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Republican making strong bid for open Assembly seat in Democratic stronghold

Republican Angela M. Wozniak is making a strong bid for the open Assembly seat in the 143rd District in Cheektowaga and Lancaster, a longtime Democratic stronghold.

Wozniak promises to shine a light on corruption. Her Democratic opponent, Mark M. Mazurek, also pledges to make sure everything is “aboveboard.”

Whoever wins the race will be representing a district that has been without anyone in the Assembly since Dennis H. Gabyrszak resigned in January amid allegations that he had sexually harassed female staff members.

The seat has been held by Dennis T. Gorski, who went on to become Erie County executive, and Paul A. Tokasz, who rose to Assembly majority leader.

Mazurek, 47, a small-business consultant, said that he’s not going to Albany to make a political statement but believes that the district will benefit from its representative being in the majority Democratic Party.

“I think if you went down there as a minority candidate, you would not be able to get a lot done,” he said.

Mazurek has worked for several companies, including Mentholatum, General Electric Healthcare, Buffalo Gauge and Praxair. He said he has made a career out of doing things better and faster, and knows how to compromise.

Wozniak, 27, who started her own insurance agency, was the first Republican elected to the Cheektowaga Town Board in 20 years when she won in 2011. She said her role in government is not about being a Republican or Democrat.

“I’m willing to work with many people with any party affiliation,” she said. “Ultimately it comes down to ideas. When you have the right ideas, people can’t forget about them.”

She proposed term limits for the Town Board, as well as downsizing it five members, from seven. Neither initiative gained support. She also wants to lower taxes and bring new jobs to the area, and would like to attract businesses without government subsidies.

“You can’t address jobs and taxes until you address the ethical reform that is needed,” Wozniak said.

Campaign fliers sent by the state Republican Party on her behalf accuse Mazurek of filing for bankruptcy twice and not paying his taxes. Mazurek said that he has filed twice for bankruptcy, once when his wife was sick and the other when a bar he owned on Route 16 got into financial trouble after the state banned smoking in public places and construction along Route 16 made it difficult to access the bar. He said all property and sales taxes have been paid.

“I think my life experiences allow me to empathize with typical folks in the district,” he said. “I’ve been involved in maybe an atypical life. Some life lessons you learn along the way.”

Mazurek said the Common Core educational standards are not working and should be put on hold until there is a better process for implementation. He does not like the SAFE Act gun-control law and hopes that “oppressive” provisions can be repealed.

Wozniak said that the SAFE Act needs a “100 percent repeal.” Common Core was rolled out too quickly, she said, but there are opportunities to improve the program.

Campaigns are about choices, Wozniak said, and voters should be informed about the candidates.

“They see me as an honest person,” she said. “They’ll say ‘You’re different. You’re standing up for what is right.’ ”