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Cliffe ends Demler's reign in Wheatfield Supervisor Rejected In Bid For 8th Term Republican primary is won by former town justice

A grueling primary election ended Timothy E. Demler's 14-year tenure as Wheatfield supervisor after he lost the Republican ballot line Tuesday to former Town Justice Robert B. Cliffe.

Demler, who faced a two-month challenge from leaders of his own party, conceded that he would not appear on November's ballot after unofficial election results Tuesday night showed he had lost the primary.

"The Republican Party chose a different candidate for supervisor," said Demler, a 49-year-old small-business owner who was seeking his eighth term in office. "We respect the voters of Wheatfield, because, remember, the same voters that put me into office 14 years ago are going to put somebody else in office now."

Early election results -- which did not include about 120 absentee ballots -- showed Cliffe winning with 784 votes, to Demler's 677.

Cliffe, an operations manager for an engineering firm, will face Democrat Sam Conti in November's election.

"It should be a spirited campaign," said Cliffe, who quit his post as town justice after leaders of the town Republican Committee recruited him to run against Demler in June. "Hopefully the big issue will be the Republican Party will come back together and support me."

There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the town -- 4,566 versus 4,023 -- but there also are 1,830 voters who are not enrolled in any party. There also are 446 Independence Party voters, 235 Conservatives and 49 Working Families enrollees.

The tone of the Wheatfield GOP primary turned nasty in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's primary. Republican members of the Town Board released a two-page report two weeks before the primary accusing Demler of overstepping his authority and not following proper procedures when paying contractors who were also campaign contributors.

The supervisor also faced accusations from a town GOP committeeman, Michael Gurnett, that he had a relationship with Gurnett's wife, a town employee, that ruined the committeeman's marriage.

Demler denied all of the allegations and told supporters Tuesday that he had never seen an election like this one before.

"My only regret is that the people of Wheatfield really didn't see the agenda of the opposition during this campaign," Demler said. "And I hope, I pray, that they don't have to live what we fear they may get after this election is over."

Demler encouraged his supporters to keep working within the town GOP party.

"Despite the defeat tonight, we need candidates to step to the plate to take on the tinhorn dictators of the Republican Party of this town," Demler said.

Demler said he did not plan to continue to challenge several problems that voters encountered at three election sites in Wheatfield, which included one machine that broke down an hour before the polls closed.

"I think the Town of Wheatfield and the people of this town have been through enough mud for four months," Demler said. "I don't know if continuing that sort of campaign is best for the people of the town, so I think tonight we just say, thank you to the people of Wheatfield for the years of service."

Several voters interviewed outside several polling sites Tuesday said they were disgusted by the tone of the election.

Gale White, who has lived in the town for 10 years, called the election "dirty politics."

"It didn't change my mind," Gale said.

Jolene Fernald, 28, said she tuned out the negative campaigning in the final weeks.

"I'm just tired of it," Fernald said. "It was old last year with the presidential election, and in a town election, I mean, really, is this what our town is about? I think our town is better than that."

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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