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CHALLENGERS OFFER OPTION TO VETERAN SLAUGHTER

Even critics call her Louise, a reflection of her 28 years in public office, mostly in Congress.

Incumbent Democrat Louise M. Slaughter also benefits from a healthly campaign chest -- she outspent opponents by more than 15-to-1 -- and enjoys a huge Democratic enrollment edge.

By all accounts, Slaughter is expected to win a 10th two-year term in the House, but not without a challenge from two opponents.

"Folks outside of Monroe County are lucky," said Michael D. Laba, her Republican challenger. "They've only had her reign for two years."

Two years ago, Slaughter's district was changed to include parts of Erie and Niagara counties. Democrats in the earmuff-shaped district stretching from Buffalo to Rochester now outnumber Republicans, 2-1.

That hasn't stopped political newcomers Laba and Francina J. Cartonia, the Independence Party candidate, from offering an alternative.

Slaughter defeated Cartonia in the Democratic Primary, relegating her challenger to a third-party line on the ballot. She also lambasted Laba this week for not filing his campaign spending reports.

Federal documents indicate Laba's last election filing was in June. A new filing was due this month. His campaign said it's in the mail.

"We don't consider Mr. Laba a candidate," Slaughter said. "As far as we know, he has failed to file since June."

Laba, 30, of Greece, countered this week with allegations that Slaughter used Erie County employees working on taxpayers' time to inspect Cartonia's nominating petitions.

Cartonia, a 70-year-old community activist from Williamsville, and Slaughter have exchanged allegations of election impropriety.

Both Cartonia and Laba like to portray Slaughter as out of touch and unresponsive to her district.

"My opponent has not brought back our fair share of tax dollars," Cartonia said.

As a member of the House Rules Committee, Slaughter is considered one of its more influential members. She boasts of bringing home more than $100 million in federal funds each year.

She also disagrees with Laba and Cartonia on everything from the war in Iraq to taxes and jobs.

"She's more interested in playing politics than she is in the lives of our great men and women in uniform," Laba said of Slaughter.

Slaughter voted against a Republican plan for supplemental war funding and instead supported a Democratic alternative that Laba claims had no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House.

"I didn't want to give money directly to Halliburton," Slaughter said of her vote. "What I wanted is for our troops to have the best."

Slaughter thinks the war was a mistake while Laba, an Army veteran who was at the Pentagon when it was attacked on 9/1 1, views it as necessary in the war on terrorism.

"Right or wrong, we're over there now," added Cartonia. "We must finish the job."

e-mail: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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