A hard-fought Republican primary for town supervisor has pitted incumbent Timothy E. Demler against former Town Justice Robert B. Cliffe in a race that has focused more on political accusations than issues.
Both candidates said they are eager to talk about their priorities as they head into Tuesday's primary election, and both said they are focused on keeping taxes flat and continuing to oppose the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps for the town.
Demler, 49, of Mapleton Road, is a small-business owner who is seeking his eighth term in office. He said he wants to continue a record of reducing town fees while increasing services.
"I think I've done a good job," Demler said. "I think I've represented the people fairly. I believe in representing the people instead of representing the party."
Cliffe, 59, of Ward Road, resigned as town justice to run for supervisor. He has worked for Helmel Engineering for 19 years and is currently an operations manager. He wants to work with the Town Board to take a "very, very serious look" at town spending to keep town fees down.
Cliffe was asked to run by the town Republican Committee after the party revoked its endorsement of Demler.
"The position of supervisor is one that needs a person who can be trusted by everybody in the town to work in their interests, to listen to their concerns, to work together with Town Board members, staff and professionals to do the best job for all of the residents," Cliffe said. "I believe I'm that person."
The winner of Tuesday's GOP primary will face Sam Conti, the Democratic nominee, in November.
A split in the Republican Party has provoked a nasty primary that has the potential to end Demler's 14-year run in office. Demler said he is confident he will win and listed among his three top priorities cutting taxes, expanding services and fighting FEMA.
Demler, who has a daughter, holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and public administration from Buffalo State College.
Under Demler's leadership, the town has gotten FEMA to remove homes from new federal flood maps. He plans to continue that fight and said he would eventually like to see homes on River Road and in Bergholz that have been in flood zones for decades removed from the flood maps.
He also pointed to an expansion of town services that he said has included the addition of two new gymnasiums, a new youth center, the purchase of more than 35 acres of parkland and additional police patrols.
Under his tenure, Demler said, special district taxes on the average home have been reduced by more than $400.
"I think people are happy with the strides we've made in Wheatfield," Demler said.
Cliffe and his wife, Andrea, have four children. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University at Buffalo.
His three top priorities are maintaining a zero town tax and keeping special district fees down, continuing to oppose FEMA and to set up committees with "the best minds in Wheatfield" to tackle issues like economic development, housing growth and drainage issues.
Cliffe said he would also like to sponsor a public referendum to impose an eight-year term limit on the job of supervisor.
"The position of supervisor is a position of power," Cliffe said. "Because of that, there needs to be a changeover in that position. I recommend term limits so that I don't get in the same position that our present supervisor is now."