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NEW FACES SUDDENLY CROWD RACE FOR GOP PANEL SEATS

Several races are taking shape for seats on the Amherst Republican Committee.

At stake is the right to play a crucial role in deciding who will become the town's next GOP chairman this fall.

Assemblyman Richard R. Anderson, R-Amherst, recently has begun promoting his name for the chairman's post, town Republicans said. Current Chairman Frank C. Harding is expected to step down at the end of his term later this year.

Anderson's chances may depend on the outcome of the committee member primaries Sept. 15.

The number of races reflects a simmering division in the town Republican ranks, said Joe Speth, who's also running for the party leadership post.

There are contested races in 18 out of 107 town election districts, according to county Election Board records.

Among committee members being challenged are Frank T. Gaglione, treasurer of the Erie County Republican Executive Committee; Sally A. Vastola of Assemblyman Tom Reynolds' staff, and Kathleen Lane, vice chairwoman of the town's GOP committee.

James V. Loughran, a committee member and a staffer for County Legislator William Pauly, is behind what is considered the challenges.

"These are people I've run across over the past couple of years who have said they wanted to get involved," Loughran said. "They're very disappointed in the direction of the Amherst Republican Party. They've felt neglected. And they've decided to take part in the American process and to pursue these volunteer positions. I commend them."

Loughran is the brother of Thomas Loughran, a former Amherst Town Board member.

Amherst Republican leaders turned their backs on Thomas Loughran when he sought re-election last year to the Town Board. He lost the party's endorsement, but his decision to stay in the race as an independent drew votes from a Republican candidate. That helped to elect Democrat Daniel J. Ward and give the Democrats control of the Town Board for the first time ever.

James Loughran said the Republican leadership's decision not to back his brother cost the party control of the Town Board.

"What the party needs is dynamic, new leadership," he said.

Among eight candidates challenging incumbent committee members are William K. Bambach Jr., director of security for the Buffalo Bills; Gerald H. Mack, retired Erie County undersheriff, and Fredrick A. Vilonen, a member of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency board of directors.

Not everybody is so happy about the challenges.

James P. Hayes, a member of the Town Board, called the challenges "a last gasp" by a faction of the party out of favor with most Republicans.

Speth and Brian Rusk, who also is seeking support to become town GOP chairman, criticized the challenges.

"They're challenging the heart and soul of the Amherst Republican Party," Rusk said. "I strongly oppose their efforts to divide the committee."

"We can't let people come in who have no vested interest," Speth said. "They're just interested in knocking certain individuals out."

Anderson did not return calls to his office seeking comment.

Town Board Member William L. Kindel said, if successful, the challengers, would have a major impact on the chairman's election.

"There's no question about it," Kindel said. "They actually live in the district where they're running, and I think they'd represent their neighborhoods. It'll be a contested battle, and that's a rarity in this town."

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