In Amherst this campaign season, there are political signs touting "Woodward, Hayes, Simmons" for the Amherst Town Board and "Kindel" for supervisor.
All four are endorsed Republicans, but the absence of any sign bearing all four of their names perhaps best illustrates, longtime observers say, the deep political chasm at the top of the local GOP.
"If they're my running mates, they're on a different track," William L. Kindel said this week.
Talking like a man who is at the top of his party's ticket in name only, Kindel said he's being left out of the fund-raising loop by his supposed running mates, GOP Council Members Jane S. Woodward and James P. Hayes, plus Robert C. Simmons, the town's Conservative Party chairman.
The three Town Board candidates, aided by a committee that put a heavy arm on area development interests, raised more than $60,000 for a primary last month in which an incumbent Republican board member was defeated by less than 150 votes.
The trio reportedly has set a goal of $100,000 for the general election Nov. 4, with a spending blitz on radio and in the mail expected shortly. It's a case of three candidates deciding early in the year to run as a team, cutting their collective teeth in a primary, and seeing no reason to change their strategy now, local politicians say.
"Jane, Jim and Bob have been a team since Day One and are going their own way," said Amherst GOP Chairman Frank C. Harding. "It's been their decision not to include Bill, or the other way around for that matter, but that certainly shouldn't surprise anyone who's been paying attention to what's been going on at Town Hall."
Harding was referring to at least a dozen issues on which Kindel and his supposed colleagues, Hayes and Mrs. Woodward, have been on opposite sides of the fence over the past two years.
For example, Kindel fought a high-profile battle against the way the deal to build the town's $18.3 million ice rink was structured, even leading a taxpayers group that raised 4,000 signatures in a futile bid to get the issue on the ballot next month. He also backed Mrs. Woodward's opponent for supervisor in the GOP primary in September 1996, who then went out and lost to Supervisor Susan J. Grelick, the Democrat that Kindel is out to dethrone next month.
"We've had a busy two years of not agreeing," Kindel acknowledged half-jokingly.
Kindel said he thinks the GOP hierarchy has written him off, opting to put all its political eggs in one basket -- the one being toted by Mrs. Woodward, Hayes and Simmons.
The "eggs" in this case are political contributions.
Left on his own, Kindel said his campaign will be lucky to muster $20,000. A year ago, Ms. Grelick spent four times that amount against her GOP opponent, and insiders say they have no reason to believe she will spend significantly less this time around -- not when the prize is a four- instead of a one-year term.
Kindel said he's got about $16,000 now. He grinned when told that Harding not only denied the party is cutting him off, but said Kindel "will probably get some" of the proceeds from a big GOP fund-raising dinner later this month. The function, Harding said, should raise $5,000 to $7,000, but there will be eight candidates standing in line for shares of it.
Does Kindel think he win with a $20,000 campaign?
"Let me say, first, that there is no cohesive Republican Party in Amherst, and there should be. We've had some . . . many honest differences of opinion on issues, but we're supposed to be representing all Republicans. I've been in politics long enough to know that you can't take these differences personally, but, unfortunately for the party, some do.
"Now, having said that, yes, I can win. I know they're predicting me as a loser, but I'm gonna prove 'em wrong, me and my army of nobodys," Kindel declared."
Kindel reflected on an exclusive breakfast meeting with prospective GOP donors at the Park Country Club last month. "I wasn't invited, I didn't know about it, and I'm certainly not a benefactor of it. Am I out of the fund-raising loop? As far as those three go, yes, I sure am. They're doing their own thing and I'm doing mine," he said.
Harding said he's worried that all the fund-raising in town for last month's GOP primary may be close to running the well dry. "The number of potential donors out there is finite. They've been tapped and now they're being re-tapped," he said.
Donors used to give freely to party fund-raising committees for entire slates of candidates. Lately though, according to sources, Republicans with their hands out have been hearing a different refrain.
"More and more, the big contributors seem to prefer donating to individual candidates, or small groups like Woodward, Hayes and Simmons," a highly placed town GOP leader said. "They say that way, they (candidates) will know where their money's coming from."
At a recent gathering of donors with Mrs. Woodward, Hayes and Simmons, sources said a major contributor-businessman stood up and said, "I don't mind contributing, but I want to see some results."