Sept. 29, 1959 – March 10, 2015
Laurence F. Adamczyk, the former Erie County Democratic elections commissioner and a long time force in local politics, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at Hospice Buffalo in Cheektowaga. He was 55.
Mr. Adamczyk had battled serious health problems before, including HIV since 1986 and a fast moving infection that almost took his life in 1999. He was admitted to hospice care this week as the disease progressed.
A Buffalo native, Mr. Adamczyk began his lifelong involvement in politics at Bishop Timon High School, from which he graduated in 1977. From there he started with a group of young Democrats rebelling against the local party’s leadership, eventually helping then-Assemblyman Dennis T. Gorski win the county executive post in 1987.
Mr. Adamczyk quickly moved into the forefront of a group of political masterminds for the new county executive. He was secretary of the Erie County Democratic Committee from 1988 to 2002, and served in the administration first as director of central services, later as executive assistant for appointments, and finally in 1996, Democratic elections commissioner.
He launched his last political effort in 2011, challenging then-Common Council President David A. Franczyk in the Fillmore District, but was ruled off the ballot.
Still, it was his political acumen that thrust him to the forefront of the Gorski operation, managing several of the county executive’s countywide campaigns. Through the years, Gorski often acknowledged Adamczyk’s key role.
A wisecracker whose irreverence gained the respect even of political foes, Mr. Adamczyk seemed to succeed through sheer ability. Former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon, another close political friend and associate, credited Mr. Adamczyk with helping him become party chairman in 1995.
As teenagers, they were “kindred spirits,” Pigeon said, embracing the art of politics.
“Larry was one of the best behind the scenes people I’ve ever met in politics,” Pigeon recalled. “Had he wanted to, he could have been a success on the national stage – he was that good. He was cool under pressure, a team player and had great instincts.
But politics and some aspects of Adamczyk’s personal life did not always mix. During the height of the 1995 primary campaign for county executive – one of the most contentious in memory – a local television station broadcast an anonymous letter providing details of his 1992 arrest for drunk driving, along with cell block records indicating he was taking medication for his HIV condition.
In the process, Mr. Adamczyk said in late 1995, the report exposed his name in video footage of the records. He named the City of Buffalo and its Police Department in a $1.85 million lawsuit for allowing the confidential information to be released. He also accused then-leadership of the Erie County Democratic Committee of leaking the information – charges the Police Department and the Democrats denied.
The lawsuit was later dismissed. But Mr. Adamczyk said the report forced him to acknowledge his homosexuality and HIV illness to his family for the first time. It was an aspect of his life he preferred to keep private.
“I never made an issue of it. It was never part of my job or my politics,” he said at the time. “But it’s being thrust upon me, and it sure shoots the hell out of my political career.”
But it didn’t affect his career. He was named a delegate to the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, was elected secretary of the local Democratic Party, and was ultimately appointed to county government’s top patronage post – elections commissioner.
In 2008, he married Keith Crippen in Toronto. Mr. Crippen died in 2009.
Mr. Adamczyk is survived by his parents, Frank and Teresa; two sisters, Lynne and Leslie; and a brother, Leonard.
A memorial service will be scheduled in the spring.
– Robert J. McCarthy