Maria R. Whyte appears headed for a clear sail to the Democratic nomination for Erie County clerk after County Legislator Thomas J. Mazur said Tuesday he is dropping out of the race.
Mazur, a Cheektowaga Democrat, had been circulating designating petitions and promised to wage a vigorous challenge to Whyte, the majority leader of the County Legislature. But he said Tuesday he is bowing out in the interest of party unity.
"Let's see if we can get unified and stay on track for the big picture," he said, which he added includes the election of County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz as county executive.
The Whyte candidacy has constituted part of a grand plan by local and statewide Democrats to attain as much party unity as possible heading into this year's countywide elections. Indeed, party leaders overwhelmingly endorsed Whyte at a meeting Saturday.
But Mazur and other Democrats -- especially from Cheektowaga -- have resisted a "deal" they claim was brokered among several city-based factions of the party.
Charlie King, executive director of the State Democratic Committee, has been active in seeking party unity and was in town Monday and Tuesday to again consult with various Democratic leaders. He is widely viewed as representing the desire of top state Democrats to heal deep wounds that traditionally mark the local party.
But Mazur and others remain skeptical of King's efforts because they originally did not include major sections of the county party -- especially the suburbs. Several sources report, however, that King has maintained regular contact with suburban leaders in recent days.
"The process was horrible because of a handful of Democrats who put together a sweetheart deal for themselves," Mazur said. "But the vast majority of Democrats do not want a battle."
He said he will run for re-election to the Legislature from his Cheektowaga base.
Whyte is now scheduled to face Christopher L. Jacobs, a Republican real estate developer and member of the Buffalo Board of Education, in the November general election.