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Facing waning support from Dems, Loughran won't seek re-election

After 13 years in the Erie County Legislature, and facing diminishing support from his fellow Democrats, Thomas A. Loughran won't run for another term this November.

The Snyder resident, who regularly clashed with Democrats in Erie County and Amherst, said he will spend the remainder of his time in office pushing for further change at the Erie County Water Authority.

"Political leaders don't want reform in the Erie County Water Authority, but my constituents do," Loughran said in an interview. "It's a broken system, and everyone knows it."

Town Democrats are poised to endorse Jeanne M. Vinal, an attorney and active party member, in the race for Loughran's Amherst-based 5th district. Joan Seamans, who ran unsuccessfully for State Senate last fall, also is a contender.

Republicans haven't settled on a nominee yet but Loughran's retirement makes the contest more attractive to prospective candidates, said Nicholas Langworthy, the Erie County Republican chairman.

"This changes the dynamics of the race," he said.

Loughran, 67, initially won election to the Legislature in 2005.

The longtime owner of Loughran's Bar and Restaurant in Snyder has advocated investing in SUNY Erie Community College's North Campus, expanding the University at Buffalo, downsizing the Legislature and barring logging operations in county-owned forests.

He's also angered county Democrats in recent years by voting against the party line on the county budget, the selection of a Legislature chairman and the operations of the Water Authority.

Loughran was passed over for chairman in early 2018, and he has been willing to cut deals with Republicans on the closely divided Legislature.

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In repeatedly calling for wholesale changes at the troubled Water Authority, Loughran crossed swords with Jerome D. Schad, chairman of the Authority and the Amherst Democratic Committee.

Loughran thought Schad should step down following last year's critical state audit of the Authority, but Schad refused.

Loughran said he had been mulling his political future for some time, but he did show up to a town Democratic Committee meeting last week to make his case for the party's endorsement for another term.

There, he faced sharp questions over his loyalty to the party, said Schad, who insisted Democrats' disappointment with Loughran goes beyond the Water Authority standoff.

"I think that could be for some people, but I think it's a much broader issue with the committee," Schad said. "I got a very strong sense from people that after 13, 14 years, that was probably enough. I did not see any sign that there was even a small group of hard-core supporters that would push for his renomination this time around."

Effort to fire Water Authority chairman fails in Legislature

Vinal is expected to receive the committee's endorsement on Saturday.

"I've always been an independent legislator, and I think that was part of it," Loughran said.

Loughran said he made his final decision not to run after the meeting.

He said fundraising is always a challenge – most of his opponents have had more money to spend than him – but he easily won his last race in 2017 even after losing the Conservative Party endorsement that year.

Loughran said he intends to finish out his term and at this point he doesn't plan to endorse a successor.

"It's really been a privilege to be the representative from Amherst in the Legislature," he said. "You know, when is the time? I think now I can focus on an issue I've been working on for the last several years."

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