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Gaughan to enter Assembly primary Plans to challenge incumbent Ryan

Kevin P. Gaughan, who has spent two decades advocating regionalism and government downsizing, said Tuesday he will challenge Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary.

The Buffalo attorney has been discussing a potential candidacy with supporters for weeks, but he made it official Tuesday as he began circulating designating petitions in Buffalo and Hamburg.

"The New York State Legislature is too cushy with its members, too cozy with lobbyists and too costly for taxpayers," he said. "I want to reduce its costs and toughen it up a bit."

Gaughan, 58, has noted considerable success in recent years in leading campaigns to reduce the size of local government.

His efforts have led to smaller town boards in Hamburg, Alden and Orchard Park, and he has even advanced proposals to significantly reduce the size of the State Legislature that he seeks to join.

"I think I've demonstrated my ability to reduce local government in size and cost," he said, "and can do it in Albany, where everyone agrees it is sorely needed."

But Gaughan has never enjoyed political success in three previous tries, including the 1990 general election for Congress, the 1994 Democratic primary for the House of Representatives and the 2005 Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo.

Still, political observers note the name recognition he has built during his long advocacy career and the new Assembly district where he will now run.

The district -- formerly represented by Democrat Sam Hoyt -- includes the Delaware, Niagara and North districts claimed by Gaughan in the 2005 mayoral primary.

It also now includes Gaughan's hometown of Hamburg, where he and his family are well known.

Gaughan said he does not expect to gain any minor-party lines, which means the race in the overwhelmingly Democratic district will most likely be decided in the Democratic primary.

That will pit him against Ryan, who is backed by party leaders.

"I've never been a party Democrat; I think of myself as a people's Democrat," Gaughan said.

But he also added he will not direct his campaign against Ryan or his record, but instead emphasize his own record of creating citizen coalitions to effect change.

Gaughan, who has lived on Bidwell Parkway for the last seven years and in the city for the last 10, is already advancing a campaign platform. He said he will base his effort on reducing the size and cost of the Legislature, determining a proper role for the state in the Buffalo school district and promised to take on the "hidden and secret governments" of state authorities and commissions.

While Gaughan will not enjoy the organizational support the Democratic endorsement grants his opponent, he said he has established his own political group to assist his effort.

"As reflected in public votes," he said, "the vast majority agree on downsizing, and [my organization] will assist me in qualifying for the ballot."