Dennis Delano -- former Buffalo detective, defeated State Senate candidate and Republican-turned-Democrat -- is now aiming for the Republican endorsement for Cheektowaga town justice.
Town Justice James Vallone, a Democrat, is seeking re-election to a second four-year term in November and is likely to get his party's nod. Local Republicans are taking a deliberative approach to endorsement requests from both men. Before making a decision, they plan to host an informational meeting sometime this spring to hear their ideas.
"It really comes down to character of candidates, what kind of integrity that they'll bring to the courts," said John Redman, chairman of the town's Republican committee, which would like to consider Republican candidates as well. "It is still open to anyone else who is interested in endorsement."
Delano, 58, ran an unconventional and unsuccessful Republican campaign two years ago against State Sen. William Stachowski, D-Lake View. He skipped debates. "There was no need to debate him," Delano said of his opponent. "He was there for 26 years and hadn't done anything."
In the end, Delano lost by 7,200 votes. Last year, he switched parties for reasons that include campaign-related tensions with Republican leadership. "It's not the party, it's the person," he said. "Both parties have serious flaws."
The election was exhausting, Delano said, but it made him want to try for public office again. When he noticed that the town justice seat was expiring, he thought his experience as a detective -- including his work to exonerate two people who were wrongly convicted -- would help.
"I feel like it would be a good fit for me, having gone through what I've gone through," he said.
Before he retired as a Buffalo detective last year, Delano was known for angering his superiors by releasing evidence in a wrongful conviction. Eventually, Lynn DeJac was exonerated on charges related to her daughter's death.
"Our government doesn't seem to be as open as it should be," said Delano. If elected, he said he would like to "see what kind of positive effect I can have in the system."
Vallone, 52, noted that the Cheektowaga court often handles the initial stages of felony cases -- such as the plea and presentation of evidence -- but the bulk of its work is in criminal mischief, housing violations, small claims and traffic violations.
The town's two jurists are particularly busy because of crime related to the airport, the Walden Galleria and the Super Flea market.
"Cheektowaga is a flavoring of all the types of things that happen at a local court," said Vallone.
By his calculations, his own positive impact on the local judiciary includes his firm, compassionate approach and community service. A former Cheektowaga prosecutor, he was commended for his work with students in mock trials and appointed as a teacher of other local judges.
He is also proud that he has not had a single appeal of a small claims decision during his 3 1/2 years as town justice.
"People feel that they get a fair shake," he said.