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Separate announcements by two Erie County legislators that they will not seek re-election underscore the effects of a turbulent budget process. They also point out that the upcoming election will be a significant opportunity for change.

First, Steven McCarville said he was tired of county politics "wearing me down," and that he would not run for re-election. McCarville is a five-year veteran and an Orchard Park Republican who claims he never planned to serve a long time in County Hall. But he did admit that the budget crisis helped persuade him to give up his seat.

Barely a week later, Legislator Raymond Dusza announced that he would not run for re-election in his Cheektowaga district. The 70-year-old Democrat had been in office for 15 years.

Taken together, the announcements highlight a perception that voter frustration with incumbents may play a critical role in this year's Legislature elections. Not all incumbents become stale and stagnant, but the longer officeholders serve, the less likely they are to seek fundamental change in a system that essentially protects their political health. The news that the County Legislature will get some new blood raises the possibility that candidates with fresh ideas and perspectives will be a part of the next Legislature.

In any event, the leaders of newly formed groups like Free Buffalo and Primary Challenge, both looking to shake up the ossified political system here, should be rubbing their hands in anticipation. Leonard Roberto, head of Primary Challenge, said he has challengers for nine of the 15 incumbent members of the Erie County Legislature. He plans to announce their names next week.

Much of the problem with politics at all levels is the lack of competitive races. Challengers alone won't change that dynamic unless they are well-funded and have the credentials to mount a serious race. If the budget fiasco leads to challengers like that, all taxpayers will benefit.