With the results of the Cheektowaga Town Board primary tallied, the victorious incumbents say that the people have spoken: It's the incumbents whom residents support, not the leadership of the town's Democratic Party.
It's time now, the incumbents say, for the leaders of the town party to reach out to them to mend fences and work together.
"We have to sit down and talk about what's good for Cheektowaga," said Thomas J. Mazur, who won his second term on the board.
Mazur and his fellow incumbents, Patricia A. Jaworowicz and William P. Rogowski, secured their seats for another four years, defeating challengers who were endorsed by the town's Democratic Committee.
With 63 of 64 districts reporting, the votes were: Jaworowicz, 3,895; Mazur, 3,871; Rogowski, 3,390; Richard A. Zydel, 2,887; Sigmund S. "Ziggy" Kucewicz, 2,607; and Linda L. Czubaj, 2,579.
Jaworowicz, the top vote-getter, surprised many with her strong showing. Widespread speculation in the local political arena focused on whether the town committee had placed Czubaj on its slate in order to neutralize Jaworowicz's popularity by appealing to voters who wanted to vote for a woman, but not an incumbent.
"Being a woman, I didn't know how having a woman on the opposing team would impact my situation, if it was designed to target my candidacy directly," Jaworowicz said. "But it didn't impact things at all. It was great."
The bigger question that voters answered, though, was whether they wanted change more than they wanted the familiarity that comes with returning the same people to office.
The people voted for the status quo. And with that, they sent a clear message to the leadership of the town's party, the incumbents say.
Earlier this year, the incumbents walked out of the town Democratic committee's endorsement meeting, fearing that some of them might not win the party's support. They feared retribution for Rogowski's unsuccessful run against Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak two years ago, when he won the support of the local Republican Party in the race.
So the incumbents divorced themselves from the party and ran on their own slate.
"They were out to get me," Rogowski said. "If they could have got me out, it would've been a tremendous victory for them."
Rogowski and the other two incumbents say now that voters have shown their support for the incumbents, it's time for James Burst, chairman of the town's Democratic committee, to reach out to them to heal the fractured party.
"If you're the leader of the party, it's up to you to call a meeting to heal the wounds," Mazur said.
Jaworowicz came out with harsher words for Burst. He should be replaced as the party chairman, she said.
"We need to work toward our goal of making the party vibrant again," she said. "I'm not sure that can happen under the present leadership."
She promised a "surge of energy" from her, Mazur and Rogowski, saying the three will demand to be included in decisions in Town Hall. They have been frozen out ever since Rogowski challenged Gabryszak, she said.
Burst could not be reached to comment. Gabryszak, a close ally of Burst, said he plans to put the election behind him and move forward with running the town.
"It's my intention to sit down with the people who were just re-elected and the rest of the board and see what we need to do to move the town forward and have everyone work together," the supervisor said.