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Chautauqua County Executive Mark Thomas announced Thursday that he is running for a third term.

A 13-year veteran of local politics, Thomas, who has been county executive for eight years, cited his role in the state's recent Medicaid reform efforts during a breakfast at the White Inn in Fredonia.

"I have devoted my efforts to fighting for Medicaid reform during this term. I was elected to run a government, not a health insurance company," Thomas said. "I am proud to be recognized across the state for my role in the successful Medicaid reform package that has stopped the fiscal bleeding for our county taxpayers."

The state budget passed March 31 will save counties $373 million in 2005 and, when fully implemented with a state takeover of the costs, $3.3 billion a year.

Thomas cited his leadership as key to steering the county through difficult times. He blamed the spiraling costs of state-mandated programs, like Medicaid, for the need to raise taxes during the last three years. His administration has had to cut the county work force by 15 percent.

"We are the only county west of the Hudson River to have had positive private-sector job growth two years in a row, despite a sluggish national economy," Thomas stated.

Looking to the future, Thomas said there is a need for more Medicaid reform and a renewed emphasis on economic development initiatives.

The county Republican Committee, still working to find a challenger, is scheduled to announce its endorsed candidate in mid-May.

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