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Kennedy wrests nod from Stachowski

Riding a wave of anti-incumbent voter anger and his promises to clean up Albany, Timothy M. Kennedy defeated longtime incumbent William T. Stachowski in Tuesday's bruising State Senate Democratic primary.

The Democratic county legislator from South Buffalo linked Stachowski, the 28-year Senate veteran, to the dysfunction in state government and presented himself as the agent of change in the race.

Kennedy, 33, was leading Stachowski by 63 percent to 27 percent, with 52 percent of precincts reporting in the 58th State Senate District, according to the Erie County Board of Elections.

Stachowski, 61, conceded the race as he spoke to supporters shortly before 10 p.m. at his headquarters.

"I still remain the same way. The only people I ever cared about in this whole process were the people who lived in this district, and with that I would like to congratulate Tim Kennedy on his win," Stachowski said.

"The voices of Western New Yorkers are being heard. They want change in Albany," Kennedy said in a statement issued just before 9:45 p.m. to a reporter in the Ironworkers Hall in West Seneca.

The win sets up Kennedy for a tough fight in the general election against Assemblyman Jack F. Quinn III, a Hamburg Republican, that could determine whether Democrats retain control of the State Senate.

It all but ends the legislative career of Stachowski, who grew up in East Side politics and spent his first 26 years in the State Senate toiling in the minority party.

Two other candidates in the Democratic primary for the State Senate seat took strong positions on controversial topics but ultimately did not seem to be factors in the race. Attorney Michael Kuzma received 5 percent of the votes, and Thomas P. Casey, a public health engineer, received 6 percent.

The primary fight drew considerable attention and campaign contributions.

Over the last 13 months, Stachowski raised $283,237 and spent $276,864, according to state Board of Elections records. Kennedy raised $320,547 and spent $338,541.

Kennedy lost weight and wore through several pairs of shoes as he walked the district, which covers downtown, South Buffalo, Lackawanna and the towns of Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Hamburg and Eden. He ran as an outsider who promised to create jobs, cut taxes and reform state government.

The occupational therapist is part of the coalition that runs the Erie County Legislature with the backing of the GOP county executive.

His opponents criticized him for not specifying how he would do this.

For "Stach," the loss would appear to end a political career that spans back to the 1970s.

The Lake View resident built a reputation as a loyal Democrat who worked hard to bring member-item money back to his district.

Stachowski's re-election win in 2008 helped the Democrats take control of the State Senate, but this year Republicans believe Quinn has a good chance to grab the seat for the GOP.

Kennedy had the Conservative Party's endorsement, but Stachowski still will have the Independence Party line on the November ballot.

Kennedy also appeared to survive a write-in challenge Tuesday night for the Conservative line..

News Staff Reporters Denise Jewell Gee and Jay Rey contributed to this report.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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