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Schratz to challenge Higgins in heavily Democratic district

Erie County Republicans have assigned a near-impossible task to former Amherst Council Member Shelly D. Schratz – taking on powerful incumbent Rep. Brian Higgins.

But Schratz has always been on deck for the party. She took on Democratic Legislator Thomas A. Loughran in 2009 and came up short by only 225 votes. She unsuccessfully challenged Loughran again in 2011, and could not get past incumbent Democrat David J. Swarts in the 2006 contest for county clerk.

But Schratz proved a consistent winner during her stint on the Amherst Town Board between 2002 and 2009, and now has been recruited for another tough assignment against Higgins.

Higgins, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004, has proven to be nearly invincible during that time. He has never felt threatened in all his congressional campaigns, and enters the 2016 contest as an overwhelming favorite too.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the two-county district by 144,000 voters. And Higgins enters with overwhelming advantages afforded by incumbency, a brimming campaign fund, and the ability to tap into traditional donors for even more campaign funds.

But Republicans feel good about Schratz, who has proven to be an energetic campaigner in the past, carries her own name recognition, and can point to a record in Amherst Town Hall.

In 2011, Schratz considered her top accomplishments as introducing and passing Town Board term limits; establishing tougher town laws governing sex offenders living near parks, schools and playgrounds; and negotiating a sewer settlement in 2004 that netted the town $3.4 million from the county.

Schratz, 57, is slated to announce her candidacy this morning at Bing’s Restaurant, the Amherst restaurant she has owned and operated for many years.