at polling data" regarding the possible candidates and issues in the race to succeed County Comptroller Alfreda W. Slominski, who is retiring after this year.
Party officials "also have been talking to the candidates and looking at political input," Sorrentino said.
Other possible candidates have included former County Legislator Shirley Stolarski and Deputy County Clerk David B. Kelly. But Keane and Lenihan are regarded as the leading contenders to replace Mrs. Slominiski, a popular independent Republican who will turn 65 next year.
Last month, Keane announced that he would not pursue earlier thoughts about running for comptroller. Sorrentino said Keane has been persuaded to remain in the running.
"The party has reached out to him," Sorrentino said.
Lenihan, a Tonawanda Democrat who represents a district with a large Republican registration, would be a likely candidate to move up to chairman of the County Legislature, according to political observers. The present chairman, Roger I. Blackwell, is expected to become an Erie County Board of Elections commissioner.
In another matter, Sorrentino repeated his hope that Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve will abandon thoughts of running for mayor of Buffalo. And he vowed to "campaign vigorously" for the party leaders' mayoral choice, State Sen. Anthony Masiello.
Community Development Commissioner Samuel F. Iraci, a close Griffin supporter, said Friday that he would be interested in running for mayor.
Asked for his reaction, Sorrentino said: "Nothing is clear sailing. We're going to run a very aggressive race."
Receiving the Democratic Party endorsement Saturday were:
Erie County Family Court -- Margaret Olszewski Szczur and Eugene Gaughan.
Common Council -- South Council Member Brian M. Higgins; Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola; Masten Council Member David A. Collins; and Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts.
County Legislature -- Edward Kuwick, Blasdell; Michael A. Fitzpatrick, South Buffalo; Joan K. Bozer, Buffalo; and Charles Swanick, Kenmore, all incumbents.
Also endorsed in the 12th Legislative District was Karen Connors Erickson of Evans. The seat is held by Republican Bert M. Villarini of Hamburg.
Elsewhere, the Erie County Conservative Party endorsed Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins for re-election Saturday. Higgins has already gained the endorsement of Democratic leaders.