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Erie County clerk's race features well-known incumbent, high-energy challenger

Incumbent Michael "Mickey" P. Kearns is fighting to keep his job as Erie County clerk after serving one year in the position. The Republican-endorsed Democrat is fending off a challenge from Angela Marinucci, the Democratic-endorsed candidate who worked as a corporate immigration lawyer prior to the campaign.

Marinucci, 34, of Grand Island, is on leave from her law firm.

She has positioned herself as someone who would bring "skills, passion and energy" to the position. She touts her legal background in a customer service-based practice as an asset.

The county clerk oversees one of the county's few revenue-generating departments.

"I have those transferable skills and real world experience to bring to the Clerk’s Office," she said.

If elected clerk, she said she would do more to improve technology and efficiency, such as allowing legal and land records to be accessed online instead of in person. She also wants to work with law enforcement to speed up background check backlogs, enforce the SAFE Act and expand the Child ID program.

Kearns, 49, previously served in the state Assembly representing South Buffalo and has been county clerk for the past year.

As clerk, he has expanded Saturday hours at an additional Auto Bureau location and plans to add hours at the downtown location. He has also created an online appointment system to avoid lines, both at the Auto Bureau and Pistol Permit Office. He restructured the Pistol Permit Department to cut wait times for applicants, opened two new pistol permit satellite offices and created an ALERT program to help local governments stay on top of local foreclosures and address vacant homes.

If reelected, he said he'd like to upgrade office technology, draw more revenue for the county and find ways to increase the convenience for taxpayers.

"I am constantly analyzing my office to see how we can better serve Erie County residents," he said.

Marinucci said she would bring a much needed and unique perspective to the clerk's seat as a working mother coming from the private sector, which distinguishes her from Kearns. She noted that no younger people currently hold an elected countywide position, nor do any women.

She said she hopes a "blue wave" of Democratic enthusiasm will also help her chances at winning the election. She said she has worked hard to meet as many county residents as possible. She also questioned the need for Kearns, whom she described as a "career politician," to hire 11 additional staffers in the Clerk's Office for what is expected to be a short-term spike in driver's license renewals.

"I will not be outworked," she said. "There’s a lot of passion here. This is my home, and I want it to be great."

She has also begun running television commercials that outline her platform, diversity and lack of "career politician" background. Kearns said he'll have commercials starting next week.

Marinucci is endorsed by the Democratic, Working Families and Women's Equality parties, as well as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and 10 other unions and political organizations. Her campaign finance reports through early October showed she had similar contribution levels as Kearns, though more than a third, $28,000, came from herself, family members and in-kind contributions such as her family's child care costs. To date, she said, she has raised $124,127 for her campaign, with 65 percent of individual contributions coming from women.

Kearns, meanwhile, said the department's revenue has increased since he's been on the job. He called that evidence that he can put his experience to work and make more improvements. That experience sets him apart from Marinucci, he said. He counts his prior elected positions and budgeting experience as a plus.

"Over the past year, I have spent every day using my private sector and governmental experience to improve services to better serve taxpayers," he said.

Kearns is endorsed by the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform parties, as well as 11 unions and political organizations, including the white-collar union representing most Erie County employees. He said he also raised about $105,000 for his re-election campaign.

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