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Crowded field aims to succeed Kuwik

With the 22-year incumbent's reign ending, a crowd of hopefuls is trying to get on the November ballot for the 1st District in the Erie County Legislature.

Tuesday's primaries are for the Democratic and Independence lines. Each candidate has declared his independence -- with a lower-case "i" -- despite rivals' claims to the contrary.

The Democratic primary features Dennis Bigaj of Blasdell, Thomas J. Jackson and Daniel M. Kozub of Lackawanna, and Gregory B. Olma of Buffalo. Kozub got the county Democratic Committee's endorsement.

Jackson, a registered Democrat, also is seeking the Independence Party line, having received that endorsement. Ford Beckwith of Blasdell and William F. Koch of Lackawanna round out the Independence Party contest.
All want to succeed Democratic Legislator Edward J. Kuwik of Lackawanna.

What drew them into the race?

"Looking at what's happened in our county, I feel I have a lot to offer. I can make a difference," said Bigaj, a former businessman who now works for the West Seneca School District.

Jackson was in the race months before Kuwik announced he wasn't.

"I'm seeing people do want change. They don't want politicians anymore," said Jackson, a longtime employee of the West Seneca School District.

"I just think that something has to be done. I feel like I meet the criteria," said Kozub, a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority driver and two-term Lackawanna councilman.

Having watched the county's situation unfold, "I know I can do a better job than that," said Olma, a former four-term legislator who was laid off from his county job earlier this year.

They're wary of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.

"It was necessary for someone to come in and say 'Stop,' " Jackson said. "I think we have to prove we can financially handle our budgets ourselves."

"You're being paid by the people. It's your obligation and your duty to resolve the situation," Kozub said. .

"I think the county control board is a mistake. It shouldn't have happened," Olma said.

Bigaj said: "I just feel embarrassed about it. I believe the legislators are getting paid well enough to do their jobs."
Most candidates agree that a sales tax increase would be the lesser of two evils.

"As I have been walking door to door, at least 80 percent of the people would rather see a sales tax because everybody pays it," Kozub said. He said he agrees.

"I'm very much for keeping down the property tax," Olma said.

Bigaj said: "I would prefer to go with the sales tax because it's more evenly balanced and we have the commerce coming over from Canada."

""I prefer fees -- golf courses, parks," Jackson said.

Beckwith, seeking the Independence Party line, said: "I don't think we need any tax increase whatsoever."

Koch advocates referendums on issues like sales tax hikes.


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