Experience seemed to prevail over party affiliation in Tuesday's Cheektowaga Democratic primary, where all four incumbents prevailed over the party's endorsed challengers.
Incumbents Patricia A. Jaworowicz, Thomas J. Mazur and William P. Rogowski each appeared to win positions on the Democratic ticket in November for the Town Board, and Town Justice Ronald E. Kmiotek prevailed in his race against attorney John M. Dudziak.
Unofficial vote totals, with 62 of 64 precincts reporting, showed Jaworowicz receiving the most votes, 3,741, followed by Mazur, 3,696, and Rogowski, 3,254. Challengers Zydel, Kucewicz and Czubaj received 2,788, 2,512 and 2,457 votes, respectively.
For town justice, incumbent Kmiotek received 3,413 votes to Dudziak's 2,901.
"I personally put my faith and trust in our accomplishments for the Town of Cheektowaga," Jaworo-wicz said. "The voters gave us a mandate. That validates our team."
The Cheektowaga primary race took on a hard edge when incumbent candidates walked away from the party's endorsement meeting a few months ago after they sensed that some of them might be frozen out of support by the town's Democratic Committee.
That set up a race in which challengers for Town Board seats, Linda L. Czubaj, Ziggy Kucewicz and Richard A. Zydel, along with Dudziak for town justice, won the endorsement of the Democratic Committee to square off against the incumbents.
"It's a sweet victory for us. . . . We just went to the people of the town and left it up to the people. They put us back. I have a lot of respect for the electorate of this town," Rogowski said.
The incumbents believed that Rogowski was among those to be snubbed by the town Democrats as punishment for his decision to challenge Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak for his post in 1999.
"They wanted to get me," Rogowski said. "Two years ago, they spent $71,000 to beat me by 400 votes. To me, this is so self-satisfying. The general public out there put me back in office."
Excitement at the incumbent headquarters at Fontana's Banquet Center on Clinton Street was somewhat subdued, however, the victors said.
"You have to have mixed emotions now," Mazur said. "The campaign went bust when America went bust. It's hard to be super happy or super emotional right now because this pales in comparison to what is going on in the world.
"People went with those who represented them well for so many years and figured: Why change now? It wasn't time to change yet."
The endorsed challengers, who campaigned on that theme of change, thought that their message was right, and were disappointed with the results.
"We have given the people in this community the opportunity to elect some new individuals in this community and have been unsuccessful," said James R. Burst, chairman of the town Democratic Committee.
Nevertheless, the challengers vowed their campaign to change Cheektowaga will continue in spite of their defeats. "This is just the beginning for us, and we will do this again, I'm sure," Zydel said. "We're not quitters, and we will prevail eventually."
Kucewicz said: "The group of candidates we had were great. We worked together and went door to door. We did everything we could possibly do."