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Dixon faces Independence primary; candidates file petitions for county and city races

County executive candidate Lynne M. Dixon is facing a primary campaign stemming from her registration in the obscure Independence Party — spurring her Republican allies to point fingers at Democrats they accuse of manipulating the system.

Rachel L. Obenauer, 23, a registered Independence member from Williamsville, submitted designating petitions for her party’s nomination at the Thursday deadline. She did not return a call seeking comment.

Her action now sets up a June 25 primary for the Independence line — if her signatures survive scrutiny — forcing Dixon to wage an early campaign and spend money that is expected to prove in short supply for her general election challenge to Democratic incumbent Mark C. Poloncarz, also on Working Families.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, whose party is supporting Independence Dixon, called incumbent Poloncarz and his Democrats “hypocrites” because of their stated opposition to “fusion” voting that allows minor party candidates to run on major party lines.

He accused Poloncarz and Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner, the county’s Democratic elections commissioner, of sponsoring Obenauer and carrying her petitions to force Dixon into spending time and resources for her own Independence line. He pointed to petitions witnessed and signed by Rob Poloncarz, a Board of Elections employee and the county executive’s brother, as evidence of Democratic meddling in the Independence nomination.

“It’s a typical move by the Poloncarz machine,” Langworthy said, “the same people who say over and over they hate fusion voting. They are total hypocrites.

“You’ve got the brother of the county executive out there getting signatures,” he added. “If that’s not the biggest indication of them perpetrating fraud on the people of Erie County I don’t know what is. The voters are too smart for this.”

Poloncarz Chief of Staff Jennifer Hibit pointed to Republican legislative candidates running on minor party lines as evidence of how elections are conducted in New York. She noted that Independence candidates are often GOP allies, and that neither she nor the county executive have ever even met Obenauer.

“This, unfortunately, is the game that is fusion voting,” she said. “Don’t hate the player; hate the game.”

Dixon said late Thursday she expected the move and was “not surprised.” But she said she welcomes the opportunity to communicate her positions to Independence voters in advance of the primary.

“I’m fine with it,” she said. “It gets my name out there early and gives me a chance to speak with Independence voters and get my message out."

“I thank them for it,” she said, of the Obenauer candidacy.

Gregory M. Vinal Jr. also filed for county executive on the Green line.

In other county executive developments, attorney Peter A. Reese had not filed petitions late Thursday for his announced challenge to Poloncarz on the Democratic line. He suffered another setback Thursday when State Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Furlong dismissed a suit Reese filed last week challenging what he interpreted as discrimination against Erie County in the state’s new election laws.

Reese, a longtime Democratic activist, had complained that Erie residents along with those in Nassau and Westchester counties as well as New York City were forced to obtain more signatures on petitions than voters in the rest of the state.

Assistant County Attorney Jeremy C. Toth said Furlong threw out the Reese action during Thursday proceedings in Niagara County.

In the City of Buffalo, retiring County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams filed on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence lines for comptroller, making her the favorite to succeed Mark J.F. Schroeder since no other Democrats filed. Ross M. Kostecky submitted Republican and Independence petitions.

Candidates filed petitions for other contests, including:

• County Legislature:

District 1: Howard J. Johnson Jr., Tara A. Craig and Katrina Martin filed on the Democratic line to succeed Miller-Williams in the heavily Democratic district. Antoinette Guercio filed as the Republican.

District 2: Duncan E. Kirkwood will make his second effort versus April M. McCants-Baskin, the incumbent. Louisa F. D’Orazio is the Republican and Cariol J. Horne is the Green candidate.

District 3: Peter J. Savage III, the Legislature’s Democratic chairman, faces two intra-party challengers in what observers said could prove a lively multi-candidate race. They include Cindi M. McEachon and David M. Amoia. Juan Carlos Rivera filed as a Republican in the mostly Democratic district.

District 4: Incumbent Kevin R. Hardwick, who recently switched from Republican to Democrat, will be challenged by Republican-Conservative-Independence Jacob J. McMahon. Hardwick has Working Families support.

District 5: Following the announced retirement of Democrat Thomas A. Loughran, Jeanne M. Vinal filed as a Democrat. Shelly D. Schratz and Alan M. Huff filed as Republicans. Also filing were Schratz and Roy R. DeFrancis as Conservatives, and Sarah N. Rodman and Huff for Independence.

District 6: Edward A. Rath III, the veteran incumbent, will again run on the Republican and Conservative lines. He will be challenged in the mainly GOP district by Democrat-Working Families candidate William N. Freeman.

District 7: Incumbent Timothy J. Meyers will stand for re-election on the Democratic and Working Families lines, challenged by Republican Emil J. Propis and Conservative Alice Magierski.

District 8: Democratic-Working Families incumbent John Bruso will be challenged by Frank J. Todaro on Republican and Scott J. Ackerman on Green. Anthony J. Bish and Todaro filed on Conservative, and Michael P. Rogacki on Independence.

District 9: Another donnybrook may be developing for the seat Dixon – the Independence organizing with Republicans – vacates to run for county executive. Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski and John J. Gilmour filed as Democrats, while Mark V. Cuda is on Republican. Gilmour filed on Working Families and Conservative, while Jill M. Morgan and Cuda filed on Independence.

District 10: A rematch of the 2017 election pits Minority Leader Joseph C. Lorigo on the Republican and Conservative lines against Michelle J. Schoeneman on Democratic and Working Families.

District 11: Democrat Jerome T. Janik will face veteran incumbent John J. Mills on Republican and Conservative.

• Buffalo Common Council:

Delaware: Incumbent Joel P. Feroleto will be challenged on the Democratic line by Melanie A. McMahan. James K. Lawson filed on Republican. Feroleto and Lawson also filed on Independence.

Ellicott: Ernest Starzec will be the GOP challenger to Council President Darius G. Pridgen. Rev. Michael Chapman of St. John Baptist Church said last month that he was circulating petitions for the general election, but did not file Thursday.

Fillmore: Democrats Gerhardt J. Yaskow, Kimberly C. Trent, Pharoah V. Paige, Raymond Brinson, Tina Sanders, Mohammed Jahangir Alam and Mitchell P. Nowakowski will compete for the seat of retiring David A. Franczyk. Brinson also has Conservative and Nowakowski has Independence.

Lovejoy: Democrats Bryan J. Bollman — who also has Conservative, Working Families and Independence — and Antoinette T. Craig; Republican Robert Rizzo.

Masten: Incumbent Democrat Ulysses O. Wingo Sr. will face Nathan K. Boyd, Veronica Golden and Jennifer L. Strickland. Golden has Working Families.

Niagara: Incumbent Democrat-Independence David A. Rivera will face Bernice M. Radle on Democratic; Mark T. Supples is on Republican, Conservative and Independence, while Charles R. Tarr filed on Green.

North: Republican Paula Aquino will face Joseph Golombek Jr., who is on Democratic, Conservative and Independence.

South: Republican Joseph P. Flatley will face incumbent Christopher P. Scanlon, who is on Democrat and Independence.

University: Kathryn E.A. Franco and Derrick Lanier Moore will challenge incumbent Rasheed N.C. Wyatt — who also has Independence — on Democratic.

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