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Democrats to back Berger for state Senate, Conrad in Assembly

Democrats in the 61st Senate District are poised to endorse Amherst Council Member Jacqualine Berger for the seat of retiring Republican Michael H. Ranzenhofer, setting the stage for an apparent three-way primary in June.

And in the 140th Assembly District now represented by the retiring Robin L. Schimminger, a Democrat, the party is expected to endorse Tonawanda Councilmember Bill Conrad, though a primary could occur.

In the Senate race, Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said he expects committee members on Saturday to back Berger, who also serves as Amherst deputy supervisor. That follows a “straw poll” vote last week in which she bested fellow contenders Joan Elizabeth Seamans of Williamsville and Kim Smith of Monroe County.

“Jackie won the straw poll, and that is going a long way toward our Executive Committee making an endorsement on Saturday,” Zellner said. “It gave us a sense of where the committee is going.”

But Seamans and Smith are adamant about continuing their candidacies, and are aiming for the June 23 intraparty showdown for the right to face Republican Edward A. Rath III in November.

Seamans, a Williamsville businesswoman who lost by about 10 percentage points to Ranzenhofer in 2018, said her “obligation is to the voters.”

“I did very well last time and the voters should make this decision,” she said. “We’re going to pursue it and win.”

In January, she reported about $3,800 on hand to State Board of Elections.

Smith, for 25 years a case manager for the Monroe County Department of Public Health, said she enjoys support in Genesee and Monroe counties and will also compete on June 23.

“We need to unify the district, and I’m in a position to do that,” Smith said, adding she has assembled a campaign team and is raising money. She reported about $6,600 on hand in her latest campaign filing.

Berger has not yet reported any campaign money, according to board records. Rath has not yet opened a Senate account, but reported about $37,000 in his county legislator account.

In the Assembly race, Tonawanda Democratic Chairman John J. Crangle said he believes Conrad has enough backing throughout the district to win the committee’s endorsement on Thursday.

“Bill Conrad has my support, and his support is growing,” Crangle said. “I think he’ll be outstanding.”

The chairman said former State Sen. Marc A. Coppola and former County Legislature Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli had also expressed interest, but all candidates pledged not to challenge the party choice in a Democratic primary. Crangle added, however, that he still expects Kenmore attorney Kevin T. Stocker to run in the primary after switching from the GOP.

No Republican has yet emerged, though party sources promise a candidate will compete.

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