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Election Day frequently is anti-climactic in Lackawanna, where the Democratic primary often is the real contest.

Many political observers feel that will be the case again this year in two of the three City Council contests. The 2nd Ward's three-way race is the exception.

Political newcomer Daniel M. Kozub captured the Democratic endorsement, but by the narrowest of margins -- 459-446 -- over former Councilman John S. Kwasniewski Jr. Kwasniewski, who has only the Liberal line, is trying to win back the seat he lost eight years ago.

Also a factor, if for no other reason than the fact she has five lines to one each for her opponents, is Maureen Murphy.

If elected, she'll have to live with the title of "Councilman," at least officially, as there's never been any reason to change it because no woman has ever been elected to the Council. One did serve briefly by appointment years ago, however.

Three incumbents chose not to seek re-election, bringing out a larger than usual field of candidates that was narrowed on Primary Day.

With 9,200 of the city's nearly 13,000 registered voters being Democrats, capturing the line is vitally important.

But Kwasniewski claimed his showing in the primary indicated "strong support among the people, not the Democrats," and said he is running against the political power in the city.

He referred to his opponents as a "bus driver (Kozub) and a bartender (Ms. Murphy)," both lacking his experience.

Kwasniewski was elected to two terms before being upset eight years ago by Robert J. Lohr. He is a motor-equipment operator for the city Department of Public Works and would take a leave of absence if elected. He also runs a construction business.

Kozub, who works for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said he likes to think the three are running for the same position but not against each other.

"I don't want to lose any friends" by running, he said, mentioning that Ms. Murphy, especially, is a friend who used to baby-sit him.

Making the city attractive to young families and providing better recreation facilities for young people are top priorities, Kozub said.

Ms. Murphy said she has run the family-owned tavern for 22 years, and said the decline in neighborhoods she has witnessed and the need for more recreation for kids prompted her to make her first run for public office.

"I don't need a job, I'm running because I care," she said.

She is a registered Conservative, but also has the Republican, Freedom, Right to Life and Independence parties lines.

In the 1st Ward, where Richard Baldelli decided not to seek re-election after one term, there are four candidates, but Ricardo Estrada is considered a heavy favorite based on his strong showing in the four-way Democratic primary.

He counsels juvenile offenders for the state Division for Youth as well as being chairman of the Board of Directors of Friendship House.

Community activist Andrea Haxton, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Education in 1995, is campaigning under the independent Sunshine Party label.

Charlie L. Viney has the Republican and Right to Life lines and Michael J. Buntich is the Liberal Party candidate.

In the 3rd Ward, retired City Clerk Gerald S. DePasquale scored a convincing win over Dennis M. Tos in the Democratic Primary, 445-257, and remains a heavy favorite to replace Thomas Love. Tos, who ran unsuccessfully in this year's school board election, has the Republican endorsement.

Martin G. Darmstedter, chairman of the tiny Liberal Party in the city, is that party's candidate.

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