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Sparks fly as Amherst political powers Weinstein, Kindel head toward rematch

The slate of candidates for fall races in the Town of Amherst continues to grow and could feature a rematch between two political foes.

A familiar name in town politics for half a century, William L. Kindel, is attempting a return to office with a run for one of two Town Board seats to be vacated. Kindel served five four-year terms as a town councilman during 50 years of involvement in town government.

“It’s going to be a long shot,” said Kindel, chairman of the town Conservative Party. “I don’t have any illusions or delusions about that whatsoever. I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve been there before.”

Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, who cannot seek a third term due to term limits, also indicated an interest in remaining on the board by seeking one of the two seats.

“It’s a possibility,” Weinstein said. “I will not make up my mind until May at the earliest.”

A Weinstein candidacy would set up another potential clash with Kindel. They’ve faced off several times before, first in 2007 when the two men were in a five-way Republican primary for three seats on the Town Board.

“He came in last,” Weinstein said. “He ran against me again in 2009 when I ran for supervisor. He came in last. And I’m sure if he runs again this year he’ll come in last.”

Kindel brushed aside Weinstein’s slight, saying his focus is on supporting first responders, conserving green space and rolling back a pay hike the Town Board approved for itself last year.

“At this stage of my life I’m not looking for anymore attaboys,” said the 83-year-old Kindel.

Weinstein last year was one of at least 20 town Republican committee members who switched their party affiliation to the town Conservative Party chaired by Kindel. All the former Republicans are considered close to the Erie County GOP organization run by Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy.

Kindel in December called the mass movement an organized “stampede” that positions the new members to snare the Conservative line through their ability to run in the party primary and also gain the nod of a friendly GOP. Kindel this week called them “opportunists.” About 1,500 Amherst voters are registered as Conservatives.

“They figure they won’t get our endorsement because they’re not really conservative,” Kindel said in December. “But this way they’ll be able to run in the Conservative primary without our endorsement.”

Weinstein said his switch was “just a personal preference.”

“He’s been a Republican elected official for a long time, until he lost,” Weinstein said of Kindel. “Everyone has a shelf life.”

Meanwhile, Erin Baker, chief of staff to Assemblyman Ray Walter, R-Amherst, announced her candidacy for one of two open Town Board seats.

A Republican from Snyder, Baker pledges to “bring fiscal responsibility back to Amherst.” She said she was inspired to run after the board’s votes last year to increase taxes – the first increase after six years of nominal decreases – and to give salary raises totaling nearly $100,000 to elected officials, including 40 percent pay hikes for the board’s four part-time members.

“In my mind that’s bad government,” said Baker, who is also married to Langworthy. “I do not believe in a year that they increase spending that they should be increasing their own salaries.”

She received an endorsement from the town Republican Committee last week.

Three Democrats have declared their candidacies for the two Town Board seats, said party chairman Jerome Schad. They are Shawn A. Lavin, an accountant, Jacqualine G. Berger, an educator, and Matthew Clabeaux, an attorney.

Council Member Ramona Popowich, a Democrat, announced in January she would not seek re-election and Deputy Supervisor Steven D. Sanders cannot run again due to term limits.

Town Clerk Marjory Jaeger confirmed her interest in running for supervisor, and said she would seek endorsements from the Republican and Conservative parties. Jaeger was among the former Republicans who switched to Conservative.

“My official announcement isn’t going to be for a couple weeks,” she said. “I want to be able to get my volunteers organized and ready to go to hit the ground running.”

Jaeger is in her second term as clerk after taking office in January 2012. Prior to that she worked on grants and payroll as a staff assistant in the University at Buffalo’s police department.

“As the town clerk for five plus years I have a fantastic background and set of knowledge and skills that nobody else is bringing to the table,” said Jaeger, a lifelong town resident and firefighter and EMS lieutenant in the Williamsville Fire Department.

Williamsville Mayor Brian J. Kulpa announced his candidacy for supervisor in January and said he would seek the Democrats’ endorsement while running on a “smart growth” platform under the slogan “professionalism, not politics.”

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