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GOP HOPING TO MAKE INROADS ON TOWN BOARD

A Republican elected to office in Cheektowaga this year might be considered a political coup by some, since you can count on one finger the number of Republicans on the Town Board in the past 20 years.

But adding one Republican voice to the current all-Democratic Town Board just won't do, say the GOP candidates gearing up for next month's election.

That's why Cheektowaga's four Republican candidates -- with limited campaign money, high hopes and the odds stacked against them -- have banded together with a goal to get, not just one, but at least two of them elected this year.

"If I were to be elected myself that would be a waste," said Lynne M. Ratke-Bischoff, 43, who is making her first run for public office. "What can I do myself? I would have six other people against me."

Four of the seven Town Board seats are up for grabs this year. Six candidates are vying for three, four-year terms, while two candidates are squaring off for an unexpired two-year term.

The GOP candidates have been busy hitting the streets, stressing the need for change in town government and reminding residents about the two-party system.

"There are no checks and balances," said Diana M. Koczon-Seifert, a Republican running for a two-year unexpired term against James J. Jankowiak, the appointed incumbent.

"If we can get more information out to the people, basically saying it's time for a change."

The Republicans aren't guaranteeing things will change Nov. 4. They know the Democrats rule in Cheektowaga.

The number of registered Democrats vastly outnumbers the Republicans -- nearly 33,000 to just more than 14,000.

It's also going to be tough facing a solid Democratic slate of veteran candidates -- Incumbent Councilwoman Patricia A. Jaworowicz and Councilmen William P. Rogowski and James J. Jankowiak and former County Legislator Thomas J. Mazur.

But the Republicans are counting on Democratic voters' ability to think independently.

"I think a lot of people maintain party loyalty and continue to vote Democrat," said Mrs. Koczon-Seifert, 37, who ran unsuccessfully for the Town Board in 1995. "However, I've been going from door to door in South Cheektowaga talking to a lot of younger people, and I think they're going to vote with their pocketbooks."

"You can't beat a two-party system," said Republican candidate L. Charles Hintermeier, 73, a retired sales manager who is running in his first election. "There are so many things that go on that the public doesn't know about until it's too late."

Republican Town Chairwoman Janice Kowalski-Kelly, who is running in the 5th County Legislature District against Democratic incumbent Gregory B. Olma, said this year's Republican slate has been the party's best at working together toward a common party goal.

Now, they just have to sway Democratic voters, said Republican candidate Kevin J. Wodarczak, 36, a supervisor for Brink's and a frequent Town Board critic.

"The people have to go into the election and vote for the person this time, not the party, Wodarczak said.

"It's going to take a good voter turnout by the Republicans," Ms. Kowalski-Kelly added. "I really think that's going to be the key."

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