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Ditching an incumbent can be very expensive, Republicans in Amherst found out last month.

GOP leaders in the big suburb spent more than $61,500 in a primary election fight against a sitting member of the Amherst Town Board, Thomas A. Loughran.

In the end, Loughran spent $8,100 and still lost by fewer than 150 votes.

Political sources said it was one of the most expensive Republican primaries in the town's history, tapping party resources at a time when strategists would rather have been saving them to use against the Democrats in November.

Sources say the town GOP has informed donors that the goal for the general election is $100,000. With three Republican seats up for grabs next month, Democrats have a chance to take control of the Town Board for the first time ever. Currently, the GOP has a 4-3 edge.

A major player in the primary was the "Committee for a Republican Majority," a fund-raising committee that raised $27,675 from the town's development, real estate and business community, according to reports filed at the Erie County Board of Elections.

The committee spent $24,281 on behalf of the endorsed GOP slate of Council Members Jane S. Woodward and James P. Hayes and Robert C. Simmons, longtime chairman of the town's Conservative Party, records show.

Loughran, a former Amherst Planning Board member, was appointed to the Town Board last year with the help of board Democrats and against the wishes of Mrs. Woodward and Hayes.

Loughran then proceeded to alienate many GOP leaders by voting to appoint a Democrat as town attorney, backing Mrs. Woodward's opponent in last year's GOP primary for town supervisor, and failing to back the party's choice for town clerk when a vacancy occurred last winter.

The Snyder restaurateur also became a vocal opponent of the financing package for Amherst's planned $18.3 million four-rink ice skating arena, which most of the Town Board, including Mrs. Woodward and Hayes, supported, together with town business leaders.

At endorsement time last spring, the Amherst GOP Town Committee replaced Loughran on the party's slate with Simmons, the Conservative chief who also sits on the town Planning Board.

In last month's primary, Mrs. Woodward, Hayes and Simmons became the first endorsed slate to survive a GOP primary intact in this decade.

Donors to Committee for a Republican Majority comprised a veritable "who's who" of Amherst's development and business community. Those giving at least $1,000 included Marrano/Marc Equity Corp., Cimato Brothers interests, Ciminelli Development interests, Craig J. Costanzo, James M. Culligan and Charles E. Dowdell.

Other big contributors included Benderson Development; Clough, Harbour & Associates; Zaepfel Development; Regent Construction; Carmina Silvestri Architects; the Niagara Frontier Builders Association PAC; Sportservice Corp.; Daniel Palumbo; and the law firm of Renaldo, Myers and Palumbo.

Many development and business firms and their executives also contributed heavily to the campaign fund-raising committees of the candidates themselves.

Hayes' committee reported raising $13,560 and spending $20,987. Major donors included Randall J. Clark, $500; AIP 45 Partnership, $400; Don Spoth Farm, $350; Michael J. Burke, $300; and Renaldo, Myers & Palumbo, $280. Hayes reported $250 contributions by Resser Management, Noco Unlimited, Daniel Palumbo, Jeff Palumbo, Benderson-Goodman Partnership and ABC Paving.

Mrs. Woodward raised $13,211 and spent $8,941. Her donors included Ciminelli and Benderson-Goodman, $270 each; Carl J. Montante, $250; Uniland Development and Marrano/Marc Equity, $225 each; and Clough Harbour, $180.

Simmons spent $7,352 and raised $7,590 from contributors, including, AIP 45 Partnership, $400; Michael J. Burke, $300, and Frontier Properties, $200.

Loughran raised $6,894, spent $8,103, and borrowed $1,500 from his wife, according to his report. One of Loughran's largest contributions was $200 from Frontier Properties.

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