Western New York lost an important voice in Albany with the unexpected resignation of Assemblyman James P. Hayes, R-Amherst. Though muzzled by the anti-democratic rules of the Assembly controlled by Democrats -- Hayes worked hard to present an alternative view of what New York State government could be.
Hayes resigned from the Assembly to take a job in the private sector, leading to this special election to fill his unexpired term. The contest is close, but we lean toward Democrat Craig R. Bucki. Although he is an electoral newcomer, Bucki grew up around politics and he is both passionate in his beliefs and personable in his approach.
Bucki is a lawyer with Phillips Lytle of Buffalo, earning his law degree from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in political science from Yale University. He is the son of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carl L. Bucki and Amherst Town Clerk Deborah Bruch Bucki.
Although a Democrat, Bucki professes conservative beliefs that are critical to upstate New York, particularly in his criticism of state laws that hurt businesses and individuals -- unfunded mandates among them. Government can't create jobs, he said, but it can create an environment -- regarding taxes and regulations -- that is conducive to job growth. He appears to be both diligent and earnest.
Bucki's opponent is Erie County Legislator Raymond Walter, R-Amherst. Walter cites many of the same issues as Bucki, including unfunded mandates and economic development. He also wants to get rid of unnecessary regulations, including duplicative ones in which a business owner needs to comply separately with county and state regulations.
Our hesitation regarding Walter is based on his reputation in the County Legislature for being caustic and even mocking people making comments. It's not a winning posture for a lawmaker, whatever his other attributes. That is especially true of an Assembly Republican who will need to work closely with Democrats in order to accomplish anything. Abrasiveness won't help.
If he wins, we hope Bucki will be open to working with Republicans, whose influence is typically shut out, to help Western New York. Under Democratic control, the Assembly has led New York to the nation's highest tax rate and pushed upstate into economic anemia. Western New Yorkers need better than that if their lives are to improve. We believe Bucki has the greater potential to move toward that goal.