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Party nominations omit chairwoman

A last-minute meeting between Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams and the Erie County Democratic Committee on Saturday did little to help her earn back favor with party leaders.

Miller-Williams was not in the lineup of candidates when the Democrats released their nominations for 11 new Legislature districts later in the day.

Instead, the committee nominated Timothy Hogues, a supervisor at a local electronics firm, for the 1st District in Buffalo.

Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan pinned the decision squarely on Miller-Williams' work with Legislature Republicans and County Executive Chris Collins.

"Basically, the feeling was, not only did she organize with the Republicans, but she was a rubber stamp for Chris Collins," Lenihan said.

Miller-Williams called it a "sad day" for the Democratic Party and said the decision was a "disservice" to constituents in the district.

"What they did was not about the county executive," said Miller-Williams, who was first appointed to the Legislature in 2007. "It was simply about individuals, party bosses, working against a sitting incumbent for their own personal and professional goals and gains."

Miller-Williams was elected chairwoman of the Legislature last year after striking a deal with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic leaders signaled Friday that Miller-Williams was unlikely to earn the party's nomination when committee members met Saturday to choose nominations for county elections.

The rest of the Democratic nominations are:

*2nd: Betty Jean Grant, incumbent.

*3rd: Lynn Marinelli, incumbent.

*4th: Jeremy Zellner.

*5th: Thomas Loughran, incumbent.

*6th: Toni Vazquez.

*7th: Thomas Mazur, incumbent.

*8th: Terry McCracken.

*9th: Jon Gorman.

*10th: Christina Bove, incumbent.

Lenihan said the Democrats are still looking for a candidate in the 11th District after nominee Mary Lou Pew turned down the nomination.

Miller-Williams, who was interviewed Saturday morning because of a commitment last week, said she is still considering a legal challenge to the way party leaders chose the nominees.

Decisions over who would appear on each ballot line fell to party leaders this season, rather than primary voters, after U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny issued a redistricting order that was too late to hold primaries in each of the 11 new districts.

The Legislature will be downsized from 15 seats to 11 in January.

Miller-Williams said her supporters have gathered more than 3,100 signatures to create a line called Community First for the 1st District. She is also seeking nominations for the Working Families and Independence lines.

Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said his party would have a final list of candidates by Tuesday, the deadline to file nominations.

email djgee@buffnews.com