County Legislator Jeanne Z. Chase, R-Evans, may be fighting an uphill battle in name recognition, but she's hoping voters will give a new name a chance Tuesday.
While she has been a legislator seven months, her opponent, Democrat Francis J. Pordum of Derby, is a proven vote-getter, representing the area in the state Assembly for 15 years and in the County Legislature for three years.
"I think my biggest strength is I haven't been in government 18 years. With him the die is cast," Ms. Chase said. "I am not a professional politician. I am not a career politician."
Pordum considers his experience his greatest strength.
"I've done a good job as an elected representative. I can do a wealth of good for the people in the district," he said.
They are vying to represent the 12th District, including the towns of Evans and Eden and parts of Orchard Park and Hamburg.
Pordum, 51, gave up his Assembly seat last year to run in a high-profile race for Congress, which he lost to Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg. He is vice president of marketing and professional services for Capital Hill Management Services.
He started his career on the County Legislature 18 years ago, serving with three of the current legislators.
Why would he want to return?
"I like public service and I've done a good job at it. Whatever level you serve on, its an honor to serve your public," Pordum said. "When I was a county legislator I uncovered Medicaid fraud in the county."
Ms. Chase, 32, was appointed in March when Republican Bert Villarini stepped down. An associate broker with Hunt Realty, she knows her opponent has wide name recognition, but doesn't believe her lack of government experience is a negative.
She said she may have a fresher perspective, and will leave the Legislature when her goals are accomplished.
"I am here for as long as I can make a difference," she said. "I'm a regular Joe Taxpayer just like you."
Both say taxes are a main issue. Pordum has pledged not to raise taxes for the next three years. Ms. Chase said she was moved to try to lower taxes after meeting senior citizens forced to sell their homes because they could not afford the taxes.
Both believe there is enough money in the budget to fund the Buffalo Bills lease without resorting to sin taxes, and both said they are awaiting the results of a Greater Buffalo Partnership study of funding sources for the lease.
Ms. Chase said many of the state mandates that county taxpayers are funding were handed down by the state when Mario Cuomo was governor and Pordum was an assemblyman.
Pordum said he has worked to help local governments and voted for the largest tax cut in state history.
He would seek to have the county work more effectively with local governments and said there should be better controls over industrial development agencies.
Ms. Chase said she would like to see government operate more like a private family-owned business with responsible budgeting.
Pordum is running on the Democrat and Conservative lines, and Ms. Chase has the Republican, Independence and Freedom lines.