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Contesting for the votes of residents in seven towns -- from industrial to rural in nature -- two Legislature candidates in the county's 17th District have staked out separate ideological territories: taxes and regional cooperation.

Incumbent Dale W. Larson, a Republican, is opposed by John F. Donogher, a Democrat, for the Legislature seat of the district, which covers an area on the rim of the county that includes Lancaster, Alden, Marilla, Wales, Holland, Sardinia, and Concord.

Larson says ever-increasing taxes are most on the minds of residents.

Donogher said the tax issue is overshadowing the importance of regional thinking.

Larson, 36, a Lancaster resident, said the geographic and economic diversity of the district -- from industry in Lancaster to farms in Springville -- makes it a challenge to "listen to the needs of the district, yet balance that with a regional perspective."

The biggest issue for those in the district -- and his biggest priority if elected to a third term -- is taxes, Larson said.

"People are fleeing in droves from that tax burden," he said, pointing to recent increases in town, village and school taxes for Lancaster residents. "Businesses are saying, 'We can't afford to stay here.' "

"In rural areas, they're struggling to keep family farms together. Taxes are a huge issue to them."

"I see that as the single biggest issue and challenge facing not only county government but the entire region," Larson said. "I've never voted for a tax increase. You keep adding to that load, you're going to see an exodus from the area."

Donogher, 39, a Lancaster resident and attorney for a Williamsville company, said that taxes shouldn't be seen as the only issue in the district.

The "diversity of issues" of concern to residents includes road and bridge repair, industrial-development opportunities and the maintenance of green space and agricultural areas, Donogher said.

On taxes, Donogher said, Larson "has a record of voting no, but he's got no proposals to lower taxes and maintain services. That's irresponsible government. We all want lower taxes, but we all want the services they provide," he said.

"I think lowering our taxes is feasible, but it has to be done in conjunction with some tough decisions. Intermunicipal cooperation might be one way."

Donogher said if elected, he will support a countywide Industrial Development Agency and an economic advisory board composed of "a cross-section of the community."

In addition, he said, he will hold joint meetings of the seven towns' highway superintendents and supervisors to discuss cooperation and shared services among the towns.

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