County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick expects to be called to active Army duty because of heightened military activity following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
As a result, the Kenmore Democrat said he has begun to plan with other legislative leaders for an interim chairman to serve in his absence, while acknowledging the potential adverse effects a call-up could pose to his re-election in November.
"I do expect to get activated," he said Friday. "You never know until you get the phone call, but I expect this to be larger and more intense than Desert Storm, and I was very close then."
Swanick, 51, is a master sergeant in the reserve's 98th Division, 8th Brigade. In August he re-enlisted for another year in order to attain the 20-year mark needed for retirement benefits.
Just hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Swanick said he was placed on the highest alert level as government officials began planning their response. Since then his alert status has been downgraded one level, but he still expects to be called to serve in a supply or instructional capacity.
"There are no choices in this matter," he said. "If the Army Reserve activates me for service, I'll be gone shortly after that."
The chairman said he has spoken with Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples, D-Buffalo, and Minority Leader John W. Greenan, R-West Seneca, about the effects of a possible absence from the Legislature. He noted it could cause a problem because of the weighted vote his district will carry in the Legislature until a redistricting plan is finalized, as well as from a vacancy in his leadership post.
"I hope that in a bipartisan way we could solve this problem," he said. "And I don't think there is an interest in the Legislature to have a great political debate over my activation."
Swanick this year also faces the strongest challenge in his 22-year legislative career, from Kevin R. Hardwick, a political science professor at Canisius College and Republican alderman in the City of Tonawanda. While Swanick is favored to win re-election again this year, Hardwick and Republicans are planning an active and well-financed campaign expected to paint him as an obstructionist to the policies of Republican County Executive Joel A. Giambra.
Now Swanick says he may find himself unable to campaign.
"It could be career-ending, there's no question about it," he said.
Hardwick said Friday he does not know what effect a Swanick call-up would have on the campaign.
"Obviously, I would hope for Chuck's sake and the sake of his family that he will not be called up," Hardwick said. "Right now I'm looking to get through Tuesday's primary, and if this happens, I'll deal with it."
Hardwick and Swanick meet Tuesday in the Independence Party primary.