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Wozniak won’t run for re-election in wake of affair with staffer

Angela M. Wozniak’s election to the Assembly in 2014 marked a highlight for the Conservative Party.

Her victory in heavily Democratic Cheektowaga and Depew made the rookie assemblywoman the highest-ranking elected Conservative in New York State.

But all that pride is fading away with Wozniak’s announcement Tuesday that she will not seek a second term in Albany. Following revelations of an extramarital affair with a staff member – and her subsequent apologies to constituents – the assemblywoman said she “will be taking this time to focus on my family.”

“I extend my sincere appreciation to everyone for their support over the past two years,” she said in a statement. “It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the great residents of our community.”

Now, Ralph C. Lorigo, the Erie County Conservative Party chairman, acknowledges that his hopes for an official Conservative to shine in the State Legislature have been dashed.

“I am obviously disappointed she got herself involved in this situation,” he said. “She is a registered Conservative who espoused conservative values and promoted them in the legislation she sponsored.

“She could have been a rising star,” he added. “We had high hopes for her.”

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Wozniak, 29, scored one of the region’s top political upsets in 2014 when she was elected on the Republican and Conservative lines in the heavily Democratic 143rd District. In fact, the Cheektowaga-Depew area had previously produced top Democratic figures like former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski and former Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz.

But Wozniak rode an anti-corruption wave in 2014 following the resignation of Democrat Dennis H. Gabryszak, who left the Assembly following his own scandal amid allegations of sexually harassing staff members.

Wozniak’s decision not to seek re-election was expected after both Conservative and Republican leaders expressed concern about her continued political viability. Following revelations of her extramarital activities, the leaders proved especially wary about her electoral prospects in the atmosphere of scandal hanging over Albany in recent months.

Two months ago, Lorigo labeled Wozniak’s situation “very disturbing” after she apologized to her family (she is married with a child) and her constituents in a video.

“My personal feeling is not positive for her carrying that endorsement,” Lorigo said then. “This has affected her ability to effectively deal with her constituents.

“I personally find that to be difficult with this set of circumstances,” he added.

Wozniak acknowledged the affair in March with the statement her attorney issued: “I showed very poor judgment in having a relationship with a staffer, and for that I would like to apologize to my family and to my constituents,” she said.

In March, the Assembly Ethics Committee also found that she had not engaged in sexual harassment.

“I am pleased to have been cleared of the charges for sexual harassment, ‘sexual quid pro quo’ or causing a sexually hostile work environment,” she said. “I am not permitted to respond to findings that I made a false statement to an individual that reflected poorly on my staffer’s job performance.”

Erie County GOP Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said he has now begun the process of finding another Republican candidate and has several candidates in mind.

Democrats, meanwhile, expect a competitive primary in September between Cheektowaga Councilman James P. Rogowski and University at Buffalo Law School professor Monica P. Wallace.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com