Amherst voters Tuesday set the stage for a November election battle to decide which party will control the seven-member Town Board.
Democrats easily turned back a challenge by Planning Board member Paul A. Beyer and won nominations for endorsed candidates, veteran Board Member Daniel J. Ward, and newcomers Deborah Bruch Bucki and James J. Twombly.
Meanwhile, Democratic Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick handily defeated Republican Town Board Member William L. Kindel in a head-to-head contest for the Independence Party endorsement.
"The residents responded to my message, which is planning for the future, fiscal reform, the expansion of green space and providing cost-effective, quality services," Grelick said, reacting to her 20 percent margin of victory.
Grelick, who has twice beaten Kindel by ratios of more than 2-to-1 in general elections, said she will not let up in her campaigning.
"The victory tonight is only the first step. . . . We have to keep working," she said.
Kindel expressed disappointment, but said he was not crushed by the loss.
"She may not be so lucky next time. We're not giving up," he said following the returns.
Grelick's victory assures her of two ballot lines in November, while Kindel will have at least three, including the Republican, Conservative and Right to Life party lines.
In the Democratic Town Board race, Ward led the field with 30 percent of the estimated 3,000 votes cast, followed by Bucki with 28 percent and Twombly with 25 percent.
They will face Republican incumbents Jane S. Woodward and Bob Brewer, along with Shelly Collora Schratz, a Snyder restaurateur who is making her first bid for office.
"I'm elated -- I'm tired, but I'm elated," said Twombly, a political science professor at the University at Buffalo.
"My left shoe has a hole in it. We Amherst Democrats like to say we try to win campaigns with shoe leather, and my left shoe is proof of that."
Bucki, who appointed her 18-year-old son, Craig, as her campaign manager, credited him with the win.
"He was very skillful at identifying . . . what districts to go door to door in," she said. "He took one side of the street and I would take the other side."
Bucki said her son, who is attending Yale University, kept track of the returns on the Internet.
The Independence Party contest was closely watched because it featured a head-to-head contest between the endorsed Republicans and Democrats, and it could mean hundreds of votes in November.
At the end of the evening, Democrats Ward and Twombly shared victory with Republican Board Member Jane S. Woodward, indicating possible trouble for Republicans in November.
However, Town Democratic Chairman Dennis Ward cautioned against reading too much into the vote tallies.
"It's such a small sample of voters, but we watched it very closely because it means 1,200 votes in November," Ward said. "That second line can be very, very important."