Amherst Council Member William A. O'Loughlin became the first declared Republican candidate for county executive Thursday, igniting a campaign that party officials had hoped to keep on ice for a few more weeks.
Days after Erie County Democrats kicked off their 2007 effort with a five-candidate forum, O'Loughlin said he felt compelled to jump-start his candidacy to catch up with Democratic campaigns quietly under way for weeks. He believes he enters the fray with the right mix of public and private experience, and says reducing the size of county government, along with a hands-on economic-development approach, constitutes the right prescription for curing the county's ills.
Erie County GOP Chairman James P. Domagalski is expected to unveil a 12-member committee Jan. 3 with the responsibility of finding a top-notch Republican to run for county executive. He had hoped O'Loughlin and other potential candidates would wait for the panel to begin its work.
"We had directly discouraged people from making an announcement or raising money because we believed all candidates would be best served by working through the committee," Domagalski said. "I just don't think this is going to help him."
Still, O'Loughlin said he felt it necessary to get his campaign going -- and going early. He has hired campaign staff and established a Web site, and will begin raising money soon. He expects to stress a long business career that began with IBM, and use that experience to personally recruit the business leaders he believes would locate in Erie County if they knew more about it.
"If you energize and engage the business community, they will know these [corporate executives]," he said. "We're not using that resource."
O'Loughlin, 68, has been a financial adviser for almost 40 years, and is the resident branch manager of O'Loughlin Financial Group and Brookstreet Securities. He was recently appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki as a commissioner of the New York State Insurance Fund, and is well-known as the former host of WBEN Radio's "Money Show." He is a Binghamton native and St. Bonaventure University graduate who served as an Army nuclear weapons officer.
Domagalski has consistently said he hopes to find a candidate with experience in business and the community.
Other than O'Loughlin, most Republican speculation now turns to New York Secretary of State Christopher L. Jacobs, who ran last year in a special election for the State Senate. He said Thursday he has not yet made up his mind about whether to run for county executive.
Democrats who are expressing interest include former Deputy County Executive James P. Keane, West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark, Amherst Council Member Daniel J. Ward, County Clerk David J. Swarts and County Legislature Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli.