The major parties’ endorsed candidates had a good week in last week’s primary elections, winning landslide victories for Erie County District Attorney, State Assembly and State Senate.
But a Democratic primary for a vacant Town Board seat in Cheektowaga has proven to be the exception to that rule.
Former Town Clerk Alice Magierski increased her razor-thin lead over Dennis A. Smith Jr. from a dozen votes on primary night to 27 on Tuesday after 260 absentee ballots were counted.
In terms of town politics, it amounts to a stunning upset by a challenger over a well-financed and party-backed opponent in a contest in which only 4,572 votes were cast.
The primary results are not official yet because there are still affidavit ballots to count, although there are not enough of them to change the outcome.
Magierski will face a Republican, Patrick Delaney, in November’s general election to the seven-member board, which is currently all Democrats. The winner will finish out the remaining year of a term for the vacant seat, then must run again in 2017 for a full four-year term.
“I did have the name recognition,” Magierski said Tuesday. “I think that was a huge contributing factor.”
Magierski pointed to her 12 years of experience in town government, having served two terms as town clerk from 2008 to 2015, councilwoman from 2003 to 2007 and treasurer for the Cheektowaga-Sloan School District.
“I think some people recognized that (experience) does have value when you’re making decisions in government,” she said.
Magierski lost a Democratic primary for town supervisor last year to eventual winner Diane Benczkowski, whose vacant Town Board seat Magierski is now seeking.
For the primary election last week, Magierski raised not even one-fifth as much as Smith – $4,265 to his $22,569, according to the state Board of Elections. Smith, a Buffalo Sewer Authority investigator, was backed by many of the area’s prominent Democrats, including a $1,000 contribution from Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown’s political campaign fund.
Magierski’s largest contribution was $1,000 from Benderson Development Co. She said she targeted certain neighborhoods with mailers and used social media and word-of-mouth.
“I wasn’t highly financed,” Magierski said. “I raised a lot of money last year but I spent a lot of money. So this year I was just doing a grassroots campaign hoping people would recognize the importance of experience, what I’ve done and what I can do in the future.”
Her priorities include making sure the town abides by a consent order with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up pollution in Scajaquada Creek; working with the town’s five school districts to attract young families to the town of about 80,000 residents; and enhancing code enforcement to protect property values.
“Being in the tax office has given me a real pulse on what people are looking for from their government and their community because when they come to pay taxes, they like to talk,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of hours talking to people and listening to their concerns on what they’d like to see happening in Cheektowaga.”