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GOP backs Democrat Flynn for DA; Szalkowski, Wolfgang for Assembly

District Attorney John J. Flynn appears headed toward a second term following his expected endorsement Thursday by Erie County Republicans.

A Democrat who formerly served as a Tonawanda town justice, Flynn now is expected to face no opposition and be guaranteed re-election following the GOP nominations slated to be approved at a Thursday evening meeting.

Erie County Republican Vice Chairman Raymond W. Walter noted that GOP backing for a Democratic candidate for district attorney is not uncommon, pointing to bipartisan support in recent years for former Democratic candidates Frank A. Sedita III and Frank J. Clark.

“We’re very comfortable with the job he’s done,” Walter said of Flynn. “He has certainly stood up for law and order and is not out there on the far left with bail reform and some of these other issues. He’s done a good job.”

But the party may also be coming to terms with reality. Since the election year for district attorney was adjusted back in 1992, the contest always occurs in a presidential year. The resulting high turnout in overwhelmingly Democratic Erie County has helped ensure Democratic victories for district attorney ever since.

Other Republican endorsements slated for Thursday include:

• Matthew Szalkowski, an assistant district attorney, for the 142nd Assembly seat now held by Democrat Patrick B. Burke.

“He’ll be a great candidate who can take on the criminal justice reform issues the Democrats have changed,” Walter said, referring to new legislation curtailing the use of cash bail and other issues. “That has been championed by some people here and they’re going to have to defend it.”

• Robin Wolfgang, a Citibank communications executive, in the 146th Assembly District for the seat now occupied by Democrat Karen McMahon. She is the daughter of retired State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang.

“She’s experienced in the political world and has great name identification because her mother was a judge for so many years,” Walter said.

McMahon is expected to run for a second term after defeating Walter in 2018.

• Frank C. Smierciak II, a health care firm employee, for the 143rd District now represented by Democrat Monica P. Wallace. He had been talking to party leaders about the congressional seat vacated by Republican Chris Collins, but has since dropped the effort.

• Edward A. Rath III, a county legislator, for the 161st Senate District now represented by Republican Michael H. Ranzenhofer, who is retiring. Democrats have not named a candidate.

Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said his party also backs the new Republican nominees, plus State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan in the 9th District and Assemblyman David J. DiPietro in the 147th District.

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