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Crowded mayoral field now a two-way race

Now that the primary recounts are settled, the top two candidates to succeed departing City of Tonawanda Mayor Jack Gallagher are moving into the next stage of their campaigns. This year's race has been memorable because there were six candidates, the most crowded field in recent memory.

Longtime Councilwoman Gayle L. Syposs held off an unexpectedly strong challenge from former Fire Chief Jay Ralph to win the Democratic nomination. After the Sept. 13 primary election, the race was locked in a virtual tie between the two candidates before Syposs prevailed by 16 votes after the Erie County Board of Elections tabulated the absentee ballots.

Syposs won the nomination with 440 votes, while Ralph received 424. Although Syposs anticipated a tough battle for the nomination, she did not expect a photo finish.

"Turnouts, in general, have been diminishing," Syposs said. "Primaries are always a concern because too often people don't see the importance of it. I'm grateful to be through it."

Ronald J. Pilozzi, another political veteran, won the Republican primary with 401 votes. He defeated Councilman Thomas W. Smyers, who received 283 votes, and Thomas Christy, who had 103. Before the primary, there was no endorsed Republican candidate, even though Pilozzi is the husband of committee Chairwoman Christine M. Pilozzi.

"I had no inclination it would be anything than a tough thing to do," Ronald Pilozzi said of the primary. "All the major party lines I was hoping to take, I took. I met my initial goal, and I look to do the same thing in November."

Syposs and Pilozzi also wrapped up all the minor party lines. Syposs edged Ken Horn, 23-22, for the Conservative nomination. Pilozzi won the Independence line with 33 votes, defeating Syposs, who had 26, and Smyers, who had six. Syposs, the endorsed Working Families candidate, was declared the winner in that primary with 12 votes, with Pilozzi receiving five write-in votes.

"None of the races in the city in the past have been easy," Syposs said. ". . . There appears to be an equally split opinion. For too many years, the campaigns in the city have been relegated to more personality contests than issue-orientated.

"It's my intention to talk about my plans and my record versus Ron's. Where other people might want to take the campaign is out of my control," she said.

Pilozzi said that "up to this point, [the campaign] has been aboveboard and positive. I don't believe a negative campaign does anybody any favors. The other factor that comes into play when you look at two candidates is 'Who do you trust?' That's who people are going to vote for, whether it's me or my opponent."

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